Free book for boys and reluctant readers

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

Flynn's Log is free on the following devices

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Reading is important

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
–Maya Angelou

Most adults would agree that reading is important, but many kids detest reading. Video games, devices, and TV are preferred entertainment and escape. They provide instant gratification. Reading takes time. For some kids, reading isn't engaging.

had this same problem with my son, so I solved the problem.

The classic stories I remember enjoying as a kid don’t interest my son and his immediate attention span. If he doesn’t enjoy the story from page one, he will not read further.

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

So how did I get my son to read?

I showed him how much fun it is to get sucked into a story.

Your book is amazing I can't stop reading it
– Joseph Young via twitter

Contemporary and Classic titles alike don’t interest many kids. Don’t worry, the love of reading is learned. We need a starting point. We need that one book that is just as engaging on the first read as the fifth, just like a really great movie that kids want to see again and again. A positive association with reading will make kids want to read more.

A love of reading is cited as the number one indicator of future success. My son didn’t have the desire to read. He didn’t care about the books I chose to read to him, and was overwhelmed with the selection at the library. I want my son to succeed, so I had to do something. Since we struggled to find books he cared to read, I wrote one. An epic saga about the things he loves. I put it in a world he loves and addressed the issues he faces in his life.

I just love your books I've been reading them over and over again.
-Carson via twitter 

But it's a video game book

Don’t worry; it’s not a book about video games, nor is it a game strategy book. Flynn's Log is a hero's journey that takes place inside the Minecraft world that today's kids know and love. The protagonist, Flynn, naturally flows through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (builds shelter and tools, learns what to eat and discovers a digital friend) and faces questions about his destiny. He learns important life lessons about friendship, integrity, and trust. Flynn's Log is good for kids without being boring.

Thank you so so much for the free ebook. My son loves Minecraft now with this book I can get him to read to me.
Jennifer Wilkins

Start your son or daughter on journey today, reading Flynn’s Log 1: Rescue Island. Free on available these devices and apps.

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

Flynn's Log is free on the following devices

Choose your device

KindleiPad/iPod/iPhoneGoogle Play (Android Tablets)nookkoboRead Online

US$8.99 Paperback

Shop LocalAmazon-USAmazon-UKAmazon-Canada

Why is Flynn's Log 1 Free?

My son loves reading — finally. If you have experience with a reluctant reader then I know your pain and I want to help. I’ve seen thousands of kids transform with this book. My readers, who don’t usually read books during the summer, couldn't put Flynn's Log 1 down.

Good book I thought I would never read a book on my summer but I feel I'm gonna finish it soon
– Multigamer 47 via twitter

Let this book change your kid’s life too. You have nothing to lose and an avid reader to gain.

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

–Frederick Douglas

I am giving away Flynn's Log 1 free because I want to give you a risk-free way to hook your reluctant reader.

Please and I mean PLEASE, WRITE MORE! I absolutely love it! They're outstanding books.

-Devon123321 via twitter

What are Books for Boys?

I spend lots of time with teachers and parents. I hear parents ask, “How do I get my son to read? Do you have books for boys?”

I wrote the Flynn's Log series for my son, and this book is interesting for boys. However, the series is a non-stop read for both boys and girls, especially those who are interested in Minecraft.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

—Dr. Seuss

What are you waiting for?

You have nothing to lose!

Minecraft Adventures - Books for boys

Flynn's Log is free on the following devices

Choose your device

KindleiPad/iPod/iPhoneGoogle Play (Android Tablets)nookkoboRead Online

US$8.99 Paperback

Shop LocalAmazon-USAmazon-UKAmazon-Canada

News for Parents of Reluctant Readers

Get Reluctant Reader Book News from Stone Marshall

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Be sure you get your bonuses, send an email to [email protected] and say Hi, or add [email protected] to your address book now. Gmail users, make sure your entry is confirmed. Add email from [email protected] to your Primary Tab. This video explains it well. Don't have an email address? Get gmail here, free.

Twilio turns developer education into a game with TwilioQuest 3

Educating developers about cloud communications isn’t an easy task, and that’s why Twilio turned to a video game to do the job. TwilioQuest 3 is launching today with a mission of training developers to create cloud communications solutions.

It may sound like “gamification” rearing its ugly head again. But Kevin Whinnery, lead developer of the game, said that description isn’t a good one because it doesn’t reflect the effort that has gone into creating the game-themed tutorial application with animations that are done in classic 16-bit arcade style. Developers go on quests to complete programming challenges in desktop training sessions that replace live training.

Whinnery has been at Twilio for 6.5 years. He spent a lot of that time as a developer evangelist, teaching developers how to use JavaScript so they could be more successful. But the game turned out to be a better way to engage people, and the new version is a ground-up rewrite of the game. Whinnery and his team spent about six months on the latest version, which has about 10 hours of content.

“Over the years we’ve added more capabilities for developers to use that they wouldn’t have been able to build themselves,” Whinnery said. “It’s similar to Amazon Web Services where you pay for usage. Our success is predicated on developers being successful with our API. If developers can’t figure out how the API works, or if it doesn’t work well for them. They won’t use it. And Twilio doesn’t get paid.”

“We can justify a large investment in the game over many years, because essentially, when developer communities are healthy and growing, Twilio tends to do well,” Whinnery said.

Twilio Quest 3 debuts on August 5.

Above: Twilio Quest 3 debuts on August 5.Image Credit: Twilio

Twilio’s long-term goal is to teach a million developers how to code. What started as a tutorial for teaching coding has now turned into a full game. The company has invested in the game because it found that people from all different backgrounds (not just professional programmers but self-taught developers from across the globe) engage more when learning to code is fun.

Instead of focusing on Twilio-specific skills only via a game-themed tutorial web site, Twilio Quest 3 is now a fully-fledged desktop video game for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It’s a top-down adventure set in a 2D environment (a nod to the developers’ love of old school games like Legend of Zelda and Pokémon). And it teaches technical skills beyond just what developers need to implement Twilio.

Twilio is a big public company that focuses on cloud communications, and it has worked with millions of Twilio developers who use the company’s applications programming interface (API). Those APIs enable developers to send and receive text messages, make and receive phone calls, and add two-factor authentication to their applications. Over time, Twilio API-related content will represent the minority of training missions in TwilioQuest.

“The intended audience for this is much wider, as we want to increase the number of developers rather than teach only existing developers,” Whinnery said.

The biggest technical and user experience change to TwilioQuest will be moving from a browser-based web application to a downloadable desktop application. The company did this in the third version to tightly integrate with the player’s development environment. Now it can create auto-validated code challenges that teach a huge variety of concepts from PowerShell commands to Elixir macros. By using developer tools installed on a player’s computer, Twilio can rapidly create lessons that would be difficult or impossible to implement in a cloud-based environment.

Why TwilioQuest became a full-fledged game

Above: TwilioQuest 3 evokes the 16-bit eraImage Credit: Twilio

TwilioQuest started as a gamified badge tutorial system. Now it provides a path for learning complex topics that users can learn at their own pace. Based on what the feedback so far, the narrative structure, feedback loop, and opportunity for exploration offered by video games (specifically those in the RPG genre) will help more people, from all backgrounds learn to code.

TwilioQuest 3 is for anyone interested in leveling up their programming skills and getting familiar with Twilio. The goal is to build out the game so that anyone, regardless of their programming background (or lack thereof), can learn to code by playing the game. Twilio will roll out new chapters that make TQ3 more accessible to all skill levels.

Twilio partnered with Misty Robotics to build Cedric, the robot guide. Cedric is a non-player guide, inspired by Misty, a personal robot platform for developers. Misty provides developers access to the potential of personal robots for business and personal use without having to have knowledge in robotics.

Twilio has been working with the Misty robot platform, building skills for her to enable a “real life” Cedric experience for attendees at Twilio’s annual Signal conference, which takes place this week in San Francisco and draws thousands of developers. Misty Robotics was founded by Ian Bernstein, a cofounder of Sphero, which was an early user of the Twilio SMS API. Sphero used Twilio’s API to control and navigate Sphero balls.

The game’s music adds another element of old school game nostalgia. The team at Twilio worked with a group of hand-picked, independent chiptune artists to build an original soundtrack. Artists include Robby Vocke, Danimal Cannon, Corset Lore, Cheap Dinosaurs, Joey Michalina and more.

Why gamification sucks

Above: TwilioQuest 3 is out to beat inauthentic gamification.Image Credit: Twilio

“I kind of hate the word gamification because it implies that you’re like trying to trick people, like, it’s not really a game,” Whinnery said. “You’re trying to make it look at feel like a game. What I aspire to you with TwilioQuest 3 is to actually be a game. A major inspiration for me is when I think back on playing Oregon Trail back in grade school. That never felt like I was being tricked. That was just fun, I happened to be learning at the same time. Having a good time playing this game was already intrinsically satisfying. So I think over time, we will introduce some gameplay elements that work in non-educational games. Like we’re working on a simple RPG combat system.”

In that version, you’ll run into minions of legacy systems.

“I think like the difference between gamification, and a game is that a game is intended is designed to first and foremost to be fun, and to provide some kind of meaningful value. The term ‘gamification’ has fallen out of fashion because it was associated with inauthentic marketing tactics or inauthentic growth hacking tactics.

What’s next for TwilioQuest 3

Above: Twilio Quest 3Image Credit: Twilio

The company will add new chapters in perpetuity to build out the adventure and continue making it a tool to help anyone learn to code. Over the next year, players will be able to team up with non-player character (NPC) party members to take on larger missions. Eventually, the players will be able to do even more fun activities like crafting items and facing the minions of the Legacy Systems in RPG combat. There will be more non-Twilio content coming soon.

This content beats traditional developer education and live training, which was one-size-fits-all. By contrast, the game can be customized to the user’s own state of knowledge. Players can learn at their own pace.

“The role-playing game metaphor seemed to make a lot of sense,” Whinnery said. “The version out today is an evolution of the original tool, which I used primarily for live training. But what I didn’t really anticipate was how powerful is going to be for to just make technical education, a little bit more fun. And I didn’t know how powerful it would be to make education more accessible.”

“We wanted to double down on the gameplay mechanics that had made Twilio classes successful before. So that is what we have, we have a PC game for Mac, Windows, and Linux, that should feel very much like a PC RPG sort of inspired by Zelda and Pokemon and other classics of the 16-bit era,” Whinnery said.

So far, the results are telling. TwilioQuest users spend about 25 minutes on the website, or much more than for other educational materials.

“Thus far, we’ve been mostly teaching people how to use the Twilio API. And this is kind of our first foray into teaching non-Twilio topics. But what we found is that developers who, onboard to our platform through TwilioQuest are 25% faster to get to a milestone we call product active, which is where a user of the Twilio API has successfully used a product in a meaningful way.”

Darksiders II comes to Switch on September 26

THQ Nordic announced today that Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition is coming to Nintendo Switch on September 26, as Gematsu reported.

Darksiders II first came out back in 2012 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC. This Deathinitive Edition — which came out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2015 — includes all of the post-release downloadable content created for the action role-playing game.

The original Darksiders already made its way to Switch in April. Darksiders III, which came out in November 2018, has yet to find its way to Nintendo’s home console/portable hybrid. Although we do not have specific sales numbers for the game, THQ Nordic has said that the title was profitable.

THQ Nordic is also working on a new entry in the series, Darksiders Genesis. It will be a top-down cooperative action RPG that takes inspiration from games like Diablo. It is coming out at an unspecified date later this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, and PC.

The RetroBeat: It’s time for a Game Boy Classic

On July 31, the Game Boy celebrated the 30th anniversary of its U.S. launch. Sadly, Nintendo didn’t do much to mark the occasion. That’s a shame, because I’m feeling a ton of nostalgia toward the classic portable machine.

Nintendo is usually smart about turning people’s fondness for its older consoles into money. The NES Classic Edition and SNES Classic Edition were giant hits. But Nintendo hasn’t made a new micro-console since 2017.

It’s strange to see Nintendo abandon this market after making it so successful. SegaKonami, and others are getting ready to launch their own retro machines. Nintendo, meanwhile, seems to have taken a break.

That’s nuts. Nintendo still has so many great systems that deserve their own classic revival. I already talked about how great a Nintendo 64 Classic would be, but a Game Boy Classic could be even more interesting.

I love my Switch, but it is only so portable. Yes, I can take it with me anywhere, but I have to keep it in a case. Even the upcoming Switch Lite is still too big to put inside your pocket. That’s what I miss about the Game Boy and DS machines. I could play those anywhere. If I had a a few minutes to kill while I waited in a line, I could take my Game Boy out of my pocket.

Nintendo Switch Lite should help keep the system on top in the United States.

Above: The Switch Lite is smaller, but it’s not pocket-friendly.Image Credit: Nintendo

A Game Boy Classic could bring that kind of experience. Nintendo could make a new version of the system that is even smaller and more portable, and it could come with a built-in library. Not having to worry about swapping out cartridges would make it an even more convenient device.

The Game Boy had so many great games. You had classic 2D sidescrollers like the Super Mario Land series, the fantastic puzzle-platfromer Donkey Kong, and the iconic Tetris. Also, I know that it’s getting a remake for the Switch, but I’d still love to the original version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

The box art.

Above: A classic.Image Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo would have an easy time coming up with a library of 30 games for a Game Boy Classic. Heck, it could even do more. Aside from other Nintendo classics like Kirby’s Dream Land and Pokémon Red and Blue, you have third-party entries from classic series like Castlevania and Mega Man.

Those are just some of the great games for the original Game Boy. If Nintendo wanted the device to include Game Boy Color titles, the potential library gets even more amazing. You have more awesome Zelda games with Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, a forgotten but surprisingly great portable take on Metal Gear Solid, and the original, charming genie-starring sidescroller Shantae.

A Game Boy Classic makes all the sense in the world. I just wish Nintendo would hurry up and make one.

Take-Two sees a surprising lift from GTA Online, reporting $540.4 million in revenues in June quarter

Take-Two Interactive Software reported revenues today that beat analyst expectations for the first-fiscal quarter ended June 30. This means that revenues were surprisingly strong at a time when the video game publisher had no major releases.

This also means that ongoing stalwarts such as Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto V continue to prop up sales, even as the hot release of the fall, Red Dead Redemption 2, isn’t doing as well as might be expected. The company’s stock price fell 5% today after U.S. President Donald Trump called out video games for contributing to a culture that glorifies violence. But the stock has risen to $123.05 a share, up 6.7%, in after-hours trading.

Analyst had expected non-GAAP earnings per share of 4 cents on revenue of $356.9 million. But Take-Two reported GAAP net income of 41 cents a share on revenues of $540.5 million, up 39% from $388 million a year ago. On a non-GAAP basis, the company reported net income of about 27 cents a share on revenue of $422 million, way above guidance, said Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities, in an email.

The company credited revenues from NBA 2K19, Grand Theft Auto Online, and Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2, Red Dead Online, the Borderlands franchise, Social Point’s mobile offerings, and Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. Take-Two increased its full-year revenue estimates as a result of the better performance in the first fiscal quarter.

NBA 2K19.

Above: NBA 2K19 is one of Take-Two’s strongest performers.Image Credit: 2K Games

Red Dead Redemption 2, the Western epic from Take-Two’s Rockstar Games label that was more than seven years in the making, has been a big part of revenues since the title debuted on October 26, and it sold 23 million copies in the holiday quarter. But it has stalled since then, as the company said today it has sold-in 25 million copies to date.

Red Dead Online and Grand Theft Auto Online are also contributing to revenues, and Take-Two said that recurrent consumer spending was up 31% and accounted for 58% of GAAP net revenue, thanks to Grand Theft Auto Online and NBA 2K performance.

But neither Red Dead Redemption 2 and Red Dead Online seem destined to repeat the unprecedented success of Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online. GTA V has now sold 110 million units to date. NBA 2K19 sold more than 12 million units. Previous Borderlands series games also helped boost the quarter, with the launch of the Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.

“Fiscal 2020 is off to a terrific start with first-quarter operating results that beat our expectations,” said Strauss Zelnick, CEO of New York-based Take-Two, in a statement. “We delivered significant net bookings and cash flow growth driven by the performance of Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K19, the Borderlands franchise, and Red Dead Redemption 2 and Red Dead Online.

“As a result of our better-than-expected first-quarter operating results and increased forecast for the balance of the year, we are raising our outlook for fiscal 2020, which is anticipated to be another great year for our organization. We aim to build on this strong start by delivering a robust array of titles throughout the year, including Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, NBA 2K20, Borderlands 3, WWE 2K20, and The Outer Worlds, as well as new and innovative ways for consumers to remain engaged with their favorite entertainment experiences.”

And Zelnick said, “Looking ahead, Take-Two has the strongest development pipeline in its history, including sequels from our biggest franchises as well as exciting new IP. We are exceedingly well-positioned to capitalize on the positive trends in our industry, and to generate significant growth and margin expansion over the long-term.”

Don't shoot. My aim is a little slow.

Above: Fix the economy, or I shoot!Image Credit: Rockstar

Even with the weak summer quarter result, Take-Two is looking forward to the September 13 release of Borderlands 3, the new title from Gearbox Software.

Digital revenue was up 36% to $427.8 million, and it now accounts for 79% of total GAAP net revenue. On August 27, Take-Two will release Patrice Desilets’ Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey via Take-Two’s Private Division label for indie games.

For the full year, GAAP net revenue is expected to hit $2.83 billion to $2.93 billion, with net income ranging from $425 million to $454 million.

Minecraft: A Guide On How To Make Fireworks

There's a lot of things to do in Minecraft, but few know that you can actually make fireworks. The recipes can't be found in the recipe book even when the player has all the required items, which can be a bit frustrating for the casual player, because it requires going into the Wikipedia page of the game and looking for the information.

Have no worry however, because we've got you fully covered with all the tips and tricks you need to know about making fireworks and all of their quirky uses. Let's get right into it.

10For Decoration

The first use for fireworks is obviously for pure decorative purposes. Maybe you'd like to have a celebration of sorts or just light up the night skies with beautiful colors.

Either way, if you craft fireworks and use them at night time against the darkened sky, you'll be able to see various colors and patterns depending of the kind you've crafted. The fireworks are visible during the day as well, but it will be more difficult to spot them against a brighter sky.

9Elytra Fuel

After defeating the Ender Dragon, you're granted access to the End, an alternate dimension where Endermen live among Chaurus Fruit trees and End Cities. If you happen to come across a particularly large one with an End ship, you'll discover the Elytra, which essentially let's the player glide and fly around.

In order to maintain your flight, fireworks without any charge are used to propel you into the skies. Although flying machines can be made as well, having a stack of fireworks is a lot more convenient in general.

8Ammunition For Crossbow

If you come across an Illager settlement, chances are you'll probably pick up a crossbow off of one of these evil versions of Minecraft villagers. The crossbow can be loaded up with fireworks as ammunition, and the higher the charge is the longer the range will be.

As soon as the firework comes into contact with a target, it will detonate in an explosion, making it a great mini cannon for anyone looking to deal with some serious damage on mobs at night time while defending their homestead.

7Ingredients Needed

Fireworks are not the cheapest of items to make. The two ingredients needed are paper and gunpowder. Paper can be made from three pieces of sugar cane, which is widely available in the wild.

Gunpowder, on the other hand, is found in chests in Desert Temples and Buried Treasure locations, as well as in dungeons and mine shafts. If you manage to kill a Creeper before it explodes, it will also drop a bit of gunpowder depending on how good your sword is.ADVERTISING

6Crafting Recipe

Once you have the needed ingredients, the recipe is fairly straightforward. You'll need one piece of paper anywhere on the crafting table grid and 1-3 pieces of gunpowder. The more gunpowder you use, the higher the charge of your firework will be and the longer their range or flight duration will be.

If you're making the fireworks for Elytra, it's recommended to always use three pieces of gunpowder to take advantage of the longest possible flight duration. If you're planning on using the fireworks for decoration only, the recipe also calls for a Firework Star, the most basic one being a combination of glowstone, brown dye and gunpowder.

5Using Fireworks

Once you have your fireworks prepared, you can either use your crossbow to shoot them or place them on the ground to send them up in the skies. When using with an Elytra, it can be a bit more difficult to activate the flight.

It's recommended to get to a high spot such as a mountain or even the roof of your Minecraft house and then jump down. While falling, engage your Elytra's glide and then look upwards into the sky before shooting a rocket. This should propel you away and off the ground.ADVERTISING


For this decorative firework, you'll need a Firework Star made of one magenta dye, any mob head and one gunpowder. You can use any other type of dye as well. The mob heads can be obtained if a mob is killed by the explosion of a charged Creeper.

Alternatively, the easiest mob head to find is the Dragon Head found on End ships. Then combine the star with one piece of paper and as 1-3 charges of gunpowder to determine the length of the effect. Once you shoot this firework into the skies you should be able to see a magenta colored Creeper face.


In order to get an orange burst kind of effect, you'll need one piece of dye, one gunpowder and one feather. Feathers are dropped by chickens when they're killed.

If you want to add a fade effect to this firework, combine the Firework Star with any dye of your liking before then combining it with one paper and as many gunpowder charges as you need. The result is a simple burst like firework with orange fading into red.A

2Twinkle Burst

The green twinkle burst effects can be crafted by combining any available dye, one feather, one piece of glowstone and one gunpowder.

If you want to add a fade to another color, the process is still the same: combine the Firework Star with yellow dye and then combine it once again with a piece of paper and as many charges of gunpowder as you need. You should now have a beautiful green twinkle burst fading into a yellow shade.

1Star-Shaped Twinkle With Trail

The final type of firework is a star-shaped blue twinkle with a trail, and is undoubtedly the most expensive one. In order to craft this Firework Star you'll need any dye of your choice, one gold nugget, one diamond and one piece of gunpowder.

If you to add a fade to a color, combine the Firework Star with any dye before combining it with one paper and as many pieces of gunpowder as you need. The crafting price of this item might be high, but it definitely creates the most beautiful firework.

These Minecraft videos show off over 500 hours of demonstrations

Who knew Minecraft offered such a rich training ground for AI and machine learning algorithms? Earlier this month, Facebook researchers posited that the hit game’s constraints make it well-suited to natural language understanding experiments. And in a newly published paper, a team at Carnegie Mellon describe a 130GB-734GB corpus intended to inform AI development — MineRL — that contains over 60 million annotated state-action pairs (recorded over 500 hours) across a variety of related Minecraft tasks, alongside a novel data collection scheme that allows for the addition of tasks and the gathering of complete state information suitable for “a variety of methods.”

“As demonstrated in the computer vision and natural language processing communities, large-scale datasets have the capacity to facilitate research by serving as an experimental and benchmarking platform for new methods,” wrote the coauthors. “However, existing datasets compatible with reinforcement learning simulators do not have sufficient scale, structure, and quality to enable the further development and evaluation of methods focused on using human examples. Therefore, we introduce a comprehensive, large-scale, simulator paired dataset of human demonstrations.”Recommended videosPowered by AnyClipHope for quadriplegia patients in pilot with video gamersPauseUnmuteCurrent Time 0:03/Duration 0:57Loaded: 20.14% FullscreenUp Next

For those unfamiliar, Minecraft is a voxel-based building and crafting game with procedurally created worlds containing block-based trees, mountains, fields, animals, non-player characters (NPCs), and so on. Blocks are placed on a 3D voxel grid, and each voxel in the grid contains one material. Players can move, place, or remove blocks of different types, and attack or fend off attacks from NPCs or other players.

As for MineRL, it includes six tasks with a variety of research challenges including multi-agent interactions, long-term planning, vision, control, and navigation, as well as explicit and implicit subtask hierarchies. In the navigation task, users have to move to a random goal location over terrain with variable material types and geometries, while in the tree chopping objective, they’re tasked with obtaining wood to produce other items. In another task, players are instructed to produce objects like pickaxes, diamonds, cooked meat, and beds, and in a survival task, they must devise their own goals and secure items to complete those goals.

Each trajectory in the corpus consists of a video frame from the player’s point-of-view and a set of features from the game-state, namely player inventory, item collection events, distances to objectives, and player attributes (health, level, achievements). That’s supplemented with metadata like timestamped markers for when certain objectives are met, and by action data consisting of all of the keyboard presses, changes in view pitch and yaw caused by mouse movement, click and interaction events, and chat messages sent.

To collect the trajectory data, the researchers created an end-to-end platform comprising a public game server and a custom Minecraft client plugin that records all packet-level communication, allowing the demonstrations to be re-simulated and re-rendered with modifications to the game state. Collected telemetry data was fed into a data processing pipeline, and the task demonstrations were annotated automatically.

The researchers expect MineRL will support large-scale AI generalization studies by enabling the re-rendering of data with different constraints, like altered lighting, camera positions, and other video rendering conditions and the injection of artificial noise in observations, rewards, and actions.  “We expect it to be increasingly useful for a range of methods including inverse reinforcement learning, hierarchical learning, and life-long learning,” they wrote. “We hope MineRL will … [bolster] many branches of AI toward the common goal of developing methods capable of solving a wider range of real-world environments.”

Minecraft Earth devs talk Android release, final beta cities, modding

Microsoft has kicked off its Minecraft Earth beta, serving a tease of its upcoming mobile spin-off of the hit adventure blockbuster. Fusing mapping and location data with augmented reality (AR) technologies, the game brings the voxel world to life, attempting to mirror the success of Pokemon GO.

While Minecraft Earth remains locked down to an invite-only beta, lead Mojang figures recently hosted a Q&A session via the game's official Discord channel. Fielding community questions, we received an insight into the current status of Minecraft Earth and future ambitions the title.

The Minecraft Earth beta and tackling Android

Minecraft Earth's initial beta is limited to a select pool of registered beta participants, randomly selected among those in five eligible cities, and using iOS-based devices. While Microsoft has sights set on worldwide availability, the pre-release client only spans Seattle, London, Tokyo, Stockholm, and Mexico City for July 2019. Committed to a broader rollout in the weeks ahead, budding players are understandably clamoring for the chance to play.

“At this time we don't have plans to expand the beta beyond the current 5 cities,” said Minecraft Earth Community Manager when questioned on expansion plans. “We're being thoughtful about our release and want to make sure that we roll the game out in a very thoughtful way.” Mojang instead aims to expand more players in existing regions throughout the beta, with a wider footprint after testing concludes.

The team also reaffirmed plans to hit Android “later this summer,” on track for a future stage in testing. “I know it's the ‘typical saying' that you hear, but really, we want to get the Android folks into the beta as well.” Minecraft Earth Software Engineer, under the moniker “Murtag,” also confirmed plans for iOS and Android cross-play and cross-saves, allowing players to shift progress between multiple devices.

Mojang remains uncommitted to a release date for the final version of Minecraft Earth, instead advising players to “stay tuned” throughout ongoing tests.

What the future holds for Minecraft Earth

Mojang also outlined plans to diversify the Minecraft Earth world, including existing locales from the vanilla package. Design Director Craig Leigh touched on “eventually” implementing the hellish Nether underworld, likely bringing new blocks and mobs too. “Yes you can build an Obsidian portal, but currently you can't light it.”

Leigh also confirmed plans for biomes in Minecraft Earth, bringing further variation to the overhead map. “Per our announcement trailers, we want to create different Biomes that will provide different resources,” said a fellow staffer. While in the closed beta, exploration is limited to basis grasslands packed with flora and chests, dynamic biomes and rewards could soon take influence from real-world surroundings.

However, Mojang was fast to rule out modding support, a prior lifeline that propelled vanilla Minecraft one decade ago. Although built on Microsoft's reworked “Bedrock” engine and sharing underlying DNA, Minecraft Earth adopts a more closed, tailored experience.

Moderation garnered noteworthy attention too, including the steps Mojang is taking to combat toxicity. Expanding on the existing foundation of resource collection and construction, community-sharing hooks into location features to drop digital creations in public spaces.

Questions touched on the potential of overcrowding the augmented reality world with digital structures and how Mojang looks to ensure enough real estate. “[W]e are working on a new exciting system to deal with this,” state Leight. “Don't worry, if you want to show you build off to the world you will be able to. More news soon.”

And the topic of user-generated content and keeping kids safe from those who seek to exploit gameplay, the team has committed to moderating publicly shared content. Mojang also pledges to crack down for cheaters across Minecraft Earth, including GPS spoofing to fake their physical locations.

For those looking for a chance to pick up Minecraft Earth ahead of launch, registration for the closed beta remains live on the official site. In the meantime, don't miss on our early impressions from E3 2019, which dives into the full scope of Microsoft's mobile block-building ambitions.

Roblox surpasses Minecraft with 100 million monthly players

Minecraft may be having a moment again thanks to newfound interest from popular YouTubers and an uptick in nostalgia-induced playing, but even the world-building crafting game can’t compete with Roblox.

Roblox, a popular digital playground similar to communities like Habbo Hotel and games like Second Life, has hit a new milestone — 100 million monthly active users. The company celebrated by released an exclusive, limited-edition accessory for players, which can be redeemed for free.

“Roblox began with just 100 players and a handful of creators who inspired one another, unlocking this groundswell of creativity, collaboration, and imagination that continues to grow,” CEO David Baszucki said in a press release today.

The company has been slowly building its user base since the game first launched in 2005, four years before one of its biggest competitors, MinecraftRoblox has become increasingly popular in recent years, though. The game has a big following on YouTube, and was even parodied in a Kanye West music video, where he and Lil Pump dressed up as Roblox avatars.

To compare, Minecraft has 91 million monthly active players, according to Microsoft. The game has seen a recent uptick in interest thanks to more YouTube creators, like Jacksepticeye and PewDiePie devoting lengthy videos to gameplay sessions. New tools, like ray tracing, also caught the interest of players who had walked away from the game. Other factors, including a new weekly series called Minecraft Monday from YouTube creator Daniel “Keemstar” Keem, have helped to bring Minecraft back to the forefront of gaming conversation.

“Nine years later those children are older teens or adults and nostalgia has set in,” Keem toldPolygon. “Over the last two years, Minecraft has been added to meme culture, making it also cool again.”

The new interest in Minecraft could mean that the Microsoft-owned game will surpass Roblox. It’s also possible augmented reality game (and Pokémon Go competitor) Minecraft Earth could be the thing to push Minecraft past Roblox when it launches later this year. Until then, Roblox is on top.

Avengers: Endgame Writers Say Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 Will Be “Shaped Differently” and Spread in More Directions

Avengers: Endgame scribes and Marvel Cinematic Universe veterans Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus expect Marvel Studios’ upcoming Phase 4 to be more eclectic than past phases and head in “a lot more directions.”

“I know nothing. I literally know nothing,” McFeely told the Los Angeles Times at San Diego Comic-Con. “I read things in Los Angeles Times and all these other sites, and I go, ‘Well, I don’t think Marvel announced that.’ There’s all these little rumory things, but I don’t know them.”

“All I know is Phase 4 can go in a lot more directions than any of the preceding three phases,” added Markus.

“Because of, one, just because of the doors that three successful phases have opened. Now they have cosmic Marvel available, they have Doctor Strange cosmic Marvel available. There are so many directions you can go in now.”

Phase 4 of the interconnected MCU will also be the first to include productions debuted exclusively on coming streaming service Disney+, future home to Marvel Studios-produced series WandaVisionLokiThe Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye and What If…?

“Plus if you throw in the Disney+ streaming thing… I think it will be a phase that is shaped differently than the preceding ones. Something that can spread out in more directions at once,” Markus said.

“It’s almost inevitable, when you keep making these things and they’re all connected, it cannot be on one straight line or you’re gonna get incredibly repetitive after a while. So it has to spread.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced Marvel’s Phase 4 slate at Comic-Con, confirming Black WidowThe EternalsShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder. Also announced was the Mahershala Ali-starring Blade, planned for Phase 5.

Alluded to, but not yet announced, were the coming additions of recently reclaimed IPs Fantastic Four and X-Men — blockbuster franchises in the making under Feige.

“It’ll be fascinating to see what Kevin Feige does with the properties he’s now getting from the Fox merger with X-Men and Fantastic Four,” Markus told the LA Times in May.

“And to see what the MCU version of those things is, because I very much doubt it will be something that resembles what you’ve seen before. So that will be very exciting.”0COMMENTS

Avengers: Endgame is now available to own on Digital HD and releases to 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray August 13.

Spider-Man Star Tom Holland's Face Recreated in Minecraft

Minecraft has been around for years, but that doesn't mean that fans of the sprawling creation game can't find new ways to amaze the community. Now, Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man is making his way into the world of Minecraft thanks to one talented player. Reddit user FyreArsenal recently shared a video, which showcases a photo-like recreation of Holland's face made with Minecraft blocks. Recreating such a huge image out of singular blocks is a large time investment and requires extreme attention to detail. Just one block out of place can spell disaster and make the creator have to delete possible hours of work.

Getting the colors, placement, and scale just right is a labor of love that not all fans would commit to. A virtual structure like this has to be carefully planned from the initial image selection all the way to ensuring the right materials make up the individual pixels. Once all those details are locked in, then the long process of building a massive image, like the one of Holland’s face, can begin. A comment under the video explains, FyreArsenal spent three hours on the project because recreating celebrities faces in the game sounded like a fun thing to do.

FyreArsenal continued, “The reason why I chose Tom was because I keep seeing his fangirls with their Tom Holland fan accounts all over Instagram, so I thought building this would make me gain recognition or something. Not many people saw it on Instagram, so I just posted it here on Reddit instead.”

Other users are sure glad that they chose to post as the video took off on Reddit and went viral. People are just impressed at the quality of the image and the overall time invested when compared to similar videos that don't break down the process of designing such an elaborate structure.

Some other Redditors with great ears picked up on Michael Giacchino’s version of the Spider-Man theme making an appearance in the video. A welcome treat for fans with an appreciation for small details.

One clever commenter replied that “EDITH – Even Digitized, It’s Tom Holland.” The resemblance is pretty striking and at this scale, it would be easy to see the image become distorted due to stretching it to such lengths. Even after 10 years, Minecraft is still providing fans with the chance to appreciate these sorts of moments online.

For more information on Minecraft, including the upcoming Minecraft Dungeons, check out some of our previous coverage.

Is this the best celebrity recreation in Minecraft that you've ever seen? Are you looking forward to Minecraft Dungeons next year? What other popular movies or television shows do you want to see included in the game next? Sound off in the comment section below, or feel free to hit me up over on Twitter @SumitLakeHornet!

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