Square Enix Interested in Final Fantasy PC

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2014 - 02:40 AM |
Tagged: square enix, pc gaming, final fantasy

Update: Fixed a couple of points as per the comments.

Final Fantasy might be returning to the PC as its publisher, Square Enix, grows more interested in the platform. Final Fantasy VII and VIII were both available on the PC within a few months of their original PlayStation releases. Since then, Final Fantasy was basically non-existent on the platform, beyond the two MMO releases (XI and XIV).

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Within the last year, both titles were re-released on Steam to decent sales. Yoshinori Kitase, producer for the franchise, told Eurogamer that this popularity has grabbed their attention. He acknowledged that the developer does not have a lot of experience with creating a good PC experience, but they could be very interested in the future.

It's an early stage for us. We haven't got an awful lot of experience in this field. So when we have more know-how and experience in this market we would be very interested.

Kitase also noted that, by ignoring the PC platform, their games are completely off the table in several markets. He did not mention any markets by name, but China only recently reopened its borders to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo after banning them in 2000. In Brazil, a PS4 launched at a little over 3x the US price, after converting into USD, because of tax and other distribution issues.

Also, while not mentioned in the article, Square Enix has been very active in porting their back-catalog to mobile platforms. This seems to be a time of re-evaluation for the company. While they have had recent troubles with projecting sales figures, mostly with Eidos releases, they have at least dodged Games for Windows Live in favor of Steam.

Also, ending with a pun, Final Fantasy VII supports Cloud Saves. Hehehe.

Source: Eurogamer

Oh PCMag, Console vs PC

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: xbox, xbone, ps4, Playstation, pc gaming

PCMag, your source for Apple and gaming console coverage (I joke), wrote up an editorial about purchasing a gaming console. Honestly, they should have titled it, "How to Buy a Game Device" since they also cover the NVIDIA SHIELD and other options.

The entire Console vs PC debate bothers me, though. Neither side handles it well.

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I will start by highlighting problems with the PC side, before you stop reading. Everyone says you can assemble your own gaming PC to save a little money. Yes, that is true and it is unique to the platform. The problem is that the public vision then becomes, "You must assemble and maintain your own gaming PC".

No.

No. No. No.

Some people prefer the support system provided by the gaming consoles. If it bricks, which some of them do a lot, you can call up the manufacturer for a replacement in a few weeks. The same could be absolutely true for a gaming PC. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a computer from a system builder, ranging from Dell to Puget Systems.

The point of gaming PC is that you do not need to. You can also deal with a small business. For Canadians, if you purchase all of your hardware through NCIX, you can add $50 to your order for them to ship your parts as a fully assembled PC, with Windows installed (if purchased). You also get a one-year warranty. The downside is that you lose your ability to pick-and-choose components from other retailers and you cannot reuse your old stuff. Unfortunately, I do not believe NCIX USA offers this. Some local stores may offer similar benefits, though. One around my area assembled for free.

The benefits of the PC is always choice. You can assemble it yourself (or with a friend). You can have a console-like experience with a system builder. You can also have something in-between with small businesses. It is your choice.

Most importantly, your choice of manufacturer does not restrict your choice in content.

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As for the consoles, I cannot find a rock-solid argument that will always be better on them. If you are thinking about purchasing one, the available content should sway your decision. Microsoft will be the place to get "Halo". Sony will be the place to get "The Last of Us". Nintendo will be the place to get "Mario". Your money should go where the content you want is. That, and wherever your friends play.

But, of course, then you are what made the content exclusive.

Note: Obviously the PC has issues with proprietary platforms, too. Unlike the consoles, it could also be a temporary issue. The PC business model does not depend upon Windows. If it remains a sufficient platform? Great. If not, we have multiple options which range from Linux/SteamOS to Web Standards for someone to develop a timeless classic on.

Source: PCMag

Six Months Later: Jason Holtman Leaves Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2014 - 09:10 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.

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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 - 01:05 PM |
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.

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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 - 11:53 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.

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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 - 08:09 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 - 05:45 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.

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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 20, 2013 - 02:39 AM |
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.

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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.

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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 - 07:25 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