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.
Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 08:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, humble bundle
Humble Bundle is an organization that sells games for charity. It started with a service that let users pay pretty much whatever they want for DRM-free titles, and let them choose how much went to the developers, the organization, and the selected charities of the moment. They have branches out since then, sometimes with praise, sometimes with concerned murmors.
Humble Bundle mumble, if you will.
Now they have created a subscription service. Basically, on the first Friday of every month, subscribers will receive the game that is promoted. In other words, it is a service that acts similar to what we're used to, except that you don't know what you're getting ahead of time, you cannot select how much you pay for it, and you cannot choose the proceed distribution. Unless it leads to a unique palette of games that are decidedly better than the typical bundles, I cannot see how this is anything more than a restrictive subset for the sake of it.
Still, that doesn't mean said subset isn't worth your money (be careful of the double-negative). If it is, then you can subscribe now and pick up Legend of Grimrock 2. The title is apparently available on Steam for $24, so this would be a half-price deal if it was something that you were interesting in buying.
I guess that's a decent first impression.
Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 07:32 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: starcraft 2, starcraft, pc gaming, esports
I'm not really seeing anyone pick up this news in English outside of StarCraft II forums, so I'm not sure whether this news will be fresh, or completely irrelevant to anyone's interests. Either way, GOM eXP was one of the leading broadcasters of StarCraft tournaments in South Korea. They operated GSL, which was one of the three Blizzard-endorsed leagues for StarCraft II.
Image Credit: Wolf Shröder via Twitter
They have just shut down, but their GSL tournament will not.
afreecaTV, a video streaming service, has bought out the tournament. For viewers, this means that high quality, 1080p streams will be available for free. Previously, GOM was a bit strict about forcing Twitch subscriptions for anything other than Low quality. The quality was bad enough that you often couldn't even read the on-screen text, such as how many units or resources each player has.
Beyond hosting the 2016 GSL tournament, they will also have a couple of StarCraft II show matches and even a StarCraft: Brood War league. I wonder how the original StarCraft holds up for viewers after we have gotten used to the sequel's updated graphics. Hmm.
Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2015 - 07:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: street fighter v, pc gaming, consolitis, capcom
For the longest time, game developers have been complaining about 32-bit limits for memory usage but were timid to cut off support for 32-bit OSes. It is one thing to tell users to drop a few extra sticks into their PC, as a handful of gigabytes have been pretty cheap for a while, but this barrier also required an OS upgrade, and many gamers were clinging to XP or fearful of driver problems. The problem has mostly been resolved for PC gamers now, and current consoles have crossed the threshold themselves with 8GB of memory (for Microsoft and Sony).
This brings us to Street Fighter V. I am not quite sure that a game like this inherently requires so much memory given the relatively few unique objects that fighting games tend to display. It apparently will be though, according to Capcom. Their official specifications claim that the game will not even launch without 6GB of memory installed, and 8GB is appreciated if it is available.
Otherwise, the game requires a dual-core (four thread) Haswell i3 at 3.6 GHz and an NVIDIA GTX 480 or higher. This is relatively high, slightly higher than Battlefield 3 in fact, but not too bad for today's situation. For the record, Capcom recommends a Devil's Canyon i5 with a GTX 960, but they naturally don't say what that corresponds to. They also don't provide AMD or Intel GPU equivalents, but I don't think even Iris Pro is equivalent so that probably just leaves Radeon users doing trial and error. Thankfully, Steam offers refunds just for that kind of thing.
They also want to say that Street Fighter V supports Steamworks. Expected, but nice.
Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming, movies
Valve has been dipping their toes into distributing non-games on Steam for quite a while. Gabe Newell at LinuxCon 2013 said that they are dissatisfied with families needing to manage multiple content silos, and they would like everything to be accessible everywhere. This can be interpreted as a “situation: there are now 15 competing standards” environment, but it seems to be more in the context of “I have all my content on my PC, why can't I bring it into my own living room?”
We later saw this manifest as Steam In-Home Streaming for PC games. For videos, according to the Streaming Video on Steam FAQ, “In-home streaming is not currently supported”. Still, this seems like it will be their method of getting this content out to arbitrary displays in the future. Also, I have to wonder how Valve's historical practice of distributing purchases made from other stores will play into this whole situation.
For now, Valve has been adding more and more content to their service. It started with a few documentaries and low-budget films, including a video from the publisher of the game Hotline Miami. Now we are seeing the Mad Max franchise including the summer film, Mad Max: Fury Road available on the service. Steam doesn't need to have every movie right now if it wants to survive. They don't have to justify their actions to a board. They do, and they experiment with how it works and why.
Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2015 - 09:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: linux, pc gaming, steam
While the number of games doesn't exactly mean much in isolation, a large amount of them have been making their way to Linux recently. Valve's first-party library is an obvious addition, as they have been jaded with Windows since 8.x scared just about anyone interested in back catalog support with their “Desktop as an App” attempts to isolate the Win32 APIs. Other developers have been following suit, especially since engines are being designed cross-platform as of late.
Milestones can be interesting, though. In this case, Steam crossed the 1,500 mark in games for Linux that are hosted on its service. Some equate this to “there exists 1500 games for Linux”, which isn't quite right, but the distribution platform is definitely a behemoth in the industry. It is the default way to purchase many new titles, and is a Linux host for ARK: Survival Evolved and Shadow of Mordor.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone who listed what the 1500th title was. Sorry!
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 07:29 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, xbox, pc gaming
The Xbox App for Windows 10 was touted as a major feature before launch, but you barely hear about it after. I will occasionally get a notification that I can record game footage, or a little pop-up after pressing the center button of my 360 controller. Other than that, I barely notice that it exists. A lot of the functionality is useful to manage their Xbox One or Xbox Live Gamertag (do they even call it that anymore?) but PC gamers barely have a reason to open it. Granted, I expect Microsoft hopes that will change after enough Xbox-aware games for Windows 10 hit market. It's early days.
Some currently use it though, and it has just received an update for them. Version 9.9.16003.00000 has added four new features, two of which implement automatic updates for friends and their activity feeds. The button to refresh is still present, which is always nice in case something goes wrong, but it shouldn't need to be pressed as the app should be pulling notifications from Microsoft's servers on its own.
The other two features are more interesting.
The Xbox App now supports “Console text entry”. This feature allows Xbox One users to type into the console's search boxes “and more” using Windows 10 devices, and, more importantly, their keyboards or keypads. A chat pad is being launched for the console soon, which plugs into the controller to give it a QWERTY keyboard, but supporting laptops is definitely nice.
The last feature is “Game progress comparison”. In the Achievements panel, you are able to click on the “compare” button to line up your achievement history next to your friends. As it turns out, Ryan has a higher score than me in Halo 3. That just won't do.
Microsoft has also announced that they will be providing a Beta app in the future, which will arrive later this month. You can pick it up from the Windows Store when it becomes available, if you want.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 03:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ea, Star Wars, Star Wars Battlefront, pc gaming
EA has announced a beta for Star Wars: Battlefront, which will apparently be open for everyone. This will take place in “early October” and contain three game modes, each of the two known ones with a single map. I expect that the third, unknown mode, Drop Zone, will also come with its own map, but it could technically reuse Hoth or Tatooine from Walker Assault and Survival, respectively.
If you are not a fan of online gaming, then EA is supporting single-player Survival mode. You will apparently require an internet connection, but it is unclear whether you need to have it active to play the offline mode, while you play it. Squadron Fighter mode will not be available in the beta, but Walker Assault has a bit of aircraft play, so you should get a taste of the controls (if you can ever find an available vehicle).
EA has also mentioned their Star Wars Battlefront Companion app. This will not be some kind of Commander Mode. It will apparently have a card game and social component. It will be available during the beta as a website, but the iOS and Android app will be “prior to the release of Star Wars Battlefront”.
The game will come out on November 17th, while the beta will be available in early October.