E3 2014: SteamBoy Project Is Not a Valve Product

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 14, 2014 - 10:51 PM |
Tagged: x86, SteamOS, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, steam, mobile, handheld, E3 14, E3

To be doubly clear, if the title was not explicit enough, this announcement is not made by Valve. This company is called, "SteamBoy Machine team". If not a hoax, this is one of the many Steam Machines which are expected to come out of the SteamOS initiative. Rather than taking the platform to a desktop or home theater PC (HTPC) form-factor, this company wants to target the handheld PC gaming market.

steamboy-hero.jpg

Image Credit: SteamBoy Machine team via The Escapist

If it comes out, that is a clever use of SteamOS. I can see Big Picture Mode being just as useful on a small screen as it is on a TV, especially with its large font and controller navigation. The teasers suggest that it will use the haptic feedback-based touchpads which Valve are expected to base the Steam Controller on. It will also include a 5-inch touchscreen.

The Escapist got into contact with the team and received a few more specs:

  • Quad-Core CPU (x86)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB built-in storage

Even if this company does not make good on their expectations, companies will now be considering portable SteamOS devices. This is the sort of outside-the-box thinking that Valve was pushing for when they wanted to create an open platform. Each party will struggle to win in their personal goals, yet they can also rely on the crowd (other companies or individuals) to keep up in areas where they do not want an edge.

Philosophy aside, the company is targeting 2015 with a "Standard Edition" supporting WiFi and 3G. It would make sense to have a WiFi-only model, but who knows.

Source: Escapist

E3 2014: Alienware Alpha Announced with HDMI In and Out

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 10, 2014 - 11:44 PM |
Tagged: Steam Machine, E3 14, E3, dell, alienware alpha, alienware

While "Steam Machines" are delayed, Alienware will still launch their console form-factor PC. The $550 price tag includes a black Xbox 360 wireless controller (with receiver) and Windows 8.1 64-bit. Alienware has also designed their own "Console-mode UI" for Windows 8.1, which can be navigated directly with a controller. It will ship Holiday 2014.

Apparently PC-based consoles equate to dubstep and parkour.

About the "Console-mode UI", it will apparently be what the user sees when the Alpha boots. The user can then select between Steam Big Picture, media, and programs. They also allow users to boot into the standard Windows 8.1 interface.

alienware-alpha.jpg

As for its specifications:

  Base Model ($550) Upgrade Options
Processor Haswell-based Intel Core i3 Core i5, Core i7 (user accessible)
GPU "Custom" Maxwell-based, 2GB GDDR5
(see next paragraph)
(none) (not user accessible, soldered on)
System Memory 4GB at 1600 MHz 8GB (user accessible)
HDD 500GB SATA3 1TB or 2TB (user accessible)
Wireless Dual-band 802.11ac (user accessible)
I/O
  • HDMI Out
  • HDMI In
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Optical Audio
  • 2x USB 3.0 (rear), 2x USB 2.0 (front)
Included
Accessories
  • Xbox 360 Wireless Controller
  • Xbox 360 Wireless Accessories USB Adapter

The GPU is not specified, or even given a similar part to refer to. PC World claims that it will be comparable to the performance found on the two next-gen consoles. Since the 750 Ti has around 1.3 TeraFLOPs of performance, this GPU is probably near that, or slightly above it. PC Gamer says that it will be based on mobile Maxwell, so it might be similar to an current or upcoming laptop GPU.

One thing that has not been addressed is the HDMI-in port. We know that it supports passthrough for low latency, but we do not know what it will do with the input video. Alienware has several of these set up at their booth on the show floor, so we might hear more soon. While its specifications are a bit on the light side, particularly on the default amount of RAM (although that is easily and cheaply upgraded), its $550 price, which includes a wireless controller and its adapter, is also pretty good.

Source: Alienware

E3 2014: Grand Theft Auto V PC Release in the Fall

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 9, 2014 - 08:31 PM |
Tagged: E3, E3 14, GTA5, GTA Online

So my best guess is that Rockstar was waiting on the "next-gen" assets before they bothered releasing Grand Theft Auto V on the PC. The game will be released this fall, alongside Xbox One and PlayStation 4 ports. They do not mention distribution platforms, but Steam is a fairly safe assumption, at least now that Games for Windows has been given its final rest.

Hopefully, this delay in releasing a PC version will be a temporary hiccup due to the overlapping console generations. With Grand Theft Auto IV, the same could not be said. The problem is, with how secretive Rockstar is, we cannot really tell whether the above assumption is true, or whether they were just non-committal to the PC platform until now. At either rate, until the PC version is launched, Rockstar has not and will not get my money. Of course, there is always that danger that, by the time the game does launch, I will not be able to afford its time or expense.

That's why you should always release the PC version as early as possible.

E3 2014: GOG Galaxy Announced

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 9, 2014 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: E3, E3 14, GOG, gog galaxy

Good Old Games (GOG), a subsidiary of CD Projekt RED, is releasing an online gaming manager similar to Steam and Origin. The difference is that everything about it is DRM-free and completely optional. Galaxy will manage game updates, provide achievements, and host communication between friends... if you want. If you don't? That's okay. Have fun.

gog-galaxy.png

Obviously, their most popular competitor is Valve. Steam has a history of being nice to their customers and erring on their side. GOG, historically, takes it to the consumer-friendly extreme. If it lives up to their statements, this is no exception. The hope seems to be just that people will remember GOG more often and have more happy customers.

Basically, most platforms are give-and-take. This is take what you want.

When will it launch? What will it look like? Who knows. We will get more news this year, which suggests that we will not get the software until at least next year. Hopefully they will take their time and get it right. I mean, it is not like they need to rush. It is not a mandatory DRM platform - it is not a DRM platform at all. I do expect they will try to target The Witcher 3's launch window (February 2015) for marketing purposes, though.

Source: GOG

E3 2014: Battlefield Hardline Closed Beta Sign Up

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2014 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: E3 14, E3, beta, battlefield hardline, battlefield

Quick message: The Battlefield Hardline Closed Beta is accepting applications now on a first-come-first-serve basis. Hardline is Battlefield in a cops and robbers universe. Think of PayDay 2 with Battlefield 4 graphics and gameplay elements, basically. It is developed by Visceral Games, the studio known for Dead Space.

battlefield-hardline.jpg

Note: The signup page is a bit glitchy, likely because of server load. If you are interested, hop in quick, before all of the slots are gone. The beta is open now, although it apparently takes a little bit of time before Origin recognizes that you are in it. You will know you are in when you get an email "invoice" for the Battlefield Hardline beta with a $0 transaction.

Source: EA

E3 2014: SteelSeries Announces Sentry Eye Tracking

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2014 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: E3, E3 14, steelseries, sentry

SteelSeries has announced Sentry, a device which tracks the user's eye movement. Since so much of professional gaming is perception and attention, it can be valuable to acquire feedback on how your eyes scan the display. This is not exactly a new service for teams. Some StarCraft 2 tournaments have even broadcast eye-tracking data to the audience.

steelseries-sentry.png

This is obviously a niche product, but that is not reason to discredit it. One of the leading reasons for purchasing a high-speed camera is to analyze golf swings (I avoided the "driving reasons" pun, for your sanity). More subtly, SteelSeries is a major sponsor of several gaming teams. They might consider their personal needs as a form of subsidization, depending on if their business arrangement with Tobii and their investment in the Sentry. If it is not significantly more expensive than licensing a different service for their players, or that service is missing critical features, then why not make it and sell part (or all) of it as a product?

Currently no pricing or availability yet.

Source: SteelSeries

E3 2014: NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Will Exist?

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 9, 2014 - 11:10 AM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, nvidia, E3 14, E3

The Tech Report had their screenshot-fu tested today with the brief lifespan of NVIDIA's SHIELD Tablet product page. As you can see, it is fairly empty. We know that it will have at least one bullet point of "Features" and that its name will be "SHIELD Tablet".

nvidia-shield-tablet-il.jpg

Image Credit: The Tech Report

Of course, being the first day of E3, it is easy to expect that such a device will be announced in the next couple of days. This is expected to be based on the Tegra K1 with 2GB of RAM and have a 2048x1536 touch display.

It does question what exactly is a "SHIELD", however. Apart from being a first-party device, how would they be any different from other TegraZone devices? We know that Half Life 2 and Portal have been ported to the SHIELD product line, exclusively, and will not be available on other Tegra-powered devices. Now that the SHIELD line is extending to tablets, I wonder how NVIDIA will handle this seemingly two-tier class of products (SHIELD vs Tegra OEM devices). It might even depend on how many design wins they achieve, along with their overall mobile market share.

Source: Tech Report

E3 2013: Microsoft can ban your Xbox One library

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2013 - 12:16 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, microsoft, ea, E3 13, E3

Update: Microsoft denies the statements from their support account... but this is still one of the major problems with DRM and closed platforms in general. It is stuff like this that you let them do.

xbox-one-head.jpg

Electronic Arts knows that they need to shake their terrible public image.

Welcome to Microsoft's PR strategy for the Xbox One.

Consumers, whether they acknowledge it or not, fear for the control that platform holders have over their content. It was hard for many to believe that having your EA account banned for whatever reason, even a dispute with a forum moderator, forfeited your license to games you play through that EA account. Sounds like another great idea for Microsoft to steal.

Not stopping there, later on in the thread they were asked what would happen in the event of a security breach. You know, recourse before destroying access to possibly thousands of dollars of content.

While not a "verified account", @xboxsupport is.

They acknowledge ownership of this account in the background image there.

Honestly, there shouldn't have been any doubt that these actually are Microsoft employees.

... Yikes.

At this point, we have definitely surpassed absurdity. Sure, you typically need to do something fairly bad to have Microsoft stop charging your for Xbox Live. Removing access to your entire library of games, to me, is an attempt to limit cheating and the hardware community.

Great, encourage spite from the soldering irons, that works out well.

Don't worry, enthusiasts, you know the PC loves you.

Gaming as a form of entertainment is fundamentally different than gaming as a form of art. When content is entertainment, its message touches you without any intrinsic value and can be replaced with similar content. Sometimes a certain piece of content, itself, has specific value to society. It is these times where we should encourage efforts by organizations such as GoG, Mozilla and W3C, Khronos, and many others. Without help, it could be extremely difficult or impossible for content to be preserved for future generations and future civilizations.

It does not even need to get in the way of the industry and its attempt to profit from the gaming medium; a careless industry, on the other hand, can certainly get in the way of our ability to have genuine art. After all, this is the main reason why I am a PC gamer: the platform allows entertainment to co-exist with communities who support themselves when the official channels do not.

Of course, unless Windows learns a little something from the Xbox. I guess do not get your Windows Store account banned in the future?

E3 2013: DICE rolls into E3

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 14, 2013 - 01:06 AM |
Tagged: E3, E3 13, ea, dice

How could I resist?

I was surprised, the EA keynote -- usually an event which dances past, carefully not leaving anything like "an impression" on its way out -- stuck with me more than any other keynote. Sure, throughout the EA Sports segment I was cleaning my "office" and only modestly paying any level of attention, but I feel that DICE swept the show when they appeared. This, and the rest of the week brought good, bad, and awesome news for us PC gamers.

You have probably seen the Battlefield 4 multiplayer demo by this point. We linked to it, we discussed it. It seems like the destructibility found in the Battlefield 3 single player campaign was absent from the multiplayer not because of a technical reason but rather a design decision. Sure, we can see the radio tower collapse, but building destruction was quite simplified even when compared to Bad Company 2.

The Skyscraper collapse seems like it is a legitimate aspect of the game this time around and not just a baloney promotional piece. When the building collapses you can notice the control point disappear from the mini-map in the bottom left corner of the HUD. That gameplay element required quite a bit of design thought, even Bad Company 2 made buildings with Conquest flags indestructible. Maybe the harsh limitations on Battlefield 3 destructibility was more to keep unified game play between the PC and the 24 player-limited consoles?

Sadly, during E3 we have found that mod support will not be available for Battlefield 4. I must compliment GM of DICE, Karl-Magnus Troedsson, for his blunt honesty. It would be much simpler to kick your feet and say wait and see for something you know will never see the light of day; but, he gave us the straight answer. Sure, he said then engine is not ready for a public release but even then he admitted that it was not for our benefit. They do not have a good idea what boundaries they want to allow modders to access. While disappointing, at least it does not have a condescending tone like we experienced with Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 mod support requests.

Quoting from a PC Gamer interview:

Karl-Magnus Troedsson, DICE GM: We get that question a lot. I always answer the same thing, and then the community calls me bad names. We get the feedback, we understand it. We also would like to see more player-created content, but we would never do something like this if we feel we couldn’t do this 100 percent. That means we need to have the right tools available, we need to have the right security around this regarding what parts of the engine we let loose, so to say. So for BF4 we don’t have any planned mod support, I have to be blunt about saying that. We don’t.

Moving on, though. As we know, Disney decided that LucasArts properties would be best left to the hands at EA. The internet simultaneously joy-teared at the thought of a Star Wars Battlefront title developed by DICE. Sure enough, Star Wars: Battlefront 3 is a thing, and it will be developed using the Frostbite 3 engine.

Still no word on an Indiana Jones titled based on Mirror's Edge. Heh heh heh.

Oh by the way, the announcement I am, by far, most excited for is Mirror's Edge. I absolutely loved the first game, despite its terrible dialog, for how genuine and intrinsically valuable it felt. It gave the impression of a passion project, both in gameplay and in narrative theme. Thankfully, the game is being developed and it will come to the PC.

We also found out that Mirror's Edge is planned to be an "open world action adventure title". Normally that would scare me, but, that was what we were expecting of the first Mirror's Edge before their linear bait-and-switch.

Cannot tell if good or bad... but we will see at some point in the future.

Source: PC Gamer

E3 2013: Dell Alienware X51 Gaming Desktop Refresh

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 13, 2013 - 01:17 AM |
Tagged: E3, E3 13, dell, alienware, alienware x51

The launch of Haswell led to many new product launches, and so did E3. The overlap? The Alienware X51 gaming desktop has been refreshed with some very compelling components at a surprisingly compelling price.

dell-alienware-x51.jpg

Unfortunately, there is a slight difference between the Canadian and the American offerings; it is not a case of one citizen paying more than the another, however, as things are more shuffled around than outright better. Our Canadian readers start with a base price of $1499.99, and Americans start out at $1449.99. Americans can spend an extra $100 to upgrade their DVD reader to a Blu-Ray drive, Canadians get Blu-Ray by default. Therefore, if you desire a Blu-Ray drive, it is $50 cheaper to be Canadian; otherwise, it is $50 cheaper to be American.

Whether you are Canadian or American, I would personally recommend spending the extra $100 upgrading your RAM from 8GB to 16 GB. Sure, 8GB is a lot, but the extra can go a long way especially with the direction that web browsers have been heading. You each, also, have the option of spending $300 and receiving a 256GB SSD albeit also at the expense of, beyond the $300, reducing your 2TB HDD down to a slower, 5400RPM 1TB drive.

In all, this actually looks quite compelling for someone who wishes to have a console-esque form-factor near their TV. Unfortunately there are currently no Ubuntu-based options for this X51, although you may freely ($0) choose between Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and Windows 8 64-bit.

Source: Dell