Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2015 - 06:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: GTA5, GTAV, pc gaming
Triple-A games with a long shelf life, regardless of how pretty they are, will probably get a graphics mod on the PC. A ridiculous number of them exist for Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto IV, which make them (arguably at the very least) look better than titles a whole generation ahead of them. Sometimes this raises controversy, as seen in the Watch_Dogs launch fiasco, but most of the time it is just hobbyists remaking the wheel (sometimes literally) to take advantage of newer hardware.
Toddyhancer, which is apparently a mod for Grand Theft Auto V, already looks impressive. It is not yet released, and the developer claims that it has a significant performance impact of ~10-30 FPS, which would be more useful in units of frame time (ms), but it makes its point. The above video seems to focus on shader effects to give a film feel.
Other screenshots exist, but it is difficult to figure out everything that has, and has not, been changed. The developer claims, “Don't go bananaz! its just Reshade Shaders, ENB series, simple tweaks and some tonemapping with class!”. Still, check it out if interested.
Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2015 - 07:07 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming
While just the first episode has been released, The iBook Guy is creating a series of videos that explains the limitations of “oldschool” graphics. When you have just a handful of kilobytes of RAM, it is impossible to even store a full-quality frame buffer that the TV requires, which means that something will need to be thrown away.
The first video talks about adding color to frames with tiling and sprites. Using just ~1K of RAM, software developers were able to define background colors on a tile-by-tile basis. This allowed “black and white” to be an arbitrary “foreground and background” combination, which could even vary from one tile to the next as long as each tile only used two colors. This concept is expanded on to allow four colors per tile at a slight reduction in resolution. The video then goes into sprites, and how they are used for movable actors atop the tiles.
Image Credit: The iBook Guy
I don't know when Part 2 will be published, but it seems like they release about once per week.
It's Basically a Function Call for GPUs
Mantle, Vulkan, and DirectX 12 all claim to reduce overhead and provide a staggering increase in “draw calls”. As mentioned in the previous editorial, loading graphics card with tasks will take a drastic change in these new APIs. With DirectX 10 and earlier, applications would assign attributes to (what it is told is) the global state of the graphics card. After everything is configured and bound, one of a few “draw” functions is called, which queues the task in the graphics driver as a “draw call”.
While this suggests that just a single graphics device is to be defined, which we also mentioned in the previous article, it also implies that one thread needs to be the authority. This limitation was known about for a while, and it contributed to the meme that consoles can squeeze all the performance they have, but PCs are “too high level” for that. Microsoft tried to combat this with “Deferred Contexts” in DirectX 11. This feature allows virtual, shadow states to be loaded from secondary threads, which can be appended to the global state, whole. It was a compromise between each thread being able to create its own commands, and the legacy decision to have a single, global state for the GPU.
Some developers experienced gains, while others lost a bit. It didn't live up to expectations.
The paradigm used to load graphics cards is the problem. It doesn't make sense anymore. A developer might not want to draw a primitive with every poke of the GPU. At times, they might want to shove a workload of simple linear algebra through it, while other requests could simply be pushing memory around to set up a later task (or to read the result of a previous one). More importantly, any thread could want to do this to any graphics device.
The new graphics APIs allow developers to submit their tasks quicker and smarter, and it allows the drivers to schedule compatible tasks better, even simultaneously. In fact, the driver's job has been massively simplified altogether. When we tested 3DMark back in March, two interesting things were revealed:
- Both AMD and NVIDIA are only a two-digit percentage of draw call performance apart
- Both AMD and NVIDIA saw an order of magnitude increase in draw calls
Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 06:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, wow, blizzard
Shortly after Blizzard has released their financial results, they announced “Legion”, a new expansion pack for World of Warcraft. They are arriving more rapidly than they have in the past. The amount of time between Mists of Pandaria's release and Warlords of Draenor's announcement is a little more than a year and a month. A year later, Warlords of Draenor was released and now, nine months later, Legion was announced. I expect that the stream of content is to either stimulate subscriptions or, less likely, finish the narrative before the game fades out.
Image via PC Gamer
Before we get to the expansion, we'll briefly mention those financial results. In May, Blizzard reported that, while Warlords of Draenor pushed the subscription count to over 10 million, it fell back down to about 7.1 million by the end of the quarter. This is a loss of about 29%. This quarter saw another loss of about 1.5 million subscribers, from 7.1 million to 5.6 million. This is a loss of about 27%. This is a fairly steady, exponential loss of a little more than 25% every 3 months, which is fairly quick. This also means that Draenor was enough to offset about six months. Not much more to say about that -- I just find it interesting.
As for Legion, it will be a fairly sizable boost in content. The level cap has been increased to 110, which will hopefully include new skills and armor leading up to it. A new class, Demon Hunter, has also been added. You will not need to level them up from 1, and they will be capable as either DPS or tank. Of course, new raids will be included. Blizzard seems to have wanted to highlight dungeons, however. The way it was described to PC Gamer makes it sound like they want them to be more interesting as set pieces, with story and an interesting environment.
No pricing or availability information, but we'll probably hear a lot at Blizzcon.
Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, mount & blade ii, mount & blade
TaleWorlds has a cult classic franchise with Mount & Blade. Warband, the follow-up to the first Mount & Blade but didn't earn its own number, placed right behind Skyrim in Ars Technica's Steam Gauge for “Most Played Older Releases (2012 or Before) on Steam”. It is my most played game by far with over 800 hours recorded, albeit over the course of several years. I also participated in (and even hosted) organized events on a regular basis throughout that entire period, too.
The new game looks quite interesting, though. While the previous game's mods were more popular than its default content, its Siege mode drew a lot of attention. Armies were able to push siege towers against fortresses and slowly overtake the defenders -- attackers had unlimited respawns, but defenders did not. Eventually they would take a flag. Mods even played with destructible walls and buildings to force the attackers to create their own ways in, and the defenders to adapt in response. It seems like this version is expanding upon that with battering rams, catapults, and other team-controlled devices. While this is not as effective as a Napoleonic-era cannon, this might lead to the same effect.
They also flaunt time and weather rendering effects, and board games. Still no release date (or even publisher). This information is not even on their website yet. They're not known for rushing, at least.
Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2015 - 10:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, esports, valve, DOTA, DOTA 2, asus, ASUS ROG
Each year, Valve Software puts on a giant DOTA2 tournament where teams compete for literally millions of dollars. As of this writing, the prize pool currently sits at $17.9 million USD, which is divided between a 6.5 million USD first place prize, down to just under $54,000 USD for 13th through 16th place. Granted, these are per-team prizes, so individual players and their organizations will split the earnings from there how they see fit. It will take place between August 3rd and end with the Grand Finals on August 8th.
Last year, the event was broadcast on ESPN3. While it does not seem to be mentioned on the official website, although the online streaming WatchESPN is listed, ESPN's calendar has The International on its ESPN3 calendar for all six days. That said, you could always watch it online like you obviously watch every episode of the PC Perspective podcast. Right? Live and participating in the chat?
You can also check out an ASUS RoG contest at the JoinDOTA website. The top prize is an ROG G751 Gaming Laptop, a mouse with mousepad, and t-shirt. Second prize gets the mouse, mousepad, and t-shirt. Third and fourth place gets a different mouse (without a mousepad) and a t-shirt. Fifth place has been there, done that, but only gets a t-shirt.
And for the rest of us, maybe someone will snap a picture of a Valve workstation while they're aren't looking... again.
Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: square enix, pc gaming, mac os x, final fantasy xiv, final fantasy
When Final Fantasy 14 launched on the PC, it was plagued with bugs and gameplay problems. It led to Square basically remaking the game and relaunching it as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The relaunch was highly successful, as Square learned from their inexperience with the PC. They recently decided to expand to the Mac alongside the release of their new expansion pack, Heavensward, for the PC. The published system requirements for the Mac version were later retracted by Square... and you can see where this is going.
They have since temporarily pulled game sales and offered full refunds. The game will go back on sale when they update “information on the product, system requirements, and screen resolution”.
The Mac will get the MMO, but Noctis time. Ignis wasn't in the cards.
I guess you could say they'll get on it Prompto? Yes I know I'm punning the wrong title...
In the forum post, Square lists a few reasons for the error. First, a handful of customers were accidentally provided a pre-release build ahead of the official launch, due to a “miscommunication with retailers”. As mentioned though, the official release had performance issues and Square blames that on OpenGL and how it tied into their project. They claim that Final Fantasy 14 developed for Mac OSX's implementation of OpenGL would perform 30% worse than Microsoft's DirectX counterpart. They quickly clarify that OpenGL is not 30% slower than DirectX, but that factor applies to OpenGL on Mac, DirectX on Windows, and specifically for Final Fantasy 14.
An interesting note is that Square claims to have outlined several system requirement candidates, and was waiting on QA and final engineering to “select the correct one”. Yikes. Talking about software coming in hot, they did not even know their target hardware until into the shipping process, if you take their word at face value.
Square intends to ship a functional Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn to OSX at some point.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 24, 2015 - 10:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: batman, wb games, consolitis, gameworks, pc gaming, nvidia, amd
Over the last few days, the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight has been receiving a lot of flak. Sites like PC Gamer were unable to review the game because they allege that Warner Brothers would not provide pre-release copies to journalists except for the PS4 version. This is often met with cynicism that can be akin to throwing darts in an unlit room with the assumption that a dartboard is in there somewhere. Other times, it is validated.
Whether or not the lack of PC review copies was related, the consensus is that Arkham Knight is a broken game. After posting a troubleshooting guide on the forums to help users choose the appropriate settings, WB Games has pulled the plug and suspended the game's sales on Steam until the issues are patched.
TotalBiscuit weighs in on the issues with his latest "Port Report".
No-one seems to be talking about what the issue is. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't have the game myself so I cannot look and speculate based on debug information (which they probably disabled from the released game anyway). I could wildly speculate about DX11 limits from the number of elements on screen, but that is not based on any actual numbers. They could be really good at instancing and other tricks to keep the chunks of work being sent to the GPU as large as possible. I don't know. Whatever the issue is, it sounds pretty bad.
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 | May 15, 2015 - 11:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming
The PC gaming utility, Raptr, is normally used to optimize in-game settings, chat and socialize, and record game footage. It also keeps track of game-hours and aggregates them into a list once per month, which makes it one of the few sources for this type of data on the PC. We were late on it last month, which means that another was posted just a week later.
April marks the release of Grand Theft Auto V for the PC. It went live on the 14th and, despite only counting for half of the month, ended up at 4th place. Next month's survey will tell us whether the post-release drop-off was countered by counting Grand Theft Auto for a full month, which is double what they have now. It was just 0.17% of global play time behind CS:GO. Despite an error on the graph, it knocked DOTA 2 down to fifth, and Diablo III down to sixth. In fact, just about everything below Grand Theft Auto V dropped at least one rank.
Only three games actually gained places this month: ArcheAge, Warframe, and Spider Solitaire. Yes, that game is now the 19th most played, as tracked by Raptr. You could sort-of say that Hearthstone gained a rank by not losing one, but you would be wrong. Why would you say that?
League of Legends dropped less than a percent of total play time, settling in at about 21%. This is just about on target for the game, which proves that not even Rockstar can keep people from having a Riot.