Subject: Shows and Expos | June 20, 2015 - 02:19 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: hitman, E3 2015, E3 15, E3
SquareEnix would apparently prefer to say “no DLC or microtransactions” when referring to free, post-launch, content updates. Personally, I think “free DLC” would be an acceptable name for their plans. However you want to brand it, the new Hitman will have content added for not additional cost. This was once a common practice for PC games, at a time when they had access to internet, consoles did not, and there was nothing like Steam or Xbox Live to facilitate microtransactions.
Some of the updates could deviate from what is considered “traditional DLC” though. For instance, they might push an update that adds or modifies an NPC to be a target, but just for a couple of days. Since Hitman has been one of the games that scores how effectively you can take down opponents, PC Gamer hopes that impromptu and time-limited missions will test players on skill and intuition, rather than manufacturing a calculated strategy. In fact, some will only occur once and you might not have more than a photo to go off of.
Hitman (no subtitle) is scheduled to launch on December 8th.
Subject: Shows and Expos | June 18, 2015 - 05:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: E3, E3 15, E3 2015, blizzard, Starcraft II, legacy of the void, whispers of oblivion
While StarCraft II is known for its multiplayer component, some of us are mostly interested in the campaign... and Arcade mods, but there's no news on that front. Legacy of the Void is the end of the StarCraft II trilogy, which is said to finally deal with the hybrids that were introduced in the secret missions of Brood War and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. They played a larger role in Heart of the Swarm's campaign although that did not even have unlockable missions, so they wouldn't exist otherwise.
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void does not yet have a release date, but there will be a mini-campaign released for free before it launches. StarCraft II: Whispers of Oblivion (or is that StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void: Whispers of Oblivion?) are three single-player missions that will be released in July. Those who pre-purchase Legacy of the Void will get the missions first, which might mean that everyone else needs to wait until after July to play them... or not. That said, if you are patient, you do not even need to own StarCraft II at all. Free to all, but timed-exclusive for those who pre-order.
Subject: Shows and Expos | June 18, 2015 - 07:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, E3 2015, E3 15, E3
This has been a good E3 for the PC platform. We got our first keynote, organized by PC Gamer and AMD, which took the format in its own direction. This had basically the same reaction as putting Skittles in an M&Ms vending machine; they are good, but you'll see lots of weird faces on those who were expecting chocolate that melts in their mouths and not in their hands. It also ran long, celebrating the platform for almost two and a half hours, which is problematic for fans of console games who are very busy (and anyone with sub-phenomenal blood circulation or irritable bowels). Personally, I found it very interesting (while a bit long).
Throughout E3, PC Gamer has also kept a vast (but not as complete as they claim) list of titles at the event. Each entry in the slideshow (I know) format has a brief blurb about the game, its release date if available, and whether it is coming to the PC platform. It is updated as the event progresses, but it already has about forty entries. Of the current list, only four are not yet confirmed for the PC. That sounds pretty good, and a stark contrast from five-to-ten years ago.
These four are:
- The Last Guardian (no surprise)
- Fallout Shelter (iOS only)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider (which will probably make it to the PC at some point)
- Final Fantasy 7 Remake (which was twice a PC release already)
Unfortunately, they are missing many titles that would be excluded from the PC, so I will add to it here. Gears 4 has not been confirmed for the PC, although the developer is bringing the original Gears remake to the platform. Yup, we get the one Gears we already had (at least until Games for Windows Live had something to say about it). Uncharted 4, Ratchet and Clank, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Dreams are pretty safe bets against the PC. Microsoft has been extremely quiet about Halo 5 and its chances on the PC; ReCore and Rare Replay sounds like Xbox One exclusives, as in excluding the PC as well as the other consoles, as well. Then you add Nintendo, and this list blows up from 12, including my additions, to a much bigger number that I don't even want to figure out.
Still, it is interesting to browse through PC Gamer's slideshow and look at all the content that we will get. It has been a good year for the PC. Microsoft is pulling Windows 10 forward with equivalent effort to what they have spent dragging the mostly unprofitable Xbox division around. They know that gaming is an essential component of why people are locked in to Windows, and it has thrived even through the decade-plus of neglect and maltreatment. On the other side, we see Sony appreciating the PC as a profitable market that can exist alongside their PlayStation initiatives for Sony Online content, and they don't even have as much first-party developers as they used to anyway.
But yeah. Lots of games is good. While I've managed for the last couple years, I feel it's getting much easier to ignore the console exclusives. How about you?
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller
And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.
Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.
At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.
The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.
That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.
Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.
This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.
The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 01:34 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: water cooling, SFF, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, dual fiji, amd
AMD revealed a new liquid cooled small form factor PC called Project Quantum during an E3 livestream today.
On the outside, an angled dual compartment aluminum case with rounded edges houses the processing hardware in the bottom and all the cooling components in the top part. AMD is using liquid cooling for the processor and graphics with the tubing running up the center column joining the two pieces together to a radiator or radiators. Red LEDs light up the center column while Radeon R9 branding sits in the bottom left corner.
While at first glance that Radeon R9 branding might be unassuming, it is actually referring to AMD's latest Fiji architecture. That's correct, Project Quantum is part of the Fiji product family and is, in fact, powered by two AMD Fiji-based graphics procesors!
Update: AMD has posted a behind-the-scenes video on the development of Project Quantum which you can watch below.
In the video, AMD reveals that they are using a modified ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac motherboard (thanks to djotter in the comments for pointing that out) which means that Project Quantum is using an Intel Haswell processor in addition to the two Fiji-based GPUs. AMD has removed all of the rear IO connectors save two USB 3.0 ports and an Ethernet jack. They have also moved the 8-pin CPU power connector to the back panel of the board next to the USB ports. My guess is that they did this for cable management and height restriction reasons within the bottom compartment. Specifically, from the CAD render shown in the video, it appears that the AMD graphics card sits horizontally on top of the motherboard which meant that at least some of the rear IO ports had to be removed or relocated.
Another bit of information from that AMD video is that Project Quantum is using what looks like an external power supply. The power brick connects to the system over a single cable to an internal board. This board provides power to a Pico PSU that is plugged into the ATX 24-pin connector on the motherboard and provides power to the AMD branded Solid State Drive (SSD) as well as the motherboard and CPU 8-pin connectors (which have both been modified to right angles for height and cable management reasons). The internal power board that connects to the socket at the back likely also powers the Radeon graphics card via PCI-E connectors, but it is difficult to tell from the photo (it is that red PCB towards the top of the photo).
Interestingly AMD has switched out the power and USB 3.0 headers with right angle models and removed the blue ASRock heatsinks covering the VRMs and PCH. AMD is instead using two large waterblocks to cool the components on the motherboard and graphics card. A large radiator and pump sit in the top compartment cooled by an 180mm Enermax Apollish fan. The 180mm radiator should result in quieter, or at least less annoying, fan noise since the large fan can spin slower while moving similar amounts of air as smaller fans paired with 120 or 140mm radiators. Using a single large radiator for both the CPU and GPU is an interesting choice here, and I think a correct one.
A rendering of the water loop layout on Project Quantum. Image from AMD with annotations by Aibohphobia.
It was actually djotter and Aibohphobia in the comments who spotted the Pico PSU and provided an example. (I did not notice that in the video initially, so thanks for pointing that out!) This power brick and tiny Pico PSU setup would certainly help to explain how AMD was able to make Project Quantum so thin (though an external PSU isn't necessarily a bad thing). The Pico PSU does suggest that the dual Fiji GPUs may be closer to lower end R9 Nanos than two high end Fury Xs (heh) or maybe some other yet unannounced cut-down Fiji chip entirely.
(End of update)
During the PC Gamer E3 Twitch stream, AMD CEO Lisa Su showed off Project Quantum, and Ken was able to snap a photo of the back panel.
Project Quantum has, from left to right, a single power input (see above), two analog audio jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet jack, four USB 2.0 ports, and a single horizontal PCI slot. A Radeon R9 graphics card is installed in this slot and features three DisplayPort and one HDMI 1.4 video outputs. We still do not know all the specs of this card, but is is Fiji-based and supports LiquidVR along with AMD's other features including FreeSync and Frame Rate Target Control.
(End Update 9:30PM)
Beyond that, we do not know many details on Project Quantum. From the other announcements around Fiji today, particularly the R9 Nano and R9 Fury X, this little machine is going to be a powerhouse with impressive power efficiency and performance per watt – especially for its size!
Of course, pricing and availability were not discussed at the event. Stay tuned to PC Perspective as we get more details closer to its official release!
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 01:22 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, hbm, fury x, Fury, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, amd
It's finally official: AMD Radeon R9 Fury X and Fury graphics cards are coming soon. Here's the details you need to know:
|AMD Fury X||AMD Fury||AMD R9 290X|
|Compute Capability||8.6 TFLOPS||??||5.6 TFLOPS|
|Transistor Count||8.9 billion||??||6.3 billion|
|Availability||June 24th||July 14th||Now|
There is still a lot of information that AMD is saving for the official release, but those look to be some impressive graphics cards at first glance! The AMD Fury X is the small form factor water cooled version that we saw leaked this weekend while the AMD Fury (non-X) will be air cooled. It wasn't shown on stage though, so we can only guess what it will look like.
AMD's Joe Macri said on stage that the cooler they designed is built for up to 500 watts but that the board was only going to draw 275 watts, while keeping the board temperature down to 50C!
Other tidbits include 6-phase power with 400A (!!) power delivery for overclocking, an 8-LED user addressable array for performance load monitoring and 1.5x performance per watt improvement when compared to the R9 290X. That can help us estimate card performance but we'll dive more into that later.
Finally, though only a tease, AMD did say they were planning a dual-GPU variant of Fiji coming "in the fall."
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 15, 2015 - 08:27 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: r9 300, hbm, hawaii, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, amd
Join us tomorrow to learn all about AMD's plans for the next generation of GPUs! AMD is hosting a live stream of the event at 9am PT / 12pm ET and the PC Perspective team will be live blogging as well.
AMD E3 2015 Press Conference and Live Blog
9am PT / 12pm ET - June 16th
Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!
We expect to see official details of the R9 300-series of products of which there have been many leaks as well as the final details of the AMD Fury and Fury X products based on the new Fiji GPU. Join the team as we live blog the event and learn along with you!
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 08:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: overwatch, E3 2015, E3, blizzard
Various companies have begun teasing what we might see at this year's E3 expo. Blizzard has not historically had a big presence at the event, though. With the size and scope of Blizzcon, the company usually saves it announcements for then. In fact, I cannot think of a single, non-trivial thing that Blizzard did at E3 since the expo downsized after E3 2006.
This year, on the other hand, Blizzard will be present at AMD and PC Gamer's E3 show. The recent Overwatch previews could be leading up to this event, which takes place three weeks from yesterday. The recent video that I embed above, Tracer, is pretty interesting too. It shows how useful a light assault player could be if they don't obey the space-time continuum. The last two-thirds of the video show off an impressive kill streak.
Again, expect more E3 coverage leading up to the Expo on June 16th.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 15, 2014 - 01:51 AM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2014 - 02:44 AM | Scott Michaud
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.
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)|
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.