E3 2013: Bludgeon that horse again! Xbox One DRM

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, E3 13, E3

So heading up to E3, Microsoft decided to drop their DRM bombshell so it would get buried over the next couple of days. In terms of permissiveness, the Xbox One is not nearly as bad as feared; of course, it is still terrible in certain ways.

Microsoft will allow games to be played offline on the Xbox One... for 24 hours. If your internet connection has been offline for longer than that period (unclear whether the timer starts when internet goes out or from last update) then your system will be locked to live TV and disc-based movies. Games and apps, even ones which should have no online functionality, will cease to function until you reconnect with Xbox servers.

This also means that if the Xbox servers have an outage lasting between 24 hours and "taken offline forever", all gaming and apparently apps will cease to function on the Xbox One.

And people wonder why I freak out about Windows Store.

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It's like if Wall-E grew a Freddie Mercury

But at least they will allow some level of used-game transfer... if the publisher agrees. Check out this statement from Microsoft Studios:

In our role as a game publisher, Microsoft Studios will enable you to give your games to friends or trade in your Xbox One games at participating retailers. Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers. Microsoft does not receive any compensation as part of this. In addition, third party publishers can enable you to give games to friends. Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.

So this will be an interesting experiment: how will revenue and profitability be affected for game publishers who deny used game sales? I honestly expect that used game sales actually promote the purchasing of more games and that initiatives to limit used game transfers will reduce user engagement. Of course Microsoft is now taking all of the flak from Sony, who may or may not be considering the same practice, but I am sure at least Microsoft is hoping that everyone will forget this when shiny new trailers erase the collective gamer memory.

In return, however, Microsoft is being fairly permissive when it comes to how many users can be licensed on a single disk. Up to ten family members are allowed access to your collective library.

And, after all, it should not be a surprise that a console game disappears when Microsoft shuts down their servers: consoles were always designed to be disposable. I have been proclaiming that for quite some time. The difference is now, people cannot really deny it.

Source: Microsoft

Computex 2013 / E3 2013: Unreal Engine 4 Partners Program

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, ue4, E3 13, E3, computex

We are bleeding through the overlap between Computex and E3 media windows; this news has a somewhat relevant fit for both. Unreal Engine 4 is coming and I expect we will see one or more demos and UE4-powered titles over the next week. In fact, I would be fairly shocked if we do not see the end of the Elemental Demo with the Xbox One E3 keynote. We may also potentially see Unreal Engine 4 running on mobile devices and maybe even HTML5 at some point throughout the tradeshow, either canonically through Epic or via a licensee product.

This morning, Epic opened the Unreal Engine 4 Integrated Partners Program (IPP). Of course they already have a couple of members, most of which were partners with Unreal Engine 3.

The founding IPP partners are:

  • Wwise from Audiokinetic
    • Manages large databases of sound effects and voice-overs
    • Manages subtitles and multiple dubbings of voice clips
  • Autodesk Gameware from Autodesk
    • Contains multiple packages including Beast, Navigation, and Scaleform
    • Scaleform is a Flash rendering engine for HUDs, menus, etc. developed using Flash Professional in 2D or 3D. It is what StarCraft II, Mass Effect, and Borderlands uses.
    • Beast is a lighting toolkit for global illumination, radiosity, etc.
    • Navigation is an AI solver, predominantly for pathfinding.
  • Simplygon from Donya Labs
    • Reduces polygon count of models so they take up less processing resources especially as they get further away from the camera.
  • Enlighten from Geomerics
    • Another Global Illumination solver, most popular usage being Battlefield 3.
  • SpeedTree for Games from IDV
    • Makes a bunch of efficient trees so studios do not need to hire as many minimum wage peons.
  • Intel Threading Building Blocks (TBB) from Intel
    • Helps developers manage C++ threading for multicore systems.
    • Deals with memory management and scheduling tasks
  • morpheme from NaturalMotion
    • Animation and physics software for designers to create animations
    • Works with NVIDIA PhysX
  • euphoria from NaturalMotion
    • Simulates animations based on driving conditions via the CPU, most popular usage being GTA IV.
  • PhysX and APEX from NVIDIA
    • You probably know this one.
    • GPU-based rigid body, soft body, fluid, and cloth solvers.
    • Allows for destructible environments and other complex simulations.
  • Oculus Rift from Oculus VR
  • Bink Video from Rad Game Tools
    • ... is not included! Just kidding, that stuff'll survive a nuclear apocalypse.
    • Seriously, check in just about any DirectX or OpenGL game's credits if it includes pre-rendered video cutscenes or video-textures.
    • I'll wait here.
    • In all seriousness, Rad Game Tools has been licensed in over 15,500 titles. It's been a meme to some extent for game programmers. This should be no surprise.
  • Telemetry Performance Visualizer from Rad Game Tools
    • Allows developers to see graphs of what their hardware is working on over time.
    • Helps developers know what benefits the most from optimization.
  • RealD Developer Kit (RDK) from RealD
    • Helps game developers create stereoscopic 3D games.
  • Umbra 3 from Umbra Software
    • Determines what geometry can be seen by the player and what should be unloaded to increase performance.
    • Sits between artists and programmers to the former does not need to think about optimization, and the latter does not need to claw their eyes out.
  • IncrediBuild-XGE from Xoreax
    • Apparently farms out tasks to idle PCs on your network.
    • I am not sure, but I think it is mostly useful for creating a pre-render farm at a game studio for light-baking and such.

We still have a little while until E3 and so we do not know how E3 will be, but I highly expect to see Unreal Engine 4 be a recurring theme over the next week. Keep coming back to PC Perspective, because you know we have a deep interest in where Epic is headed.

Source: Epic Games

E3 12: Unreal Engine 4 -- What you (and we) missed at GDC.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | June 8, 2012 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: video, unreal engine 4, E3 12, E3

Epic has released as much of their GDC demo as they are able to in an effort to end E3 2012 with a bang. They have included a second video to walk through the engine for developers to enjoy. We will explain to the masses why it is awesome.

Before we go any further -- the video you have been waiting months to see.

Be prepared for a particle-filled generation.

As was the case with Intel’s sand-to-CPU video -- the demo is pleasing but the supplementary info is the prize.

Epic released a 10 minute developer walkthrough to highlight the most important features of Unreal Engine 4. You can see it below and read on to see what that all means.

Yes, Unrealscript did not make it to Unreal Engine 4.

The first major feature of the engine is real-time dynamic global illumination and glossy specular reflection. Traditional video game graphics only considers the first bounce of light from a source -- if that bounce does not reach the player camera then it does not exist. Global illumination allows objects to be lit not just by light sources but also by light bouncing from neighboring objects.

It has been very popular to calculate how light interacts with objects ahead of time for the last generation as well as a portion of the generation prior to that. With those methods you are able to soften the shadows cast by light and make the scene feel much more naturally lit. The problem arises when anything in the scene moves or changes as obviously happens in a video game.

Unreal Engine 4 has the ability to calculate Global Illumination in real time. Dynamic lights such as muzzle flashes or flames are able to not just illuminate the area around them but also induce that area around it to light each other.

Also, static sources such as moonlight shining in the window against the floor can bounce from the floor and slightly lighten the walls with a bluish tint without being calculated ahead of time. Developers can try lighting effects without waiting for sometimes hours to see the results. This also means that what would have been once a pre-computed lit scene with nothing moving can now be destroyed and still remain properly lit. And now the moon can even move if the designer wants.

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Specular material on the gold statue

UE4-1-2.jpg

Diffuse material on the gold statue, notice how the floor lighting from the statue desaturates and changes.

In this scene we see how light can reflect against a statue and influence the objects around it. A specular material has a much smoother and more mirror-like surface than a diffuse material which tends to scatter light in all directions. If you were to shine a laser against a mirror the beam would bounce and you would not see it unless you were in the reflected path whereas if you shine the laser against the wall you would see a dot regardless of how you look at it. This is because the wall, like a projector screen, is like trillions of microscopic mirrors all pointed in different directions which each take a tiny fraction of the light and sends it in a different direction.

In Unreal Engine 4, this effect means that a shiny surface will not only glare if you look at it but also light the objects around it differently than a diffuse surface. You can see that effect against the floor.

Read on after the break to continue with the discussion of Unreal Engine 4 features.

E3 12: More Elder Scrolls -- Skyrim Expansion, Dawnguard

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 5, 2012 - 10:46 PM |
Tagged: video, elder scrolls V, elder scrolls, E3 12, E3

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is getting an expansion pack known as “Dawnguard”. The expansion explores vampirism and to a lesser extent, lycanthropy. Extra content includes new quests related to those vile blood-suckers as well as new abilities and two new skill trees.

Todd Howard spoke at DICE conference and played a video of his team’s GameJam: one week of passion projects.

The Skyrim GameJam sizzle video highlighted several of those projects with many already included in recent patches. A fairly decent period of the video was focused on Vampirism and Lycanthropy and forms the basis of the newly announced Skyrim: Dawnguard expansion pack.

G4 has forwarded some further details from Bethesda as a part of their E3 coverage.

Hopefully the Werebear has also made the cut.

This DLC seems to be a homecoming of the typical expansion packs that we PC gamers remember.

The extra campaign appears to be fairly lengthy for an update with a decently engrossing story. The trailer suggests that you will have a different series of quests depending on whether you support the vampire cult or wish to destroy it. In addition we will also receive two separate skill trees: vampirism will be advanced by feeding on the living and lycanthropy will be advanced by feeding on the dead.

The expansion will launch on (editor's note: Forgot to write the 360 release date) June 26th for the Xbox 360 first with the PS3 and PC to follow at an unspecified date. There is no mention of price. (editor's note: Apparently it'll be ~$20 and was briefly mentioned in the video I linked -- must have missed it.)

Source: G4TV

E3 12: Star Wars 1313 demo is NVIDIA powered.

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 5, 2012 - 07:34 PM |
Tagged: video, Star Wars, E3 12, E3

Star Wars 1313 is a mature-themed video game published and developed internally by LucasArts as well as its sister companies: Lucasfilm Animation, Industrial Light and Magic, and Skywalker Sound. The game allows the player to experience being a bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe. The demo released at E3 is powered by Unreal Engine 3 and an NVIDIA GPU.

The Star Wars franchise has not been the most beloved lately -- but this might change some minds.

Rumors leading up to E3 have claimed that a game would be announced which allows you to play as Boba Fett. On the opening day LucasArts announced Star Wars 1313 which allows you to take control of an unidentified bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe. Geoff Keighley of Game Trailers and Spike TV was shown a demo of the game.

What does this have to do with Nashville, Spike?

There are two possibilities for the identity of the bounty hunter -- and they are not mutually exclusive. Typical speculation is that the bounty hunter will be the premiere star in an upcoming LucasFilm production such as a live action TV show. What I speculate, and the look of the player model supports this, is that the character actually is related to Jango Fett as was previously rumored.

That of course is just speculation and not one that I will flesh out any further.

The demo itself was stated by Mark Rein of Epic Games to be running on Unreal Engine 3. LucasArts has confirmed that the demo is running on a PC with an NVIDIA GPU doing the calculations.

I have not been able to track down release date information or supported platforms but it is pretty safe to say given the demo that it will be available on the PC. I guess that is all I really care about, to be honest.

Source: PC Gamer

E3 12: Elder Scrolls Online gets more than a useless teaser.

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 5, 2012 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged: elder scrolls, E3 12, E3

Zenimax has launched a new teaser trailer for their upcoming Elder Scrolls Online. You will not see any in-game footage nor will you see any information in the trailer. To learn more about the game, you will need to be satisfied with testimonials -- which thankfully exist, at least.

So the “big MMO” space will likely be a three-way clash between EA, Activision/Blizzard, and now Bethesda.

I would expect that The Elder Scrolls franchise would be one of the strongest contenders against Warcraft and Star Wars. According to PC Gamer, The MMO will span the whole of Tamriel which is a departure from earlier installments which mostly flesh out a single area. The world will graphically not keep up with Skyrim yet will keep up with modern MMOs.

And EVE Online for the rest…

Three factions will be available for the player to choose from: The Aldmeri Dominion, the Daggerfall Covenant, and the Ebonheart Pact with the Bird, Lion, and Dragon emblems respectively. PVP between these three factions will be constrained to Cyrodiil which you may remember from Oblivion. Imagine catapults versus a castle sieging into the fortress and you would be imagining what some witnesses have described.

G4 has their hands on a few (older) screenshots which show the -- yes, third person -- gameplay of the MMO.

elder-scrolls-online-switches-to-third-person-first-screens-emerge.jpg

Oh look, a Venus fly trap.

Game Informer has quite a wealth of information about the two provinces controlled by the Daggerfall Covenant: High Rock and Hammerfell. Maps of both are present and dotted with allegedly present cities full of quests and attractions. This will be your home if you choose either Breton, Orc, or Redguard as your player race.

Game Informer also promises a feature on the Aldmeri Dominion tomorrow.

E3 12: E3 2012 starts Tuesday with pre-coverage on Monday

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 1, 2012 - 04:35 PM |
Tagged: E3, E3 12

The 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2012) is taking place next week from Tuesday through to Thursday. Monday will start the week with four press conferences. Stay tuned for as much PC-centric coverage as we can feed you with over the week including expected Unreal Engine 4 news.

If you work in an electronic entertainment retailer -- prepare to be asked weird questions next week.

E3 2012 is kicking off next week and a lot of announcements are expected to come out it. We here at PC Perspective are most interested in learning more about Unreal Engine 4 which is expected to be publicly announced at the expo. We expect that there will be something else which will surprised us as well.

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You better be here next week!

Monday will kick off E3 with four press conferences:

  • Microsoft from 12:30PM EST to 2PM EST
  • EA from 4PM EST to 5PM EST
  • Ubisoft from 6PM EST to 7PM EST
  • Sony from 9PM EST to 10:30PM EST

Nintendo will take the stage the following day with a Tuesday at Noon EST conference.

Apart from Unreal Engine news I am very excited to find out what Valve has in store for E3. Valve has a private meeting room this year which they skipped for E3 2011. In E3 2010 they demonstrated Portal 2 and this year it is possible that we will see little more than DOTA 2 -- but there is always hope for something more.

What are you guys and girls hoping to see? Unreal 4? Valve cake? Beyond Good and Evil 2?

Source: PCPer

Unreal Engine 4 first screenshots. Wicked Sick?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 18, 2012 - 04:24 AM |
Tagged: E3, unreal engine 4, ue4

Epic Games has demonstrated Unreal Engine 4 behind closed doors at GDC a few months ago. First screenshots have been released from that demo although not much more has been made public about it. While not completely epic, it definitely is exciting. Unreal Engine 4 is expected to be further unveiled at or near E3 in June.

Both Wired Magazine and PC Gamer have released screenshots and articles from the Unreal Engine 4 Game Developers Conference 2012 (GDC12) demo.

Epic has been quiet about the next generation of their game development platform. Only a handful of lucky individuals were shown the demo at the GDC and those who did could not share their experience. Epic has said that they would have liked to publicly demonstrate their product, but were unable to due to non-disclosure agreements that they themselves were placed under.

Unreal-Engine-4-3.jpg

I think that guy needs some thixomolded magnesium alloy. He seems to be running a little hot.

Either he’ll cool down, or produce a beautiful white bloom.

(Screenshot Credit: PC Gamer)

Wired claims that Epic will unveil the rest of Unreal Engine 4 in June which likely means that it will occur on or around the E3 press conference.

It is thus easy to speculate that whatever gagged Epic will likely be unveiled at E3 too.

The major hook of the demo was that it was running in the editor and not in a baked game executable. This means that developers will have a much easier time creating their game and will also have to spend much less time preparing to work. About the only concrete tidbit in the article is that Unreal Engine 4 will not have baked lighting. Unreal Engine 4 will likely use a technology similar to Battlefield 3 where global illumination is calculated at runtime -- nearly a must for properly lit destructibility.

Both sources have their own set of screenshots. Check out both Wired and PC Gamer so you do not miss any pixels.

Source: PC Gamer

E3 sprouts rumours and facts about the next generation of consoles

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2011 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: ps4, xbox, Nintendo, consoles, amd, E3, cell processor

[H]ard|OCP heard quite a bit about the new generation of consoles via the grape vine at E3.  The big winner is AMD, who will be providing the graphical power for all three of the next generation of major consoles as well as being in the running for putting a Bulldozer APU inside Sony's next game system.  IBM is the other competitor for providing Nintendo's core with an updated Cell processor, which also will be running in the next generation XBox.  Nintendo is also going with IBM, though they are looking at a custom built 45nm CPU.  This is very good news for AMD, with a guaranteed presence in every console and a possible hardware monopoly with Sony.

amd_logo.gif

"Guys talk, you hear things. And at this year's E3 HardOCP picked up a lot of information about the upcoming hardware in the next generation consoles. It will be interesting to see if our rumor mill churns up truth or fiction. We wanted to get this out the week after E3, but we had some I's to dot and some T's to cross."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

RAGE on, PC: PCGamer interviews John Carmack

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2011 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: john carmack, id, E3

John Carmack was and is one of the biggest faces in videogame engine development since Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. He was at E3 to promote his company, iD Software’s, RAGE: their nearest upcoming release. While he was there, PCGamer managed to corner him for a 22 minute interview ranging from RAGE; to the current and future state of PC gaming; to the perceptive effect of input latency and how framerate affects it.

Look at how stable the framerate is!

Some points of interest from the interview include:
  • Texture resolution and memory limitations on consoles
  • Higher end PCs being approximately 10-fold higher performance than the consoles
  • Sandy Bridge is finally barely good enough for integrated graphics to be viable GPUs for games
  • DirectX and OpenGL APIs hold the PC back, looking forward to new movements to access GPU better
  • His interest focuses on the toolset to let the artists do more with less effort
  • PC Gaming is still viable but a minority
  • Input latency is longer than people expect, sometimes up to 100ms and beyond
  • The exciting yet not necessarily crucial nature of newer rendering technologies

John Carmack always has interesting interviews from his very down to Earth and blunt tone. If you have a free half hour and want to hear one of the best game programmers in the world talk about his trade, this is definitely an interview for you.

Source: PCGamer