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Milestone Releases the Batman Expansion for Hot Wheels Unleashed

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The amazing post-launch plan for Hot Wheels Unleashed is moving forward. Milestone released the Batman Expansion, a brand new themed DLC with content coming from the DC Universe, dedicated in specific to the Dark Knight legacy. The Batman Expansion brings a huge amount of new playable content with a brand-new Career map to complete, inspired by Gotham, and a breathtaking new environment with many new tracks, the Batcave. The Expansion also includes 5 themed vehicles, The Penguin, Robin™ 2.0T, Armored Batman™, Batman™ Rebirth, The Joker™ GT, a new Track Builder Module, the Joker Funhouse Split, and many themed customization items. The Batman Expansion is included in the HOT WHEELS™ Pass Vol. 1 or can be purchased separately.

Hot Wheels Unleashed offers players the opportunity to drive the cars as if they were playing with the die-cast toys. The gameplay includes adrenaline-filled races, an extended choice of Hot Wheels vehicles with different attributes and rarity levels that players can customize with different skins, and jaw-dropping tracks set in everyday-life locations with special track modules and interactive items. The game also features a revolutionary Track Builder enabling players to customize tracks in any game environment and share them with the game’s community.

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Gaming

Microsoft to Buy Activision-Blizzard for $70 Billion

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Microsoft plans to buy the powerhouse but troubled video game company Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion, its biggest deal ever and one that places a major bet that people will be spending more and more time in the digital world. The blockbuster acquisition, announced on Tuesday, would catapult the company into a leading spot in the $175 billion gaming industry.

Games on virtually every kind of device, from bulky consoles to smartphones, have gained even greater popularity during the pandemic. Technology companies are swarming around the industry, looking for a bigger share of attention and money from the world’s three billion gamers.

In an industry driven by big franchises, Activision makes some of the most popular titles, including Call of Duty and Candy Crush. Yet the company has been roiled in recent months by an employee revolt over accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Microsoft framed the deal as strengthening the company’s hand in the so-called metaverse, the nascent world of virtual and augmented reality. The metaverse has attracted huge amounts of investment and talent, though so far is more of a buzzword than a thriving business. Facebook renamed its parent company to Meta late last year to underscore its commitment.

But the focus on the futuristic metaverse belies the significance of the deal in the present: The acquisition helps Microsoft gain on its rival Sony in the long-running battle for gamers’ attentions and wallets by offering top titles. It also helps the software giant stay ahead of powerful newer competitors in gaming, like Amazon and Google.

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Gaming

Free Fire Announces its First Crossover of 2022 with Assassin’s Creed

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Garena has announced a new crossover event that will bring content from Ubisoft’s award-winning video game series, Assassin’s Creed, into Free Fire. The crossover unites one of the most popular video game franchises and one of the world’s most popular mobile games.

Assassin’s Creed is well-loved by gaming communities globally, and this partnership builds on Free Fire’s strategy to deliver content that excites. Free Fire players in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region can look forward to a dedicated in-game experience that will see the iconic characters from the Assassin’s Creed franchise introduced into the world of Free Fire.

The crossover is set to come to life for players in March 2022.

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Artificial Intelligence

Terrain-Aware AI Can Predict Battle Outcomes in StarCraft 2

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StarCraft 2 (SC2), one of the world’s most popular real-time strategy video games, has been studied extensively in the field of AI. However, it is difficult to realize AI systems with good decision-making skills due to the many factors involved in in-game battles. Now, scientists have developed an AI model that can predict outcomes of SC2 battles by considering army compositions and battlefield terrain simultaneously, paving the way for AIs that can correctly assess complex situations.

As the need for more sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) grows, the challenges that they must face along the way have to evolve accordingly. Real-time strategy (RTS) video games, unlike turn-based board games such as chess, can serve as a vast playground for pushing the limits of AI. In particular, StarCraft II (SC2), one of the world’s most popular and skill-demanding RTS games, has already been the object of a few groundbreaking AI-related studies.

In SC2 matches, each player has to build up and command an army of varied units to defeat their opponent using wit and grit. While AI-based systems can excel at many aspects of the game, improving their decision-making regarding when their units should be sent to or relocated during a battle is remarkably difficult. This is because armies can be composed of virtually endless combinations of different units that synergize depending on various factors. In addition, the characteristics of the battlefield (‘terrain’) where the combat takes place can have a decisive impact on the outcome. So far, no study has focused on both of these aspects simultaneously for making AI-based combat outcome predictions—an essential skill for any SC2 player.

In a recent study, a team of scientists from the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) in Korea tackled this issue using a deep learning-based approach. By building and training a deep neural network (DNN) model, the researchers developed a system that could predict the outcome of an SC2 battle by simultaneously considering the detailed composition of the opposing armies and the type of terrain they would fight at. Their paper was made available online on July 24, 2021, and was published in Volume 185 of Expert Systems With Applications on December 15, 2021.

The proposed DNN model leveraged a technique called ‘parameter sharing,’ which allowed it to effectively and precisely analyze the circumstances of the battlefield in a very short time. “Our AI was capable of taking numerous complex factors into consideration to predict the overall combat result. When implemented, such a model would help an AI player make proper decisions with regards to its offensive and defensive strategies,” highlights Professor Chang Wook Ahn, who led the study.

Perfecting the way an AI makes decisions in a complex video game like SC2 will eventually lead to AI-based systems that can assess and correctly tackle difficult situations in the real world. As Prof. Ahn explains: “We believe that the AIs used in gaming and in the industry are not that different and that more AI applications will soon become tangible in our daily life. Thus, our continued study in this topic could become one of the cornerstones of the global endeavor to develop AIs that can perceive situations and behave logically.”

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