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.
Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2015 - 04:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: starcraft 2, pc gaming, legacy of the void, blizzard
It has been more than five years since Wings of Liberty was released, which itself was a long-awaited continuation of the StarCraft story. The first game and its expansion had their narrative cut into six episodes, three each, that were released all at once. The three episodes of StarCraft II, on the other hand, were decoupled into the original game and two follow-ups. The third and final one, which focuses on the Protoss, will arrive on November 10th, 2015.
Representatives from Blizzard have said, multiple times, that Legacy of the Void will wrap up the story arc for the main characters. The story may continue, but we should get a solid conclusion. The release date announcement came with a cinematic trailer, above, showing the Protoss holding off against the Zerg. There doesn't seem to be much story in it at first glance, but Blizzard is quite subtle about meanings. Some questions, like who exactly they are fighting and why, might be addressed in the story.
So that's what it looks like to them...
This announcement aligned with the finals of WCS Season 3, which is the last season before Blizzcon. Apart from the two sister tournaments in South Korea, GSL and SSL, there is just one Blizzard-counted tournament remaining, which is DreamHack Open in Stockholm, Sweden. WCS Season 3 was won by Lilbow, a Protoss player from France, which propels him from 18th place to
at most 8th Update Sept 13th @ 8:40pm ET (Part of the points were already accounted for apparently): 13th, minus a few positions once everyone's points are accounted for. Since the top 16 make it to the year's global finals at Blizzcon, this is enough buffer room to guarantee a spot at the tournament.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: square enix, pc gaming, final fantasy v, final fantasy
While the upcoming Final Fantasy XV release is still slated as console-only, SquareEnix has been bringing a substantial portion of their back catalog to Windows. The company seems to be slowly marching the Super Nintendo era toward Steam, just recently announcing that Final Fantasy V will join III and IV on September 24th. This leaves just Final Fantasy VI missing from that era, at least from the main series, which suggests that it will join the party (pun intended) in a little while.
A few other titles are still in radar silence. The entire NES era, Final Fantasy I and II, is no-where to be found... unless you count the former's re-release on Windows phone (although, even if you do, a case for “no-where to be found” could still be made). From there, everything has made it to the PC until you reach the aforementioned Final Fantasy VI.
From the PlayStation generation, both VII and VIII launched on the PC back in the late 90s, and both have been re-released on Steam, so those are fine. The only missing title is Final Fantasy IX, which is currently an original PlayStation exclusive. It has not been remade for any other system, period. This is a bit concerning, because it means that a team cannot be set aside to bulk-port a chunk of titles. Every port from that generation stemmed from their PC versions, so this would (at least I expect) need to be a special case. It never had one. Would they think the effort's worth it?
Next is the PlayStation 2 generation. This is a PC dead zone, apart from Final Fantasy XI, the MMO, which launched on Windows alongside Sony's console. We need ports of Final Fantasy X, X-2, and XII for the platform to be complete. Interestingly, the PS4 has just received an HD remaster of X and X-2, but XII is stuck on the PS2 (at least for now).
This brings us to the PS3 generation. The only thing we're waiting for is Lightning's Return, which is the third installment of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. It has been announced and, in fact, should have already launched several months ago. SquareEnix has confirmed a delay, re-affirmed that the PC will get it, but a firm date has not been set. Still, I'll count it as “PC”. Final Fantasy XIV was an MMO that launched, a few times, on Windows.
Lastly, Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy VII Remake may or may not come to the PC. Who knows?
So, ignoring the offshoots, we are currently missing: Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2, and Final Fantasy XII (plus the future titles). It is funny how SquareEnix seems to be grouping the ports by generation. While it looks fairly random from the Steam search page, the gaps make sense when you consider the work required to port a game. Ressurrecting Final Fantasy IX is a completely different process than VI.
Final Fantasy V will come to Steam on September 24th. Some may argue with the price, but you can wait for it to come on sale if that is an issue. You've waited long enough already.
Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming
A few weeks ago, The iBookGuy published a video that explained how early computers struggled to draw information to their displays because they lacked enough RAM to hold a single frame buffer, even without application code. After highlighting the problem, he explained the Color Cells method of bypassing it, which breaks the screen up into eight-by-eight chunks that each can contain at most two colors (or four if you double horizontal pixels).
This video explains the Apple II and Atari 2600 graphics, which did color images a little different. Both systems operated on a single line at a time, rather than an eight-by-eight grid, although their specific methods were very different -- Apples and oranges if you will. The former was quite similar to Color Cells, except that it did seven (sub-)pixels in a single byte with an extra bit to allow for six possible colors. The Atari, on the other hand, didn't store a frame buffer at all. Instead, the CPU continually dumped the current scanned pixel to the monitor as it needed it, which seriously eats into game code time. He then mentioned CPU-driven graphics in the Commodore 64, which typically used the Color Cell method, but noted that basically no game used it because it wasn't worth the CPU time.
Image Credit: The iBookGuy
Apparently the next video in the series, whenever that will be, will deal with audio.