Splinter Cell:Blacklist, proof Scotch ages better than game engines

Subject: General Tech | August 28, 2013 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: games, splinter cell blacklist, Unreal Engine 2.5

If you doubt the relevance of the Unreal Engine, keep in mind that the new Splinter Cell:Blacklist game is using the same engine as the original version of this game released in 2004.  That is not to say it has not been tweaked, physics engines and tessellation were not options available at that time but have since been added to this extremely popular game engine.  [H]ard|OCP takes you through the various technologies that make this game look good, from new DX11 Phong Tessellation techniques to the wide variety of anti-aliasing choices available.  Even with all these new features, the textures are below the level of quality [H] would expect in 2013.  Hopefully there will be an HD patch made at some point like was done in Skyrim and other titles using aged engines.

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"Splinter Cell: Blacklist is out, and we dive into this game and pay close attention to image quality and detail. NVIDIA and Ubisoft have implemented some first-time features ever seen in the Splinter Cell series, with DX11 Tessellation, HBAO+, and TXAA. We look at each of these technologies and see if it helps boost the quality of this game on the PC."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

A PC Perspective on Gaming: How We Rank Games

Subject: Editorial | April 18, 2013 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: games

So, news which might excite our readers: we are going to try reviewing video games.

Of course, the first thing which needs to be addressed when reviewing games is our grading system. Games, in particular, are a very artful medium and as such it does not entirely make sense to quantize its qualities.

The simple answer is, we will not.

Step back and consider how we review hardware: we run some benchmarks, we discuss the features in often numbing detail, and we assign an award-badge to the product according to our opinion. A hardware could receive no merit; it could receive a bronze, silver, or gold medal; finally, the truly extraordinary products will receive an Editor's Choice Award. If you think about it, these can transfer quite easily to video game reviews.

Our expectation is to apply two ratings to every review: a badge and a number.

A badge is very good at qualifying our assessment of a product whereas numerical scores are very good at quantifying a derivable value. We, collectively as PC gamers, have certain expectations for games and they usually demand more than the impressions of a typical console gamer. Simultaneously, we tend to be an afterthought for a lot of titles; yes, I am being generous even with that statement. Many games are outright broken, crippled by DRM, or otherwise demonstrate in very obvious terms that our money is somehow inferior. On the other hand, there are games which go above and beyond reasonable expectations held by PC gamers, and even some unreasonable ones, and are rarely hailed for it.

We are not able to judge the artistic qualities of a game using a numerical score, but we can judge its technical merits using a numerical rubric.

And so exists our planned review metric. The main point is that there will not be any definite rank-order to each game, at least from an artistic standpoint. A game is allowed to really well on one category and really terribly on another. If you are concerned with the game itself, keep more of an eye toward which award we gave it. If you are concerned about how well the game exists as a PC title, take a look at the numerical score.

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There are of course caveats to this method. A viewer who looks solely at the numerical score will not know much, if anything, about the game itself. The numerical score is just a gauge for the level of effort put into the PC version.

Then again, would you expect any less from a website called "PC Perspective" which reviews products with a blend of explanation of its qualitative features mixed in with strict quantitative benchmarking?

Lastly, this is not about whether a game is "better" on a PC or on a console. Developers are free to focus on whatever platform they desire. A game designed around a console and ported to the PC will still get a great score if the finished result exhibits a "great" level of care. Likewise, even if your game is PC-exclusive, do not expect us to give it a great score if it cannot alt-tab worth a damn and is wrapped in DRM which roots our system using kernel-mode drivers.

It is not particularly hard to make a great PC experience, all it takes is effort. Fortunately, that is a property that we can assign an honest grade to.

We would really like to hear your feedback on this. Drop a line in the comments below!

John Carmack Believes Next-Gen Consoles Will Continue Targeting 30FPS Games

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2012 - 12:06 PM |
Tagged: xbox, ps4, gaming, games, consoles, carmack

While Nintendo has continued to pump out new gaming consoles, both Microsoft and Sony have been sitting on the current Xbox and PlayStation hardware for years. For example, the Xbox 360 is seven years old, and yet the Redmond company does not appear to be in any hurry to advance to better hardware with a new console. Sony is in a similar mindset with its PlayStation road map.

There have been rumors for the past couple years on the next Xbox and PlayStation, but there is one thing that is certain. Once gamers do (eventually) get a new console though, it will have substantially better hardware than the current generation. And considering that the latest games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have started to push the hardware to its limit, developers are clamoring for better hardware as their engines outgrow the consoles. Visuals are still increasing on iterative console games but the frame rates are starting to slip as a result. PC gamers have Eyefinity, multi-GPU, AA, AF, higher resolutions, and unrestricted frame rates. Meanwhile, developers that want games on both console and PC platforms have to contend with the fact that the Xbox 360 and PS3 are limited to a frame rate target of around 30 FPS. (And the latest games are jast barely able to achieve that target.)

Unfortunately, while many console gamers likely expect the next generation of consoles to set the frames per second bar higher, a statement by John Carmack suggests otherwise. On Twitter the id Software founder stated that “unfortunately, I can pretty much guarantee that a lot of next gen games will still target 30 fps.”

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It is an interesting statement from the mind of a game developer. When next generation consoles do come out, they will likely push more than 30FPS on average as games built on (tweaked) existing engines will run faster on the updated hardware. However, it seems that developers are more concerned with pushing visual quality instead of framerates. As developers start pushing the new hardware, the framerates will fall towards the 30 FPS target, much like the current generation of consoles are experiencing. I suppose gamers that want unrestricted fram rates will have to stick to PC gaming for the forseeable future. 

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Carmack is much more optimistic about higher framerates on PC games.

Do you think gamers care about higher framerates on their consoles?

Source: Shack News

A renaissance of game types that have been sadly missing

Subject: Editorial | November 7, 2012 - 07:56 PM |
Tagged: stealth, space sim, games

There are two types of games that are near and dear to my heart which have been sadly lacking recently, stealth FPSes and space sims, which seems to be changing.  Until very recently the best way to solve your stealth fetish was to take advantage of the compatibility patches for Thief 2 or to play Thief: The Dark Mod, neither new releases nor officially sanctioned.  Deus Ex:HR had some stealth elements depending on how you wanted to play it but for the most part it was a straight out superpower shooter.   The release of Dishonored was a good start, while it is another superpower shooter it is one with far more emphasis on stealth, both in the powers you can gain and utilize as well as the fighting mechanics which ensure your death if you attract too many enemies at the same time.  Next to come is a game entitled Abduction, which is being built on CryEngine 3 and as you can see by the trailer it is very much focused on dark places to hide, proper shadows for you to keep track of guards with, silent take downs and a silenced pistol for those who run out of patience and need turn off a light or to drop someone quickly.  Sound also plays a part, over and above the AI swarming gun shots, for instance the instruction to run and let the sound cause a distraction.  Also worth checking out is Hitman, again a game which incorporates stealth as a major gameplay mechanic and not just an option in some missions.

 

Space Sim fans have long been bemoaning the early demise of the FreeSpace series, for as much fun as the incredible X series is, it is far more than a space shooter and that can turn many fans off.  Babylon 5: I've Found Her is an amazing free game which has continued to receive updates and new missions, however it uses Newtonian physics which can be difficult to get used to and frustrating to some players.  Also recently released was the Wing Commander Saga, more than just a remake of Wing Commander 3 while still incorporating many of the assets which made that game special then and still does today. 

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The creator of Wing Commander, Chris Roberts, also had an announcement for space sim fans who have long been awaiting his return to game design.  He is currently working on a monstrous space game in two forms, a single player version called Squadron 42 and a online multiplayer version with a fully perpetual universe with an accompanying story arc reminiscent of the fall of Rome called Star Citizen.  While both games will essentially be the same, the online version will obviously not evolve in the same way as the single player version since once you let player characters near your campaign you might as well toss your carefully planned story arc out the window as it will not survive contact with those stubborn, misguided fools (to put it politely). 

If that is not enough to send a tingle down your spine then perhaps the possible return of another old friend will.  If David Braben has his way, Elite will be making a comeback and as his Kickstarter already has over £300,000 in backing.  Not only was this an incredible game to play, they were the first to develop procedural generation of a game world or universe in this case.  How else could they fit 8 galaxies each with 256 planets onto a Cassette, Floppy disk or Cartridge and then run it on an 8-bit computer?  Now imagine what those twistedly gifted minds can do with today's 64bit OSes and the GPU power available to them.  Jameson never had it so good, even after upgrading his docking computer so as to no longer have to manually match rotation with space stations!

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It is a damn fine time to be a PC gamer who likes a little variation in the types of games they play ... now I wonder if that X-Com squaddie is healed up enough to go on another mission yet?

Steam Allows Remote Installation of Games

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2012 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, gaming pc, gaming, games

Valve recently released a beta update for its Steam client that allows users to remotely install games to their local machine using the steampowered.com website.

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After installing the beta update to the local Steam client (Steam > Settings > Beta Participation), just leave the client logged in on your machine. Then navigate to Community page of the Steam website. After that, click on the Games category where the website will then list all the games tied to your Steam account. If you have a game you want to download and install while you are away, just hit the install button to the right of the game’s name.

This is certainly an interesting feature for some, especially if you happen to be on vacation during a Steam Holiday Sale! (hehe). More details on the process can be found here. Is this a feature you’ll be using?

Source: Valve

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

Need For Speed: The (30fps) Run

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2011 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, need for speed, gaming, games, elder scrolls V, consolitis

[H]ard|OCP has been having a hard go of it with recent game releases.  CoD Modern Warfare 3 was described as being useless for benchmarking as any mid range GPU can play at maxed settings even at high resolutions.  That discovery came after the Rage incident, when benchmarked it hit 60fps and refused to move, no matter what hardware was thrown at it.  Picture the expression on the reviewers face when they fired up Need For Speed: The Run expecting the Frostbite 2 engine of Battlefield 3 fame to torture their test bench only to find a similar result to Rage, except locked at 30fps.

Thankfully for the continued sanity of their review team, [H] also got hold of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to benchmark.  Benchmarking this game was much more productive, especially in multi-GPU setups and it also revealed a small oddity with the games auto-detection of graphics settings.

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"Need for Speed: The Run was released today, utilizing the Frostbite 2 engine, same as Battlefield 3, it should have some pretty good graphics. However, after we dove into this game this morning, we found that it falls rather flat for a PC game. We'll talk about performance and image quality in this article."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Now that's a teaser; 12 minutes of Deus Ex 3 gameplay footage

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2011 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: gaming, games, deus ex 3

Jean-Francois Dugas, the Director of Edios Montreal, grabs a controller and takes you through three minutes of the game.  Even better is that this is not a hand picked blood bath, he starts in a public lab area with civilians wandering around, which he has to find a way in.  Stealth melee takedowns are shown, as well as the ability to drag unconcious bodies to a hidden area to ensure you are not given away by a trail of corpses.  Unfortunately since they are playing the console version it is difficult to say what the PC interface will be like but it seems that the contextual menus may have been done better than many console/PC releases.  Check out the full preview at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN!

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"Check it out. Here are twelve (count ‘em!) minutes of hot Deus Ex: Human Revolution footage, courtesy of the overflowing infinite video vat at IGN. Eidos Montreal Director Jean-Francois Dugas shows us around a section of the game located in “Tai Young Medical”, where Jensen is on a critical mission to collect some information from a data core. Why is it always a data core? It’s never data-lollipops or data-bears… Hmm."

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Xbox.com: for all your PC Gaming needs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 5, 2011 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: windows, games

So I am a very avid supporter of PC gaming: I do not feel that I should pay license fees to a company to actively limit me. I feel that if people keep asking me whether HD-DVD or BluRay will win that there is no reason to have eight gaming platforms co-exist (more if you include Mac, iOS, Android, etc.). I feel that instead of relying on a cardboard coffin that will arrive in 1-2 business weeks, you or your friend should be allowed to fix your own hardware… or choose your own local small business computer store to deal with in person. I feel that it is much better to buy an extra GTX 560 every four years and have money left over for a meal than a multiplayer subscription pass that does not even let you run your own dedicated servers with admins (what cheaters? BAN!) So you can guess my reaction when I saw Microsoft roll Games for Windows Marketplace into Xbox.com.

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Underlined for your convenience.

Now do not get me wrong, I was never much a fan of Games for Windows to begin with. Microsoft’s attempt to rid the PC of the stability stereotype was to push certification for all content on Games for Windows Live which worked very well for Fallout: New Vegas on the Xbox 360. Ironically the PC version was much more stable just after launch because the patch was stuck in certification on Xbox during the busy holiday season (lols!) The biggest problem with forcing certification is that would include mods as well (video, 3:10) and that is not something mod developers could really afford. Halo 2 Vista was one such Games for Windows Live game whose mod tools were so neutered that the provided tutorial level was impossible to create because jump pads assets were not provided nor able to be created.

 

Still, it seems odd to me for Microsoft to push so feverishly to roll PC gaming into Xbox branding when other initiatives like Steam are already showing the entire industry how to do things mostly right. It is possible that at some point Microsoft could roll Direct(X)box back in to Windows and simply create a canon home theatre PC (if Valve does not eat that lunch too); but if their plan is to merge Windows into Xbox then they are completely missing the point of why we would rather play a PC game with an Xbox 360 controller: because we choose to.

Source: Microsoft