Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2013 - 02:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: next generation character rendering, GDC 13, gaming, Activision, 3D rendering
Activision recently showed off its Next-Generation Character Rendering technology, which is a new method for rendering realistic and high-quality 3D faces. The technology has been in the works for some time now, and is now at a point where faces are extremely detailed down to pores, freckles, wrinkles, and eye lashes.
In addition to Lauren, Activision also showed off its own take on the face used in NVIDIA's Ira FaceWorks tech demo. Except instead of the NVIDIA rendering, the face was done using Activision's own Next-Generation Character Rendering technology. A method that is allegedly more efficient and "completely different" than the one used for Ira. In a video showing off the technology (embedded below), the Activision method produces some impressive 3D renders in real time, but when talking appear to be a bit creepy-looking and unnatural. Perhaps Activision and NVIDIA should find a way to combine the emotional improvements of Ira with the graphical prowess of NGCR (and while we are making a wish list, I might as well add TressFX support... heh).
The high resolution faces are not quite ready for the next Call of Duty, but the research team has managed to get models to render at 180 FPS on a PC running a single GTX 680 graphics card. That is not enough to implement the technology in a game, where there are multiple models, the environment, physics, AI, and all manner of other calculations to deal with and present at acceptable frame rates, but it is nice to see this kind of future-looking work being done now. Perhaps in a few graphics card generations the hardware will catch up to the face rendering technology that Activision (and others) are working on, which will be rather satisfying to see. It is amazing how far the graphics world has come since I got into PC gaming with Wolfenstein 3D, to say the least!
The team behind Activision's Next-Generation Character Rendering technology includes:
|Javier Von Der Pahlen||Director of Research and Development|
|Etienne Donvoye||Technical Director|
|Bernardo Antoniazzi||Technical Art Director|
|Zbyněk Kysela||Modeler and Texture Artist|
|Mike Eheler||Programming and Support|
|Jorge Jimenez||Real-Time Graphics Research and Development|
Jorge Jimenez has posted several more screenshots of the GDC tech demo on his blog that are worth checking out if you are interested in the new rendering tech.
Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2013 - 05:37 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: virtual reality, oculus vr, oculus rift, GTC 2013, gaming
Update: Yesterday, an Oculus representative reached out to us in order to clarify that the information presented was forward looking and subject to change (naturally). Later in the day, the company also posted to its forum the following statement:
"The information from that presentation (dates, concepts, projections, etc...) represent our vision, ideas, and on-going research/exploration. None of it should be considered fact, though we'd love to have that projected revenue!"
You can find the full statement in this thread.
The original article text is below:
Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, took the stage at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference to talk about the state of its technology and where it is headed.
Oculus VR is a relatively new company founded by Palmer Luckey and managed by CEO Brendan Iribe, who is the former CPO of cloud gaming company Gaikai. Currently, Oculus VR is developing a wearable, 3D, virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift. Initially launched via Kickstarter, the Oculus Rift hardware is now shipping to developers as the rev 1 developer kit. Oculus VR will manufacture 10,000 developer kits and managed to raise $2.55 million in 2012.
The developer kit has a resolution of 1280x800 and weighs 320g. It takes a digital video input via a DVI or HDMI cable (HDMI with an adapter). The goggles hold the display and internals, and a control box connects via a wire to provide power. It uses several pieces of hardware found in smartphones, and CEO Brendan Iribe even hinted that an ongoing theme at Oculus VR was that "if it's not in a cell phone, it's not in Oculus." It delivers a 3D experience with head tracking, but Iribe indicated that full motion VR is coming in the future. For now, it is head tracking that allows you to look around the game world, but "in five to seven or eight years" virtual reality setups that combine an Oculus Rift-like headset with a omni-directional treadmill would allow you to walk and run around the world in addition to simply looking around.
Beyond the immersion factor, a full motion VR setup would reduce (and possibly eliminate) the phenomena of VR sickness, where users using VR headsets for extended periods of time experience discomfort due to the disconnect between your perceived in-game movement and your (lack of) physical movement and inner-ear balance.
After the first developer kit, Oculus is planning to release a revised version, and ultimately a consumer version. This consumer version is slated for a Q3 2014 launch. It will weigh significantly less (Oculus VR is aiming for around 200g), and will support 1080p 3D resolutions. The sales projections estimate 50,000 revision 2 developer kits in 2013 and at least 500,000 consumer versions of the Oculus Rift in 2014. Ambitious numbers, for sure, but if Oculus can nail down next-generation console support, reduce the weight of the headset, and increase the resolution it is not out of the question.
With the consumer version, Oculus is hoping to offer both a base wired version and a higher-priced wireless Rift VR headset. Further, the company is working with game and professional 3D creation software developers to get software support for the VR headset. Team Fortress 2 support has been announced, for example (and there will even be an Oculus Rift hat, for gamers that are into hats). Additionally, Oculus is working to get support into the following software titles (among others):
- AutoDesk 3D
- DOTA 2
During the presentation Iribe stated that graphics cards (specifically he mentioned the GTX 680) are finally in a place to deliver 3D with smooth frame rates at high-enough resolutions for immersive virtual reality.
Left: potential games with Oculus VR support. Right: Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe at ECS during GTC 2013.
Pricing on the consumer version of the VR headset is still unkown, but developers can currently pre-order an Oculus Rift developer kit on the Oculus VR site. In the past, the company has stated that consumers should hold off on buying a developer kit and wait for the consumer version of the Rift in 2014. If the company is able to deliver on its claims of a lighter headset with higher resolution screen and adjustable 3D effects (like the 3DS, the level of stereo 3D can be adjusted, and even turned off), I think it will be worth the wait. The deciding factor will then be software support. Hopefully developers will take to the VR technology and offer up support for it in upcoming titles into the future.
Are you excited for the Oculus Rift?
Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2013 - 02:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, ps4, playstation eye, playstation 4, gaming, dualshock 4, APU, amd
Sony teased a few more details about its upcoming PlayStation 4 console at the Games Developer's Conference earlier this week. While the basic specifications have not changed since the original announcement, we now know more about the X86 console hardware.
The PS4 itself is powered by an AMD Jaguar CPU with eight physical cores and eight threads. Each core gets 32 KB L1 I-cache and D-cache. Further, each group of four physical cores shares 2 MB of L2 cache, for 4MB total L2. The processor is capable of Out of Order Execution, as are AMDs other processor offerings. The console also reportedly features 8GB of GDDR5 memory that is shared by the CPU and GPU. It offers 176 GB/s of bandwidth, and is a step above the PS3 which did not use a unified memory design. The system will also sport a faster GPU rated at 1.843 TFLOPS, and clocked at 800MHz. The PS3 will have a high-capacity hard drive and a new Blu-ray drive that is up to 3-times faster. Interestingly, the console also has a co-processor that allows the system to process the video streaming features and allow the Remote Play game streaming to the PlayStation Vita at its native resolution of 960x554.
The PlayStation Eye has also been upgraded with the PS4 to include 2 cameras, four microphones, and a 3-axis accelerometer. The Eye cameras have an 85-degree field of view, and can record video at 1280x800 at 60 Hz and 12 bits per pixel or 640x480 and 120Hz. The new PS4 Eye is a noteworthy upgrade to the current generation model which is limited to either 640x480 pixels at 60Hz or 320x240 pixels at 120Hz. The extra resolution should allow developers to be more accurate. The DualShock 4 controllers sport a light-bar that can be tracked by the new Eye camera, for example. The light-bar on the controllers uses an RGB LED that changes to blue, red, pink, or green for players 1-4 respectively.
Speaking of the new DualShock 4, Sony has reportedly ditched the analog face buttons and D-pad for digital buttons. With the DS3 and the PS3, the analog face buttons and D-pad came in handy with racing games, but otherwise they are not likely to be missed. The controllers will now charge even when the console is in standby mode, and the L2 and R2 triggers are more resistant to accidental pressure. The analog sticks have been slightly modified and feature a reduced dead zone. The touchpad, which is a completely new feature for the DualShock lineup, is capable of tracking 2 points at a resolution of 1920x900–which is pretty good.
While Sony has still not revealed what the actual PS4 console will look like, most of the internals are now officially known. It will be interesting to see just where Sony prices the new console, and where game developers are able to take it. Using a DX11.1+ feature set, developers are able to use many of the same tools used to program PC titles but also have additional debugging tools and low level access to the hardware. A new low level API below DirectX, but above the driver level gives developers deeper access to the shader pipeline. I'm curious to see how PC ports will turn out, with the consoles now running X86 hardware, I'm hoping that the usual fare of bugs common to ported titles from consoles to PCs will decrease–a gamer can dream, right?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 28, 2013 - 01:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: razer blade, gaming
You may remember Nokia's failed N-Gage, the phone that thought it was as console but turned out to be a failure; it seems that Razer is going to market with a similar product called the Blade. This time we have a product that is a tablet with aspirations to console-hood as you can tell from the gamepad-type controls surrounding the 1366x768 10.1" screen. Inside you will find an Intel Core i7 processor, a 256GB SSD, and 8GB of RAM all of which adds up to a heavy weight mobile device with not much in the way of battery life. Gizmodo tried it out at GDC and played BioShock Infinite on Ultra with no problems whatsoever so the performance is there. On the other hand can a $1500 gaming tablet compete with full Ultrabooks or streaming devices like Project SHIELD?
"A gaming laptop in a tablet. It's a thought experiment that raises a whole host of questions: Is that even possible? Can it possibly be good? Would anyone even want it if it were? And finally: How much does it cost? The Razer Edge's answers translate roughly to "Yes!", "Sort of.", "Maybe?", and "Erm, you better sit down.""
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Oculus Rift developer kit hands-on video at GDC 2013, shown playing Hawken @ Tweaktown
- Intel to separate 3rd-generation ultrabooks into 3 price groups @ DigiTimes
- Microsoft's 'Gemini' project will be the Windows Blue of Office @ The Register
- ARM says GPGPUs could lower overall chip costs @ The Inquirer
- Blackberry has sold one million Blackberry Z10 smartphones @ The Inquirer
- IBM unfurls SDN network manager @ The Register
- BIGGEST DDoS ATTACK IN HISTORY hammers Spamhaus @ The Register
- How to Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal Using a Soda Can in 6 Steps @ MAKE:Blog
- Interview with Richard Huddy about Intel moving beyond DX @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2013 - 02:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, bioshock infinite
After the long wait, BioShock: Infinite is here, not as a sequel but carrying forward some of the atmosphere of the first two out of the water and into the clouds. The reviews are positive, both in terms of game play and story line, as you can see by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN's preview of the game here. That particular article is spoiler free, not revealing any secrets that those following the release already know, but you can also venture into spoiler territory if you wish as they have already published some feedback about subplots they would have liked to see fleshed out more. For those jsut about to start playing they offer some tweaks to improve your experience, including the all important FOV hack, as well as a Konami-ish code to unlock sadistic mode immediately.
"BioShock: Infinite is a new first-person shooter from Irrational, creators of BioShock, System Shock 2 and SWAT 4. It’s set on a flying city in 1912, where racism and religious fundamentalism dictate society. You’re up there, wielding guns and magic, to bring someone the girl and wipe away the debt. Here’s what I thought, spoiler-free."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- BioShock Infinite review: In the sky, Lord, in the sky @ Ars Technica
- A Look at Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition @ Techgage
- WARFACE Puts Its War In Your Face @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Tripwire’s Rising Storm Whips Up A Trailer @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Age Of Wonders III First Footage @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- First Look: Space Hulk @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2013 - 12:06 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Xi3, valve, Steam Box, piston, pc gaming, gaming
It may or may not be Valve's Steam Box, but Xi3 is the closest thing to a small form factor PC gaming console running Steam on the radar so far. The Xi3 PISTON is now up for pre-order with an intended holiday 2013 launch.
The PISTON starts at $899 and increases in price from there depending on the amount of internal storage included. Basic specifications of the Piston include an AMD APU (likely the A10-4600M) clocked at 2.3GHz (3.2GHz turbo), Radeon 7660G processor graphics (384 shaders), 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 128GB solid state drive. For an extra $340, Xi3 will swap in a 256GB SSD, and for $750 the company will include a 512GB option. Of course, that would bring the price of the living room TV up to $1649, which is far from cheap.
For that kind of money you could build a much more powerful mid tower that could actually run Steam games at 1080p with all the details cranked up. The Xi3 box will be lucky to average 30FPS at 1080p with the latest games. With that said, it is a start and I hope to see continued development of these "Steam Box-esque PCs. Hopefully once mass production, competing options, and economies of scale kick in, consumers will be able to get their hands on cheaper Steam Boxes!
If you can't wait for the official Steam Box, however, you can head over to the Xi3 website to reserve your own PISTON.
Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2013 - 01:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: bioshock infinite, geforce, GeForce 314.22, nvidia, gaming
BioShock Infinite launches tomorrow and promises to be an exciting third installment to the award-winning franchise.
GeForce gamers today can get ready for a great Day 1 experience with BioShock Infinite by upgrading to our new GeForce 314.22 Game Ready drivers. These drivers are Microsoft WHQL-certified and available for download on GeForce.com.
Our software engineers have been working with Irrational Games over the past two years to optimize BioShock Infinite for GeForce users and, as a result, these drivers offer game-changing performance increases of up to 41 percent.
Also, with a single click in GeForce Experience, gamers can optimize the image quality in BioShock Infinite and have it instantly tuned to the capability of their PC’s hardware.
GeForce 314.22 drivers also offer several other significant performance increases in other current games. For more details, refer to the release highlights on the driver download pages and read the GeForce driver article on GeForce.com.
GeForce 314.22 Highlights
Delivers GeForce Game Ready experience for BioShock Infinite:
- Up to 41% faster performance
- Optimal game settings with GeForce Experience
- Microsoft WHQL-certified
Increases gaming performance in other popular titles:
- Up to 60% faster in Tomb Raider
- Up to 23% faster in Sniper Elite V2
- Up to 13% faster in Sleeping Dogs
- Adds new SLI and 3D Vision profiles for upcoming games.
Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2013 - 01:21 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: tomb raider, tressfx, gaming
Tomb Raider is as divisive a game as Halo, either you love the series or can't understand why people are interested in it at all. As is usual, [H]ard|OCP put the gaming considerations aside to take a look at the technology showcased in the game as well as finding the settings which provide the best gaming experience on several different single and dual GPU systems. Those who want to experience AMD's new TressFX feature will be glad to hear that you can enable that setting even on a GTX 660Ti. As far as general performance, high end card owners will be able to use Super Sample AA while others will have to content themselves with FXAA, for resolutions over 1080p you are going to want a pair of GPUs as single GPU solutions struggled to meet even 1080p with high or ultimate settings. Read on to see how your system will perform and discover which side of the fence [H] is on when it comes to Lara Croft.
"Tomb Raider is the first game to sport AMD's new TressFX feature. This DX11 effect creates a new sense of realism in-game with each strand of Lara's hair reacting to her movement and environmental features like wind and rain. Crystal Dynamics has worked hard to advance our expectations as gamers and enthusiasts alike!"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Waaagh-Face: Slitherine Announce Turn-Based 40K Game @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- StarCraft II Heart Of The Swarm @ Kitguru
- 150 Mods at Once (And a $1,500 PC) Give Skyrim a Next-Gen Makeover @ Wired
- Firaxis Talk Us Through Civilization V’s Brave New World @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Crysis 3 @ eTeknix
- SimCity Tested, Benchmarked @ Techspot
- Battlefield 4 unveiling teased for 27th March @ HEXUS
- Duke Is Out: Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Gears of War: Judgement @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2013 - 01:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, Crysis 3
While the actual content of the game might not live up to the original the hardware requirements certainly do, [H]ard|OCP reports that "no single-GPU video card tested today able to play it at the highest in-game settings at 2560x1600". For those gaming at a mere 1080p you will be able to max out settings on AMD or NVIDIA's top single GPU cards. It is not just about the resolution, this iteration of CryEngine features four different anti-aliasing technologies to choose from, each with their own benefits and costs. Check out [H]'s review to see the screenshots of the various settings as well as estimating the kind of performance your system can achieve.
"We have a full-look at Crysis 3 with the new patch that just released. We take it through its paces on eight GPU configurations. We find out what's playable, how it performs apples-to-apples. We look at all the AA modes compared in performance and image quality, and we find out if this game is a step forward for PC gaming, or a step backward."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Shadowrun Returns Alpha Footage @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Starcraft II Heart of The Swarm Launch Event @ Bjorn3D
- SimCity Is Inherently Broken, Let’s Not Let This Go @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Tomb Raider Tested, Benchmarked @ Techspot
- Hitman: Absolution Benchmarked with AMD EyeFinity at 5760 x 1080 @ Tweaktown
- Mass Effect 3 Citadel: The Journey’s End @ Techgage
- Tomb Raider Benchmarked with AMD EyeFinity at 5760 x 1080 @ Tweaktown
- Tomb Raider @ Kitguru
- Finally, A BioShock Infinite Trailer! @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Tomb Raider Xbox 360 @ Tweaktown
- Humble Bundle with Android 5 Review @ OCC
- 5 of The Best Free-to-Play Games Available on Android @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2013 - 05:26 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, steam, pc gaming, gaming, console, big picture mode
In talking with the BBC, Valve CEO Gabe Newell revealed several details regarding the company’s upcoming Steam Box gaming PC. The console competitor will go up against Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 successor. So far we know that the Steam Box will utilize Valve’s Steam distribution service and its Big Picture Mode user interface. Valve will be manufacturing its own reference design, but third parties will also be allowed to construct Steam Boxes that will tap into Valve’s gaming library. Xi3 in particular looks to be at least one of the likely Steam Box partners to produce hardware.
Newell indicated that Valve would be sending prototype devices to customers within “the next three to four months.” The designs are not yet finalized, however, as evidenced by Newell’s statement that the prototypes would be used to gather feedback, and Valve is still working on balancing heat, noise, and performance.
“We're working with partners trying to nail down how fast we can make it.” - Gabe Newell in an interview with BBC before receiving an award for Portal 2.
Further, Valve has not yet determined exactly what it wants the controller to be. It will reportedly be shipping several different prototype controllers along with the Steam Box PCs. One area that Newell is particularly interesting in is in gathering bio-metric data -- such as heart rate -- and using that data to change the game experience for the gamer. This would be one area that Valve could focus on and have an advantage over other consoles. As a fully-fledged PC, the Steam Box could tap into existing bio-metrics technology and easily have the horsepower to effectively parse the bio-feedback. I can only think of a few situations in which such data would be useful (horror games, party/dancing/exercise games), but I do see it as being at least as beneficial as the Kinect was/is to the Xbox.
With that said, we still do not know much about the Steam Box. Much like the PS4, we still do not know what the actual hardware will look like (though we have at least been shown the PS4 controller). Pricing is also one of the major unknowns, and BBC reporter Leo Kelion quoted an industry analyst Lewis Ward (IDC) as noting that Valve will likely not be able to subsidize the hardware nearly as much as the other major console players (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) are able to. The Steam Box is inevitably going to be priced more in like with PCs than with consoles, as a result. On the other hand, gamers that buy a Steam Box can look forward to getting games that are much cheaper than the console equivalents. Give Steam Box gamers a couple of Steam holiday sales and they will easily make up the price difference!
What do you expect the Steam Box to be, and will it finally take PC gaming to the masses?