Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2015 - 11:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: uplay, steam, pc gaming, origin, GOG
While everyone's in a turkey and gravy coma, retailers are hoping that you'll feel a bit browsy with your drowsy. Black Friday deals are popping up everywhere; some are good, but some are token at best... including the Black Friday sale on tokens at the local arcade.
Anyway, four (edit: Fixed typo) of the largest PC gaming services are Steam, UPLAY, Origin, and GOG.com. Steam is predictably the largest sale. It's another “Exploration Sale,” which is another way of saying, “Here's a few examples of great deals; browse for crap you like. You might find something cheaper. I dunno.” Speaking of a few examples, Elite Dangerous is now just a third of its price. Grand Theft Auto V is now reduced too, although it's not yet in the impulse buy territory. Call of Duty Black Ops III also received a little chop in price, which is unusual for the franchise. You'll probably want to browse Steam in general, especially if there's a game that you've been eying but couldn't justify buying yet.
UPlay's sale is a bit more... weird. If you played Tropico 5 but put it down before buying the DLC, the pack of boosters is now 75% off ($11 CDN here). Surprisingly, the vast majority of sales have nothing to do with Ubisoft titles, and the three exceptions are from 2013 / 2014.
Origin is a bit more rounded in terms of old and new titles. FIFA 16, released just this fall, is about 40% off where I am. Tomb Raider is in the mid-single digits of dollars. Battlefield Hardline is about $10. Do not buy The Witcher 3 here though, if the Canadian prices carry over to the US. The sale even extends back to Command & Conquer: The Ultimate Collection, NHL 09, and Medal of Honor: Airborne. It just keeps scrolling.
Now for GOG. This is, again, a sale that you should probably browse. If you were interested in The Witcher 3, purchasing it from GOG instead of Steam will get you the same sale but DRM-free. Its new price is $29.99 USD, unless you're Canadian. We get it for $23.49 USD at GOG or $29.99 CDN at Steam. I guess they feel like giving a slightly larger discount to compensate for the lack of turkey-goggles. Browse the “On Sale” tab in the bottom right before you leave too.
Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 03:32 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, fallout 4, bethesda
Someone on NeoGAF got their hands on Fallout 4 screenshots. These ones are from the PC, captured at 1080p with supposedly Ultra settings. I can believe it.
Image Credit: RoboPlato on NeoGAF
Not much to be said about these, apart from “go to NeoGAF to see the rest of them”. From the spoilers side of things, near the bottom of the page, there's an image that lists a bunch of perks. It's small enough that you cannot read it unless you right-click and “view image”, so don't worry about accidentally seeing it. Otherwise, there isn't really any spoilers on that page, although I didn't check the other ones. Be careful if you start browsing the other pages of the thread.
Image Credit: RoboPlato on NeoGAF
(See the rest of the screenshots there)
They posted their system specs, but it's kind-of irrelevant. We don't know how old their build is.
Fallout 4 launches on Tuesday (the same day as StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void -- which is irrelevant to this post, but I want you all to know my pain).
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 09:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sound blaster 16, Sound Blaster, pc gaming, Creative, audio, ad lib
About two weeks ago, we highlighted a video by “The 8-Bit Guy” about the earliest computer audio implementations. It focused on the engineering side, how a series of channels, made up of square waves, triangles waves, noise, and occasionally PCM recordings, could be mixed to generate sound.
This video discusses a similar era from a slightly different perspective. Beep is a documentary video and book series that started on Kickstarter. This segment is an interview with Rich Heimlich, the person behind the company Top Star. They did third-party QA for video game companies. He was approached by Martin Prevel, a professor at Université Laval in Quebec, who had the idea of an add-in sound card. It used the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip, which you might remember from The 8-Bit Guy's video.
The interview delves into the more business aspects of the industry, though. For example, one of Ad Lib's biggest issues was that PCs did not have a lot of room for expansion. It was difficult to convince the consumer to give up a whole ISA add-in slot for audio. Heimlich remembers a strong consumer backlash against dedicated audio that they needed to overcome. Gamers needed to choose between sound, clock, storage, and so forth. Beyond that, the PC, with software like LOTUS 123, brought hardware that wasn't just considered “a toy” into the home. It brought a huge wave of hardware in, but it wasn't considered a serious gaming platform until titles like Myst came out for them.
At some point, Creative noticed this whole situation. They contacted Rich Heimlich and showed them the “Killer” (later “Sound Blaster”) card. The switch in power from Ad Lib to Creative was interesting, which Heimlich says had nothing to do with the digital audio feature, since that was not even used until two years after Creative surpassed Ad Lib in market share. He attributes it to the initial problem, which is a lack of add-in card real estate. The Sound Blaster had a GamePort, which let users justify filling that socket with both audio and a joystick port, which would be two sockets with Ad Lib's solution. It was also cheaper than the Ad Lib.
The interview goes on to discuss the Ad Lib vs Creative war to their next-generation product, Ad Lib Gold vs Sound Blaster 16. He alleges that, since Creative had better connections within Yamaha, they kept Ad Lib's card out of certification until Sound Blaster 16 was in the market. It then continues to talk about reverse-engineering “Sound Blaster-compatible” and so forth. It then continues for a while, even talking about OS/2 at the end of it.
It is definitely worth a view.
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming
Games Done Quick, a charity that speedruns games on video for donations, has just published their list of submissions for their upcoming session. The PC is well represented with its exclusive titles and ports from other platforms. Awesome Games Done Quick 2016 will take place in early January, from the 3rd to the 10th, and raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
The list of “green” games is quite diverse, from Mirror's Edge to Alien Swarm, Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, and Half Life 2. The previous event, Summer Games Done Quick 2015, supported Doctors Without Borders and brought in $1,233,844.10 USD. The Winter events tend to do a little better, though. Maybe this one can cross $2 million?
If you're interested, check out the list.
Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2015 - 10:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, pc gaming
The Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller launched yesterday, and mine arrived in the early afternoon by mail. It was not a review unit, I bought it at retail, but I intend to publish my thoughts on the device in the near future. I am currently thinking up tests and benchmarks to run it through. Be sure to look out for that. It will be told from the perspective of a PC gamer who does not own an Xbox One console, and who does not intend to get one.
I have been using it over the last two days, off and on, however. I must say, it is pretty solidly built from what I can tell. The thumb sticks rolls around with basically zero grinding sensation, and the D-Pad feels precise (although that will need to be actually tested). It does feel just a bit awkward for games that center on the D-Pad though, because my left thumb feels more natural somewhere between it, the left thumb stick, and the “view” (back) button. It is certainly better than a standard Xbox 360 gamepad for “16-bit” style games, but probably not a step-up from USB-based knock-off SNES controllers for enthusiasts who go for that sort of thing.
It's definitely the best offering that I've used for titles like Super Meat Boy, though... even as far back as Windows 98/XP era. Granted, I didn't dip too far into the niche companies.
So keep an eye out for our later review. It will probably be one of the few that exclusively focus on the PC, and was written by someone who could potentially see themselves buying one... because I did. A word of warning though -- the controller's firmware still cannot be updated without an Xbox One console (although the Xbox Accessories app to customize it is available for free in the Windows Store). I've reached out to Xbox PR asking for any update on that situation, and the answer will probably be a big part of the review.
Subject: General Tech | October 24, 2015 - 10:54 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: warner bros, steam, release, re-release, pc gaming, batman arkham knight
Four months after being pulled from sale due to performance woes, Batman: Arkham Knight is being re-released for PC (along with a new patch containing all of the fixes) on October 28.
Image credit: Warner Bros.
From the official statement:
“At 10 am PDT, Oct. 28th, Batman: Arkham Knight will be re-released for the PC platform. At the same time we’ll also be releasing a patch that brings the PC version fully up-to-date with content that has been released for console (with the exception of console exclusives).
This means that next week, all PC players will have access to Photo Mode, Big Head Mode, Batman: Arkham Asylum Batman Skin, and character selection in combat AR challenges.”
After such a terrible introduction and long absence after its unprecedented removal from sale on Steam, is there any chance Warner Bros. will still attempt to charge full price for the re-released game? Such a move might be considered controversial, but we will have to wait and see as pricing was not announced.
Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2015 - 02:34 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, audio
Over the last couple of months, we highlighted the work of The iBook Guy because it's very interesting. He also announced a rebrand to “The 8-Bit Guy” because he hasn't published an iBook video “in quite some time”. If you have been a long time follower of PC Perspective, you'll know that we have a history of changing our name to slightly less restrictive titles. Ryan initially named this site after the K7M motherboard, then Athlon motherboards in general, then AMD motherboards, then PC Perspective. I guess we shouldn't cover mobile or console teardowns...
Anywho... back to The 8-Bit Guy. This time, his video discusses how old PCs played (or, more frequently, synthesized) audio. He discusses the early, CPU-driven audio, which were quickly replaced by dedicated sound cards in the 1980s. They could drive audio waves that were either square, triangle, noise, or PCM (microphone-sampled). These four types were combined to make all of the music and sound effects of the time.
This brings us to today. He notes that, with today's modern computers having so much storage and RAM, we end up just mixing everything as an audio file and play that. This is where we can expand a little. Until around the Vista era, sound cards have been increasing in voice count. One of the last examples was the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi. This card implemented their EAX 5.0 standard, which allowed up to 128 voices in games like Battlefield 2, and that was about it. When Microsoft released Vista, they replaced the entire audio stack with a software-based one. They stated that sound card drivers were a giant cause of bluescreen errors, and thus almost everything was moved out of the kernel.
At around this time, voice limits were removed. They don't make sense anymore because mixing is no longer being done in hardware. Nowadays, even websites through Web Audio API can play thousands of sounds simultaneously, although that probably will sound terrible in practice.
Audio processing doesn't end here, though. Now that we can play as many sounds as we like, and can do so with complete software control over the PCM waves, the problem is shifted into an algorithmic one.
This is an area that I, personally, am interested in.
Earlier this year, I created a demo in WebCL that rendered 20,000 - 30,000 sounds on an Intel HD 4600 GPU, with stereo positioning and linear distance falloff, while the system's main NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 was busy drawing the WebGL scene. The future goal was to ray-trace (high frequency) and voxelize (low frequency) sound calls based on the environment, to simulate environmentally-accurate reverbs and echoes. Over the summer, I worked with a graduate student from Queen's University to offload audio in the Unity engine (I preferred Unreal). We have not yet introduced geometry.
At this year's Oculus Connect, Michael Abrash also mentioned that audio is interesting for VR, but that it needs to wait for more computational horsepower. A lot more. He also discussed HRTF, which is the current way of adding surround to stereo by measuring how an individual's ears modify sound depending on location. It gets worse if sounds are closer than a meter away, or the actual user's ears differ too much from the experiment subject.
Anyway, enough about me. The 8-Bit Guy's videos are interesting. Check them out.
Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2015 - 08:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, starcraft, blizzard, pc gaming, legacy of the void
And oh boy is it a big one. Turning on the Battle.net launcher automatically downloads about 14GB worth of StarCraft II code and content. The patch includes the new user interface that we reported on earlier, but it also opens the Whispers of Oblivion prequel campaign for Legacy of the Void to the masses, changes the file format of game content to CASC, which might explain the huge download, and gives the option of a 64-bit game executable, and more.
About the CASC format, it was introduced in Heroes of the Storm and Warlords of Draenor as a method of storing content. It should be faster, more error resistant, easier to patch, and easier to extend the functionality of. I'm not sure how this will affect modders, authorized or otherwise, but I'm guessing that Blizzard is happy to deprecate a 20 year-old format. I'm not sure if they're migrating the content from MPQ to CASC on the client machine, or just re-downloading the content in the new format, but a 14GB patch is doing something. Lastly, this new format and the 64-bit launcher might even allow for bigger games and mods. If anyone has any experience with modding Blizzard games, be sure to leave a note in the comments, even anonymously.
Legacy of the Void will arrive on November 10th.
Subject: Systems | October 5, 2015 - 07:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam os, steam machines, steam, pc gaming
According to SteamDB, Valve has struck deals with GameStop, GAME UK, and EB Canada to create “store within a store” areas in North American and UK locations. The article does not clarify how many of stores will receive this treatment. It does note that Steam Controller, Steam Link, and even Steam Machines will be sold from these outlets, which will give physical presence to Valve's console platform alongside the existing ones.
The thing about Valve is that, when they go silent, you can't tell whether they reconsidered their position, or they just are waiting for the right time to announce. They have been fairly vocal about Steam accessories, but the machines themselves have been pretty much radio silence for the better part of a year. There was basically nothing at CES 2015 after a big push in the prior year. The talk shifted to Steam Link, which was obviously part of their original intention but, due to the simultaneous lack of Steam Machine promotion, feels more like a replacement than an addition.
But, as said, that's tricky logic to use with Valve.
As a final note, I am curious about what the transaction entailed. From what I hear, purchasing retail space is pricey and difficult, but some retailers donate space for certain products and initiatives that they find intrinsic value in. Valve probably has a lot money, but they don't have Microsoft levels of cash. Whether Valve paid for the space, or the retailers donated it, is question that leads to two very different, but both very interesting in their own way, follow-ups. Hopefully we'll learn more, but we probably won't.
Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 06:24 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, ea, battlefront
So I'm reading PC Gamer and I see an article that says, “Star Wars Battlefront Will Not Use Microtransactions”. Given the previous few Battlefield games, this surprised me. Granted, these titles weren't particularly egregious in their use of payments. Everything (apart from expansion packs of course) could be achieved through a reasonable amount of play. That said, it takes a lot of restraint for a developer to not just ratchet the requirements further and further to widen their net, so I can see the problem.
Regardless, by the third paragraph I notice that the representative never actually said that they won't (according to the snippets that PC Gamer quoted). The phrase is simply, “not part of the core design of how it works”. Granted, I would expect that EA would poke PC Gamer to correct them if they did intend to release a game in about six weeks, so I feel like their interpretation is correct.
That doesn't change that, according to the quotes, the only thing they promised is for the currency system to be fully accessible without payments. I'm not fully convinced that it will only be accessible without payments, though.