Six Months Later: Jason Holtman Leaves Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2014 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, microsoft

PC Gamer reports that Jason Holtman has left Microsoft after being there just six months. Little is known about his departure, or even what he accomplished at Microsoft beyond his "Head of PC Gaming and Entertainment Strategy" title, but the publication hopes to have more details soon.

It does appear as if he chose to leave.

Valve-Jason-Holtman-610x407.jpg

Image Credit: Microsoft-News

Prior to joining Microsoft, Holtman served as the director of business development for seven years at Valve. He is credited with a lot of Steam's success, from content deals to their wildly successful "Summer Sales".

We do not really have much beyond that, yet.

Readers, how do you think this reflect Microsoft's stance toward PC gaming?

Source: PC Gamer

Activision Working With NVIDIA to Enhance the PC Version of Call of Duty: Ghosts

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2013 - 10:05 AM |
Tagged: txaa, PhysX, pc gaming, nvidia, infinity ward, call fo duty, Activision

Activision recently announced a technical partnership with NVIDIA at GamesCom. The two companies are "working hand in hand" on the development of the PC version of Call of Duty: Ghosts to implement the kinds of graphical features and technologies that PC gamers expect of a new triple-A title.

According to a NVIDIA Geforce blog post, NVIDIA developers are working on-site at Infinity Ward. NVIDIA is helping Infinity Ward to enhance the Sub D tessellation, displacement mapping, and HDR lighting. Additionally, the NVIDIA engineers are working to integrate support for the company's TXAA (temporal anti-aliasing) and PhysX technologies. The Infinity Ward game developers are also taking advantage of the APEX Turbulence PhysX tool-kit to enable realistic, physics-based, smoke clouds that will react with the environment and player actions.

Activision Infinity Ward Call Of Duty Ghosts.jpg

Activision and Infinity Ward are also enabling the use of dedicated multiplayer servers for Call of Duty: Ghosts. In addition, Call of Duty Elite will be available for the PC version of the game including a smartphone app that allows stat tracking and profile management from a mobile device.

The Geforce blog claims that the PC version is intended to be the definitive CoD: Ghosts version, which is always nice to see. More graphical effects and features are being worked on, but IW and NVIDIA are keeping them under wraps for now.

The PC is in a really good place right now between console cycles where developers are finally starting to realize the power of the PC and what it is able to offer in terms of graphical performance and control options. PC-first development is something that I have been wanting to see for a long time (develop for the PC and port to consoles rather than the other way around), and now that PC versions are once again getting due credit and development attention (and resources), along with the upcoming consoles being based on x86 hardware... these types of technical partnerships where the PC version is being positioned as the best version are hopefully the start of a trend that will see a new surge in PC gaming!

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA Working Closely With Ubisoft To Enhance Fall PC Games

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2013 - 08:53 AM |
Tagged: ubisoft, txaa, pc gaming, nvidia, kepler

NVIDIA announced on Wednesday that it had formed an alliance with Ubisoft to collaborate on Ubisoft's upcoming PC game titles (coming this fall). The alliance involves the NVIDIA Developer Technology Team "working closely" with the Ubisoft development studio on several new PC titles. The team NVIDIA-enhanced PC games covered by this new alliance includes Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag, and Watch Dogs.

NVIDIA Senior VP of Content and Technology Tony Tamasi stated in a press release that "Ubisoft understands that PC gamers demand a truly elite experience -- the best resolutions, the smoothest frame rates and the latest gaming breakthroughs." NVIDIA has reportedly worked with the Ubisoft game developers throughout the entire development process to incorporate the company's graphics technologies.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist.jpg

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the first game to come out of the alliance. It features PC gaming graphics technologies such as DirectX 11 effects, parallax mapping, ambient occlusion, tessellation, HBAO+ (horizon-based ambient occlusion), and NVIDIA's own TXAA and Surround support. The latest Splinter Cell game also comes bundled with NVIDIA graphics cards.

NVIDIA did not go into details on what sort of extra PC-centric graphics features the other Ubisoft games will have, but it should be similar to those in Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Curiously, the press release makes no mention of NVIDIA's The Way It's Meant To Be Played program, though it seems that this alliance may even go a step further than that in terms of development team interaction and shared resources.

Source: NVIDIA

Microsoft Hires Jason Holtman (ex-Valve) for PC Gaming.

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2013 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, valve, xbox, pc gaming

A half of a year, almost to the day, passed since Valve removed two dozen employees. Jason Holtman, then Director of Business for Valve, was among those released. Despite the flat-by-design corporate structure, with even game credits listed alphabetically versus title and department, Holtman is considered key to the success of Steam.

And now Microsoft acquired him.

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Games for Windows has not been a success. Microsoft Game Studios, and even Microsoft Hardware, had high respect in the PC gaming industry with extremely popular franchises and lines of peripherals. Their image has since regressed far enough for Microsoft to give up, two years ago, and roll Games for Windows into the Xbox brand.

As Microsoft fell, Valve climbed. Steam, largely credited to efforts by Jason Holtman, distributes games for basically every major publisher. It has a respected position on the hard drive of gamers which is an enviable feat. The Windows Store has not received any uptake. Microsoft feels the need to change that and, it would seem by accepting the job, Holtman believes he can accomplish that.

I do wonder how Microsoft will be influenced by this hire. The major concern with Windows Store is its certification process and I doubt anything will change on that front. I expect the hope is his contributions to publisher relationships but he might also, on the side, induce change in visible ways.

Source: VR-Zone
Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Quakecon

The Densest 2.5 Hours Imaginable

John Carmack again kicked off this year's Quakecon with an extended technical discussion about nearly every topic bouncing around his head.  These speeches are somewhat legendary for the depth of discussion on what are often esoteric topics, but they typically expose some very important sea changes in the industry, both in terms of hardware and software.  John was a bit more organized and succinct this year by keeping things in check with some 300 lines of discussion that he thought would be interesting for us.
 
Next Generation Consoles
 
John cut to the chase and started off the discussion about the upcoming generation of consoles.  John was both happy and sad that we are moving to a new generation of products.  He feels that they really have a good handle on the optimizations of the previous generation of consoles to really extract every ounce of performance and create some interesting content.  The advantages of a new generation of consoles are very obvious, and that is particularly exciting for John.
 
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The two major consoles are very, very similar.  There are of course differences between the two, but the basis for the two are very much the same.  As we well know, the two consoles feature APUs designed by AMD and share a lot of similarities.  The Sony hardware is a bit more robust and has more memory bandwidth, but when all is said and done, the similarities outweigh the differences by a large margin.  John mentioned that this was very good for AMD, as they are still in second place in terms of performance from current architectures as compared to Intel and their world class process technology.
 
Some years back there was a thought that Intel would in fact take over the next generation of consoles.  Larrabee was an interesting architecture in that it melded x86 CPUs with robust vector units in a high speed fabric on a chip.  With their prowess in process technology, this seemed a logical move for the console makers.  Time has passed, and Intel did not execute on Larrabee as many had expected.  While the technology has been implemented in the current Xeon Phi product, it has never hit the consumer world.
 

AMD Announces Several New Gaming Evolved Titles

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2013 - 02:45 AM |
Tagged: thief, pc gaming, gaming evolved, gaming, amd

Earlier this week, AMD announced that several new PC games would be part of the company's Gaming Evolved program. First revealed in 2010, AMD's Gaming Evolved program is the equivalent to NVIDIA's The Way It's Meant To Be Played initiative. The AMD program works with game developers to implement new technologies and to optimize games for AMD hardware.

amdgamingevolved.jpg

Specifically, AMD has announced that it has worked with developers under its Gaming Evolved program to develop the following games:

  • Castlevania: Lord of Shadow
  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect
  • Pirate 101
  • Shadow of the Eternals
  • Thief

These games are upcoming PC games, some of which will be available as soon as next month while others are still in-development. AMD worked with MercuryStream, Square Enix, N-Fusion Interactive, Airtight Games, KingsIsle Entertainment, Precursor Games, and Eidos Montreal respectively.

Screenshots of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Left) and Thief (Right). Click on image for a larger version.

These next generation games should work well on AMD platforms as a result of the developers' partnership with AMD. Hopefully that means next-generation visuals and games that will work best on the PC with all the usual customization and graphics settings options that PC gamers expect.

Source: AMD

PC Leading The Crew of Next Generation Platforms

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2013 - 11:39 PM |
Tagged: ps4, pc gaming, amd

The last ten years were somewhat hostile to PC gamers: DRM forced us into an arms race with companies we were trying to purchase services from; our versions were ported often late and carelessly; and we were told, repetitively, that our money was not relevant to real business-or-something-like-that. The rise of Steam aside, the whole last generation became the mullet of video game history...

Console in the front; PC in the back; console in the front; PC in the back.

The next generation at least demonstrates promise for our platform as we cross the blurry divide. Small and Indie studios push new concepts, and even new business models, almost always with the PC forefront. The growth of mobile, whether cutting into computer sales or not, are often designed abstracted from native hardware which allow software like Bluestacks to include the PC and pave the way toward development in completely open, abstract platforms, such as standards-compliant web browsers.

crew-map.jpg

We will also experience a rebirth, due in part to AMD and their role in the upcoming console architectures, of games developed first on the PC and later ported to other platforms. The Crew, developed by Ubisoft Reflections, is the sum of a large repository of Windows, finally 64-bit, Direct3D 11 source code. From there, the PlayStation 4 version is derived.

Eurogamer goes into remarkable depth about certain aspects of the PS4 architecture and the process of bringing a PC title to its transistors. For instance, we were confused during Sony's announcement about the logistics of attaching Jaguar cores to a unified GDDR5-based memory system. The Eurogamer column, which draws reference to an earlier ExtremeTech editorial suggesting three possible block diagrams describing PS4 memory interfaces, more-than-suggests asymmetry between access rates across the alleged two four-core CPU modules, GPU, and system memory.

ps4-architecture.png

Image Credit, ExtremeTech via Eurogamer

As an interesting side-note: it turns out that just 6 cores will be available to developers, the remaining two are reserved for operating system usage.

It is good to see the PC leading the charge, genuinely this time, into what video games will eventually become. Feel free to market to other platforms as there will be no discrimination against your interested from my direction. So long as my dollars are respected when I decide their best use is for your product, I will be a satisfied customer.

Source: Eurogamer

L4D2 Beta Coming to Steam For Linux This Week

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2013 - 04:25 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam for linux, steam, pc gaming, linux, l4d2, beta

Users of Valve’s Steam for Linux client will be getting access to the beta version of Left 4 Dead 2 later this week. The L4D2 beta will come with the new Enhanced Mutation System (EMS), which adds advanced scripting options to the multiplayer zombie survival game.

In fact, all Left 4 Dead owners will get access to the new beta release via the Steam client (not just the Linux platform) for free. The beta will appear in the all games list as a separate download from the main Left 4 Dead 2 game. It will allow beta players to connect to beta servers and other L4D2 beta users.

L4D2 Beta with EMS.jpg

The EMS system is the biggest addition to the beta currently. It gives developers access to custom script logic as well as custom spawn points and control entities. New maps, characters, and weapons are beyond the scope of the EMS, however.

Interested gamers should keep an eye on their Steam games list as well as the Left 4 Dead blog.

Source: L4D.com

GDC 2013: AMD Announces Sky Graphics Cards to Accelerate Cloud Gaming

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 27, 2013 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: sky graphics, sky 900, RapidFire, radeon sky, pc gaming, GDC, cloud gaming, ciinow, amd

AMD is making a new push into cloud gaming with a new series of Radeon graphics cards called Sky. The new cards feature a (mysterious) technology called "RapidFire" that allegedly provides "highly efficient and responsive game streaming" from servers to your various computing devices (tablets, PCs, Smart TVs) over the Internet. At this year's Games Developers Conference (GDC), the company announced that it is working with a number of existing cloud gaming companies to provide hardware and drivers to reduce latency.

AMD Sky Graphics In The Cloud.jpg

AMD is working with Otoy, G-Cluster, Ubitus, and CiiNow. CiiNow in particular was heavily discussed by AMD, and can reportedly provide lower latency than cloud gaming competitor Gaikai. AMD Sky is, in many ways, similar in scope to NVIDIA's GRID technology which was announced last year and shown off at GTC last week. Obviously, that has given NVIDIA a head start, but it is difficult to say how AMD's technology will stack up as the company is not yet providing any specifics. Joystiq was able to obtain information on the high-end Radeon Sky graphics card, however (that's something at least...). The Sky 900 reportedly features 3,584 stream processors, 6GB of GDDR5 RAM, and 480 GB/s of bandwidth. Further, AMD has indicated that the new Radeon Sky cards will be based on the company's Graphics Core Next architecture.

  Sky 900 Radeon 7970
Stream Processors 3,584 2,048
Memory 6GB 3GB
Memory Bandwidth 480GB/s 264GB/s

I think it is safe to assume that the Sky cards will be sold to other cloud gaming companies. They will not be consumer cards, and AMD is not going to get into the cloud gaming business itself. Beyond that, AMD's Sky cloud gaming initiative is still a mystery. Hopefully more details will filter out between now and the AMD Fusion Developer Summit this summer.

Source: Joystiq

Xi3's SFF PISTON Gaming Console Now Available for Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2013 - 09:06 PM |
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.

Xi3 PISTON.jpg

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.

Source: Xi3