Future Frostbite Engine Based Games Will Require 64-bit OSes

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2012 - 02:40 AM |
Tagged: gaming, frostbite, ea, bf3, 64-bit

Last month, Johan Andersson posted on twitter a tweet that stated future Frostbite engine based games in 2013 would require a 64-bit operating system. The full tweet is shown in the image below. He suggested that it would be a good idea to upgrade to Windows 8, though it is difficult to judge sarcasm in text (hehe). That bit led to a big explosion of tweets as the Internet revolted against what they thought would be required: an x64 version of Windows 8. Mr. Andersson later clarified that any recent x64 version of Windows would be fine.

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You can see the tweet on Twitter here.

The Windows 8 suggestion aside, I was very excited about the news that 64-bit Windows would be required. Currently, games are developed with both x64 and x86 versions in mind, which means that games are shackled by the limitations of the x86 (32 bit) operating system. As an example, Sins of a Solar Empire is a game that generally runs great from beginning to mid-game on large maps, but as players build up fleets of ships and have a lot of data to keep track of, the game starts to run out of memory and starts to chug–even when running the game on a 64-bit operating system. The CPU and GPU are not fully utilized, it is a RAM limitation as reported by a number of users and a situation I have found myself in numerous times as well.

32-bit operating systems (and I’m being general here) have a hard limit of about 4GB of RAM, from which the GPU, other expansion devices, and overhead steal a chunk of address space that the OS cannot use even if there is physically 4GB of RAM DIMMS in the system. With 2GB GPUs being common, that leaves a system running 32-bit OSes with 2GB of addressable system memory. From that, the OS can allocate programs, caching, and other system tasks to that 2GB of total available RAM. Modern games can easily hit 2GB or more of RAM usage, but on 32-bit systems they are severely restricted in how much they can use.

By requiring a 64-bit operating system, developers can focus on producing games that can make full use of RAM on modern systems. RTS and other strategy games are going to benefit the most, but even shooters like Battlefield (4?) will run smoother by being able to store as much data in RAM as possible without those pesky restrictions of 32-bit systems. Unfortunately, the upcoming Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion game will still suffer from RAM issues (though it is said to be managed better than previous releases) as it is being developed around the possibility of running on 32 or 64-bit OSes. Here’s hoping that the next SoaSE game will require 64-bit OSes just like Frostbite engine games will.

The best part, aside from performance benefits of course, is that the majority of gamers will not have to do anything when these games come out as they are already running a 64-bit version of Windows. Even OEMs have started loading x64 versions on pre-built systems in the last couple years (since Windows 7 and RAM became so cheap). Most gamers will be able to jump right in and enjoy the benefits immediately because gamers are inherently required to have at least somewhat recent hardware to play the latest games.

In the end, requiring 64-bit operating systems is a good thing, and hopefully more developers will follow in DICE’s footsteps. By freeing themselves from the limitations of 32-bit systems, they can focus on using gamers’ hardware to the fullest–at least until games start using more than 8TB of RAM (which would require a new version of Windows anyway as Win 7 x64 (Ultimate/Pro) can only address 192GB).

Source:

Mass Effect 3 is Coming, Pre-Order Now and Get Battlefield 3 (PC) Free

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2012 - 02:08 AM |
Tagged: PC, mass effect 3, gaming, game, ea, bf3, battlefield 3

Update: Apparently EA has decided to pull the deal because it was too good of an idea :(. 

The final installment in the Mass Effect trilogy is almost upon us, and for those itching to get a taste of Mass Effect 3 can now go and download the Mass Effect 3 demo for the PC via EA's Origin service. The demo delivers about an hour (they claim two hours, but I finished it in about an hour and I was purposefully taking it slow to take in the scenery and such) of Shephard battling against a (spoilers ahead) Reaper invasion.

Personally, from playing the demo I'm not convinced that it is going to live up to the hype, and it seems to be rather "dumbed down" compared to the first one. With that said, it was not terrible and I will likely pick it up if only to finish out the story.  The story itself hits hard in the demo and I am excited for that aspect of the Mass Effect sequel, for example.  If you have not already done so, check out the demo that's out now.

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Anyway, if you do enjoy the demo and are getting pumped for the release this March, EA is currently running a rather good deal on Origin for those willing to Pre-Order Mass Effect 3 from the Origin store. According to EA, users who place a pre-order for Mass Effect 3 through the Origin store for any platform (including digital download, boxed PC copy, Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3) before March 5, 2012 will receive a free digital PC edition of Battlefield 3 for free.  The codes for BF3 will be emailed to customers when they become available.

As always, there are some caveats:

  • The offer is only valid for those in US and Canada.
  • You must pre-order through Origin and cannot be combined with any other discounts.
  • You are not eligible for the free copy if you already own Battlefield 3 on Origin.
  • The Battlefield 3 codes will be emailed no later than March 8, 2012.

That last one is a big one (for me anyway).  Considering Battlefield 3 is already released, why can't those that pre-order ME3 get instant access to it?  I was all for the deal at first as I have not yet purchased BF3 and if I could get it for free by pre-ordering a game I was likely to buy anyway it sounded like a sweet deal.  Unfortunately, not being able to jump into BF3 to hold me over until Mass Effect 3 launched makes it less awesome.  After all, once Mass Effect 3 releases, I'm not going to want to play Battlefield 3 anymore!  Considering Battlefield 3 will likely still be approximately $60 on Origin in a few months, getting it free is still a good deal, but it's less of a impulse purchase knowing I might not get the Battlefield 3 code until after I have Mass Effect 3 downloaded.

It's there if you want it though, so go download the Mass Effect 3 demo and let us know what you think of it!

Source: EA

TMAK World Votes Battlefield 3 Game Of The Year

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2012 - 01:16 AM |
Tagged: games, game of the year, bf3, fps

TMAK World, a technology blog recently held a contest to see what game the site's users deserved the Game of the Year award. They received 1,117 votes and tallied them up for a top 10 list. According to the article, the top three games represented 75% of the votes, and the first and second games were both ones that released close to the end of the year.

Anyway, without further adieu, The Game of the Year for 2011 is Battlefield 3! The popular multi-player first person shooter (FPS) won with 33% of the votes. Portal 2 and Skyrim followed up in third and second place respectively with 14% and 26% of votes.

Continue on to TMAK World to find out which other PC games made the Top 10 list!

Source: TMAK World

Battlefield 3 Frame Rate Drop Issue with GeForce GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 28, 2011 - 09:24 PM |
Tagged: gtx, geforce, bf3

Every once in a while we come across some gaming issue that when we approach those responsible for it, NVIDIA, AMD, the game developer, they seem as lost as we do.  For the last few days I have been banging my head on the table trying to figure out an issue with GeForce GTX graphics cards and Battlefield 3 and I am hoping that some of YOU might have seen it and can confirm.

While testing our new X79-based GPU test bed we continued to find that while playing Battlefield 3, frame rates would drop from 30+ to ~10 while running at 2560x1600 and Ultra quality presets.  It could happen when walking down an empty hallway or in the middle of a huge dramatic shootout with some enemies.  And sometimes, the issue would reverse and the frame rate would again jump back up to 30+ FPS.

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A 10 frame per second tank?  No thanks...

Even more odd, and something the normal user doesn't monitor, the power consumption of the system would drop significantly during this time.  At 30+ FPS the power draw might be 434 watts while when running at the ~10 FPS level it would draw 100 watts less!  The first theory was that this was the GPU going into a lower "p-state" due to overheating or some other bug, but when monitoring our GPU-Z logs we saw no clock speed decreases and temperatures never went above 75C - pretty tame for a GPU.

To demonstrate this phenomenon we put together a quick video. 

In the video, you are seeing the "tearing" of Vsync in a much more dramatic fashion because of of our capture method.  We actually were outputing a 2560x1600 signal (!!) to an external system to be recorded localy at a very high bit rate.  Unfortunately, we could only muster a ~30 FPS capture frame rate which, coupled with the 60 Hz signal being sent, results in a bit of double up on the tearing you might usually see.  Still, the FRAPS-reported frame rates are accurate and we use an external system to capture to video to remove the possibility of any interference on performance during the capture process.

The hardware used in this video was actually based on an ASUS X58 motherboard and a Nehalem Core i7-965 processor.  But wasn't I just talking about an X79 rig?  Yes, but I rebuilt our old test bed to make sure this bug was NOT related to X79 or Sandy Bridge-E.  The systems that exhibited the issue were:

  • Intel Core i7-3960X
  • ASUS P9X79 Pro
  • 16GB DDR3-1600
  • 600GB VelociRaptor HDD
  • Windows 7 x64 SP1
  • GeForce GTX 580 (two different cards tested)
  • 290.53 Driver

Also:

  • Intel Core i7-965
  • ASUS X58 WS 
  • 6GB DDR3-1600
  • 600GB VelociRaptor HDD
  • Windows 7 x64 SP1
  • GeForce GTX 580 (two different cards tested)
  • 290.53 Driver

For me, this is only occurring at 2560x1600 though I am starting to see more reports of the issue online.

  • Another 560 ti and BF3 FPS Low Or Drop!
    • Well I just Installed my 2nd evga 560 ti DS running SLI and When I play battlefield 3 i get about 60 to 90 fps then drops at
      20 to 30. Goes Up and down, I look at the evga precision looks like each gpu is running at 40% each and changes either up or down.
      Temp. is under 60 degrees c.
  • GTX 560 Ti dramatic FPS drops on BF3 only
    • "having any setting on Ultra will cue dramatic and momentary fps drops into the 30's. if i set everything to High, i will stay above 70 fps with the new beta 285.79 drivers released today (which i thought would fix this problem but didn't). i've been monitoring things with Afterburner and i've noticed that GPU usage will also drop at the same time these FPS drops happen. nothing is occurring in the game or on the screen to warrant these drops, FPS will just drop even when nothing is going on or exploding and i'm not even moving or looking around, just idle. they occur quite frequently as well."
  • BF3 Frame Drops
    • "When i use 4xAA i get abnormal framedrops, even while nothing is going on, on the screen.
      The weird thing is that, when it drops, it always drops to 33/32fps, not higher, not lower.
      It usually happens for a few seconds."
  • BF3 @ 2560x1600 Ultra Settings Preset Unplayable
    • "I know its a beta, but i haven't heard any problems yet about framedrops.
      Sometimes my frames drop from 75fps way back to 30/20 fps, even when nothing is going on, on the screen."

So what gives?  Is this a driver issue?  Is it a Battlefield 3 issue?  Many of these users are running at resolutions other than the 2560x1600 that I am seeing it at - so either there is another problem for them or it affects different cards at different quality levels.  It's hard to say, but doing a search for "radeon bf3 frame drop" pulls up much less incriminating evidence that gamers on that side of the fence are having similar discussions.  

I have been talking with quite a few people at NVIDIA about this and while they are working hard to figure out the source of the frame rate inconsistencies, those of us with GeForce GTX cards may just want to back off and play at a lower resolution or lower settings until the fix is found.  

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

The Alienware M17x Giveth

Mobile graphics cards are really a different beast than the desktop variants.  Despite have similar names and model numbers, the specifications vary greatly as the GTX 580M isn't equivalent to the GTX 580 and the HD 6990M isn't even a dual-GPU product.  Also, getting the capability to do a direct head-to-head is almost always a tougher task thanks to the notebook market's penchant for single-vendor SKUs.  

Over the past week or two, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of Alienware M17x notebooks, one sporting the new AMD Radeon HD 6990M discrete graphics solution and the other with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M.  

01.jpg

AMD Radeon HD 6990M on the left; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M on the right

Also unlike the desktop market - the time from announcement of a new mobile GPU product to when you can actually BUY a system including it tends to be pretty long.  Take the two GPUs we are looking at today for example: the HD 6990M launched in July and we are only just now finally seeing machines ship in volume; the GTX 580M in June.

Well, problems be damned, we had the pair in our hands for a few short days and I decided to put them through the ringer in our GPU testing suite and added Battlefield 3 in for good measure as well.  The goal was to determine which GPU was actually the "world's fastest" as both companies claimed to be.

Continue reading our comparison of the GeForce GTX 580M and Radeon HD 6990M mobility GPUs!!

Battlefield 3 Sells 5 Million Copies

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 04:15 AM |
Tagged: PC, gaming, fps, ea, bf3, battlefield 3

As many readers of the site will know, the PC Perspective guys have been a “bit” interested in EA’s latest multiplayer first person shooter (FPS) Battlefield 3. Ryan for one has been “testing” Battlefield 3 extensively since the game’s release as he admitted on the latest TWICH podcast.

According to EA, the PC Per staff are not the only ones to enjoy the game (despite some game issues; I’m looking at you Origin) as Battlefield 3 has sold a whopping 5 million copies. It seems as though Battlefield 3 has emerged from the battle against stability issues to win the war and be a successful release. Battlefield 3’s sales have also impressed Electronic Arts who claimed the 5 million copies have surpassed their “best expectations.” Unfortunately, they have yet to release the numbers (that I want to see) concerning the percentage of sales of the PC versus the consoles.

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Another bit of positive BF3 news is that almost 99 % of the game stability issues have been fixed. M ore information on the game issues can be found here. Until next time, feel free to hit up the PCPER BF3 platoon and play with some fun people!

Source: Ars Technica

Video Perspective: AMD A8-3850 vs Core i3-2105 on Battlefield 3

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | October 31, 2011 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: video, sandy bridge, Intel, bf3, battlefield 3, APU, amd

Everyone is playing Battlefield 3 these days; we even had a virtual LAN party this weekend where forum members and PC Perspective team members played from about 10am until well after 1am ET. We have done more than our fair share of Battlefield 3 articles as well including hardware performance on high end graphics cards, multi-GPU scaling and more.  

We had some requests and questions about what was the lowest priced hardware you could play the game on and while we had run some tests on the GeForce 9800 GT, I decided to take a stab at running BF3 at its lowest settings with integrated graphics on Intel's Sandy Bridge processor and AMD's A-series APU.  Here were our test settings:

apubf31.png

We ran at a fairly low resolution of 1366x768 (both indicative of mobile resolutions as well as low-end hardware restrictions) and the Low in-game preset.  As it turns out this was the level at which the A8-3850 Llano APU was able to maintain an average around 30 FPS while the Intel Core i3-2105 (both priced around $140) was able to reach only a third of that. 

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With both systems coming in at the ~$450 mark, this could qualify as the lowest priced PC that is capable of getting you into the BF3 action!

You can see our full comparison right here in this short video!

Podcast #176 - X79 Motherboard Leaks, the Arrival of Ultrabooks, Lots of Gaming Talk, Viewer Questions and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2011 - 06:08 PM |
Tagged: x79, podcast, Intel, gaming, bf3

PC Perspective Podcast #176 - 10/27/2011

Join us this week as we talk about X79 Motherboard Leaks, the Arrival of Ultrabooks, Lots of Gaming Talk, Viewer Questions and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and sometimes Ryan Shrout

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 0:54:50

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:40 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:52 X79's from EVGA, four from Gigabyte and three from ASUS with Ivy Bridge still on time
  6. 0:08:00 Ultrabooks arrive to great indifference
  7. 0:13:01 ASUS N55 Core i7 15.6-in Notebook Review: Can One Laptop Do It All?
  8. 0:18:50 1050W Corsair HX1050 
  9. 0:23:20 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  10. 0:24:30 Bite me console boy
  11. 0:29:00 (Now playing live on) Arkham System Limits
  12. 0:31:48 BF3 system info and Fraggin' Frogs platoon with our own server
  13. 0:34:04 Skyrim system recommendations too ... please note DX9
  14. 0:35:30 Email from Corey about safe GPU temps
  15. 0:38:45 Email from Jon about what he NEEDS to play
  16. 0:44:05 Email from Thane from South Africa
  17. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  18. 0:44:30 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
      1. Ryan: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Upgrade Cable USB 3.0 - STAE104
      2. Jeremy: Ha! Someone else's Ipad 2
      3. Josh: Since BD sorta fell down... Phenom II X6 1090T- watch for the sales
      4. Allyn: Ryan
  19. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  20. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  21. Closing

Source:

Almost Time! Battlefield 3 Release, Is Your Hardware Ready?

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2011 - 03:06 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, geforce, bf3, amd

I know that you might have Battlefield 3 overload by now, but I wanted to make sure you all remembered to take a look at our BF3 Performance Guide from a couple weeks back to make sure your PC is ready for what might be the most anticipated and talked about PC titles in years. 

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Here is a summary of the content we have written based on the game - make sure you know ALL of it so you can get your system prepared for the pending battle!!

Keep checking back at PC Perspective as we are planning on doing some more fun live streaming of our BF3 matches and be sure to sign up for the official PCPer "Fragging Frogs" platoon in Battlelog!

Battlefield 3 Will Be Standard Definition Without Hard Drive Install

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2011 - 11:00 PM |
Tagged: xbox, PC, gaming, ea, dice, bf3, battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is nearing its October 25th release date and information about each platform's release is starting to pour in.  One notable piece of information concerns the optional hard drive install for the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3.  We reported earlier that the FPS would come on two DVDs for the Xbox 360, and a BF3 producer had been quoted in stating that the DVDs could be installed to the system to enable "optional high resolution textures."  At the time, I had assumed that the optional install would merely boost the (already) HD (high definition) image; however, according to Shack News the game will be only standard definition without the hard drive installation.

The PC will always have HD resolutions available, assuming your rig can handle it.

Executive producer Partick Bach explains that Battlefield 3 is based around a streaming texture engine where the terrain, textures, and content are all streamed in, and is a new way of doing things on the console (though not the gaming industry as a whole).  Unfortunately, it looks like the concern many gamers had in regards to the Xbox 360's DVD drive not being able to stream high quality textures fast enough have been realized.  Both the PC and the Playstation 3 on the other hand, are able to stream the necessary HD textures from the hard drive (PC) and Blu-Ray disc (PS3).

Mr. Bach further explains that because there are so many Xbox 360s with either no hard drives or (nearly useless) 4 GB drives, the company had to develop the Xbox version such that even a system with no hard drive could at least play the game, even at the expense of image quality.  "You could call it a 'standard-def' version for the 360 if you don't have a hard-drive."  What is still unclear is what exactly he means by standard definition.  Whether that means the game will be limited to a 480p resolution without the optional hard drive installation or high definition (720p+) resolutions with relatively lower resolution textures is not certain (though likely the later rather than the former, if I had to guess).

What this means for Xbox 360 gamers, in the end, is that the game will be quite a bit more expensive than previously thought if they want the full experience after factoring in the cost of an (outrageously priced) Microsoft hard drive.  Are you planning on buying the Xbox version?

Source: Shack News