Valve Adds Permanent Deletion of Specific Games to Steam

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: steam, pc gaming

I'm not sure how useful this is, but Valve has added the ability to remove a game from your Steam account through their customer support website. When you log into Steam with your web browser, or select “Steam Support” from the Steam Client's Help menu, you can select a game and see its available options. One is “I want to permanently remove this game from my account.”

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I don't exactly know all of the specifics for will happen when you do this, but it sounds like you will need to repurchase the title if you change your mind. This is probably most useful for free little experiences, like Portal Story: Mel or Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, which you've completed and don't want cluttering your Steam library.

On the other hand, users at NeoGAF, who (of course) broke this story, are concerned that it will be abused by trolls who phish accounts. Not only can they sell off their items, they can delete all of their games just because. I would hope that Valve has methods to track deleted games, even just for a limited time, in extreme cases.

On the other hand, a service like GoG could benefit from this feature. Since everything is DRM free, it could provide a transaction and let the user delete the record after they purchase it, rather than flaunt it on a public profile as Steam sort-of does. In that case, deleting the record wouldn't destroy the content -- just place the burden on the user to back-up.

Source: NeoGAF

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist Released for Free

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, free

Free games are a welcome trend. Sometimes they are older games that were re-released or otherwise used for promotion. You can also find many interesting prototypes after a popular game jam ends and the contestants leave their work on OneDrive or Google Drive.

This game is apparently designed to promote the future works of a new game studio. One of the co-creators of “The Stanley Parable” founded “Crows Crows Crows”. Their first game is now available for free on a few services, although I naturally just got it from Steam because why not.

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It's interesting because it's basically a 15-minute short film, only in a “walking simulator” format. It's limited, though. Most of the enjoyment of “The Stanley Parable” was in seeing how your small choices had comically huge effects. Carefully following the narrator's instructions gave you a peaceful ending, and deviating made the story devolve in some absurdly disproportional way. There was even a part of a level's collision that was disabled to troll players trying to glitch outside the path, greeting them with a message for the sole purpose of saying “Nope. You didn't trick me.”

The new game, “Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist” has no such choices. This is disappointing if you were expecting a smaller The Stanley Parable. Instead, you basically get the equivalent of a single The Stanley Parable ending, which you basically need to follow. The only choices that I found is to pick up a few items, listen to a few tapes, and inaction.

It's cute though, and it was a good use of my time.

Source: Steam

Shadow Complex Remastered Released for PC... Free

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2015 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: shadow complex, pc gaming, epic games, chair games

At the Video Game Awards, Epic Games announced that the Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) title, Shadow Complex, has been remastered for the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Moreover, it is available on the Epic Games Launcher for free. Some sites are reporting that it's only free for a limited time, but one of the community managers at Epic Games said that it was, in fact, free forever. If you're interested, open the Epic Games launcher and download it so it's available to play whenever you get a handful of hours free. No rush, though.

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While it's been about six years since I played it, Shadow Complex was fun. Chair Games set out to make a Metroid-like side-scroller (apart from a couple of sections) with secrets and items that could only be accessed by backtracking with later equipment. The story was fine.

Shadow Complex Remastered has fairly light system requirements, too.

Minimum:

  • Windows 7 / Windows 8.x / Windows 10
  • Intel Core 2 Duo (or AMD Equivalent)
  • 2GB System RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 7800 / AMD Radeon HD 4600 / Intel HD 4000
  • 512MB Video RAM
  • DirectX 9.0c

Recommended:

  • Windows 7 / Windows 8.x / Windows 10
  • Intel Core i5 / AMD A4 APU
  • 4GB System RAM
  • NVIDIA GT 540 / AMD Radeon HD 5550
  • 1GB Video RAM
  • DirectX 11

Of course, while you've downloaded the Epic Games Luancher, you might also consider downloading Unreal Tournament. Also, if you're a creative type, Unreal Engine 4 is available for free on the launcher too (although royalties are due if you start making money with it).

Source: Chair Games

PC Gaming Services Want Your Black Friday Money Too

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2015 - 11:22 PM |
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.

Too soon?

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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.

Fallout 4 PC Screenshots Leaked (1080p Ultra)

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 03:32 PM |
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.

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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.

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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).

Source: NeoGAF

Another Video About the Early Days of PC Audio

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 09:22 PM |
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.

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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.

Source: Beep

Awesome Games Done Quick 2016 List Announced

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
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.

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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.

Just Delivered: Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2015 - 10:02 PM |
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.

microsoft-2015-xbox-elite-controller-top.jpg

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.

Batman: Arkham Knight Being Re-Released on PC October 28

Subject: General Tech | October 24, 2015 - 10:54 PM |
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.

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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.

"The 8-Bit Guy" Discusses Game Audio

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2015 - 02:34 PM |
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.

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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.

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See the source and demo at my GitHub

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.