Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2011 - 11:00 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox, PC, gaming, ea, dice, bf3, battlefield 3
Battlefield 3 is nearing its October 25th release date and information about each platform's release is starting to pour in. One notable piece of information concerns the optional hard drive install for the Xbox 360 version of Battlefield 3. We reported earlier that the FPS would come on two DVDs for the Xbox 360, and a BF3 producer had been quoted in stating that the DVDs could be installed to the system to enable "optional high resolution textures." At the time, I had assumed that the optional install would merely boost the (already) HD (high definition) image; however, according to Shack News the game will be only standard definition without the hard drive installation.
The PC will always have HD resolutions available, assuming your rig can handle it.
Executive producer Partick Bach explains that Battlefield 3 is based around a streaming texture engine where the terrain, textures, and content are all streamed in, and is a new way of doing things on the console (though not the gaming industry as a whole). Unfortunately, it looks like the concern many gamers had in regards to the Xbox 360's DVD drive not being able to stream high quality textures fast enough have been realized. Both the PC and the Playstation 3 on the other hand, are able to stream the necessary HD textures from the hard drive (PC) and Blu-Ray disc (PS3).
Mr. Bach further explains that because there are so many Xbox 360s with either no hard drives or (nearly useless) 4 GB drives, the company had to develop the Xbox version such that even a system with no hard drive could at least play the game, even at the expense of image quality. "You could call it a 'standard-def' version for the 360 if you don't have a hard-drive." What is still unclear is what exactly he means by standard definition. Whether that means the game will be limited to a 480p resolution without the optional hard drive installation or high definition (720p+) resolutions with relatively lower resolution textures is not certain (though likely the later rather than the former, if I had to guess).
What this means for Xbox 360 gamers, in the end, is that the game will be quite a bit more expensive than previously thought if they want the full experience after factoring in the cost of an (outrageously priced) Microsoft hard drive. Are you planning on buying the Xbox version?
Subject: General Tech | October 7, 2011 - 10:23 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming, caspian, bf3, beta, battlefield 3
The Battlefield 3 open beta is almost over; however, the full experience of a 64 player map with vehicles has not been accessible to the general public. Until now, that is. EA has announced that the once password protected Caspian map will be available this weekend to stress test the servers. To give you an idea of the map, PC Perspective was able to get onto one of the Caspian servers during our live stream.
The EA representative noted that the beta may be prone to crashes and network issues, and that they are (likely) not indicative of the final product. They are currently experiencing a bug where users may be kicked from the server with a message indicating it was due to an administrator's actions. The representative noted that the message does not mean that the user was kicked by an administrator but rather was due to being dropped from the server (due to network issues). Starting Friday afternoon, PC players will be able to log onto the Caspian maps, which will be available until the end of the beta on Monday, October 10th.
Have you tried out the Caspian Battlefield 3 beta map yet?
Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2011 - 10:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: rage, PC, id, gaming, carmack
Many of the PC Perspective staff members have been testing out RAGE this week, and were among the countless fans that had been waiting impatiently for id software’s RAGE (to be released) since the first Mega-texture screenshots surfaced of the first person shooter a few years ago. As the game finally unlocked (on steam) on Monday night; however, the game’s enemies were not the only thing catching fire. The Steam Users Forum started lighting up with numerous complaints, bug issues, crashes, and graphical woes and rolled into an uncontrollable wildfire.
id Software's RAGE, when it's working
The major issues of RAGE include the trusty “CTD,” a crash to desktop, after the initial cut scene in the campaign as you emerge into the game world, screen tearing, mouse super sensitivity, and texture pop-in. According to Maximum PC, Bethesda has stated that this error is caused when using AMD’s Battlefield 3 Beta performance drivers. I experienced this issue myself when testing out RAGE, and switching to these RAGE performance drivers fixed that particular crashing issue. There are also reports of crashing during other parts of the game; however, they are more varied than the previous crash issue and do not manifest themselves on all systems. On the mouse super sensitivity front, using a mouse on in game dialog menus can be problematic as well. The mouse sensitivity seems to skyrocket, making it difficult to hit the “accept” and “decline” options compared to the mouse speed when using guns or walking around in the game world. The same physical motions seem to be greatly magnified on the in-game menus, as shown in the video below.
The remaining major issues do not necessarily affect gameplay; however, they can be distracting and certainly can interrupt the immersion factor of the game. Specifically, there is currently a texture streaming problem such that when the player turns too fast (or at all in severe cases), the textures of the game “pop in.” What this means is that the game looks blurry and missing detail until the engine is able to “catch up” and present the gamer with the (correctly) detailed textures. Bethesda indicates that this texture lag/pop in problem is due moreso to driver issues than problems with the engine. It remains to be seen whether updated drivers will be able to fully fix the texture streaming issue, however. The video below shows the texture pop in issue quite well.
The texture issue is not only a PC issue, however. Giantbomb noted in their Quick Look of RAGE that the Xbox 360 version of RAGE also experiences the texture pop in issue, though not to the extent of the PC. Beyond texture pop in, the PC version also succumbed to screen tearing issues. As an example, when entering the Wasted Garage level, the left two-thirds of my screen became filled almost completely with a solid yellow color where the image was torn in multiple places. This image below is of another user’s screen tearing experience which was less severe than mine but still enough to cause problems in playing the game.
GameFront is having RAGE screen tearing issues as well.
Finally, RAGE does not play nicely with FRAPS, which saw a massive slowdown in framerate when recording (much more than the normal dip experienced in other games). (UPDATE: the new AMD driver (updated Rage Performance Driver) seems to have fixed this for the most part.)
Some of these graphical issues may be attributable to the automatically adjusting nature of the game’s graphical settings as the game may not be able to cache/reuse textures it has recently loaded if the engine determines that the graphical settings need to be lower or higher, resulting in the engine needing to reload textures, and thus having what feels like lagging textures even in areas you’ve recently looked around. The extent to which it happens though is likely caused by a number of factors, that many hope a patch will mitigate. On the other hand, Bethesda is indicating that the texture issue is not due to the engine but rather is due to graphics drivers.
Either way, gamers are not happy with RAGE and are waiting impatiently for drivers and/or a patch to fix the various issues, whichever the case may be. It may be prudent to take a "wait and see" approach to the game before jumping in, if you haven't already purchased it of course. Are you running RAGE right now, and if so what sorts of issues (and hopefully solutions) have you run into? Vent your rage about RAGE in the comments below!
Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2011 - 06:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming, beta, battlefield 3
PC Perspective’s own Scott Michaud has been eagerly awaiting the launch of Battlefield 3, and was kind enough to keep me in the loop on the important aspects of the upcoming multi-platform multiplayer shooter. One aspect that many gamers (including myself) worldwide are likely salivating over is the imminent Battlefield 3 beta launch next week. Specifically, the Battlefield 3 beta will be available for download starting September 29th, 2011 for the general public and the 27th for those who pre-ordered or purchased the Limited/Tier 1 edition of Medal Of Honor.
The beta will be available on all major platforms, including PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3. In order to play the beta on the Xbox 360 and PS3, the game will show up automatically in the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network respectively. On the PC side of things, gamers will need to download EA’s Origin client first, and then download the Battlefield 3 beta from the free games section of the Origin client.
The open beta will last until October 10th, and until then there are no caps or time limits regarding how far you can rank up or how often you can play. The map in question will be the “Op: Metro” map from the Alpha. Unfortunately, any ranks or stats you gain from the beta will not carry over into the final game.
While many gamers will be playing the beta on Xbox 360 and PS3, there will likely be a good number of gamers who will play it on the PC for the PC experience. During the EuroGamer expo, DICE General Manager Karl Magnusson spoke to NVIDIA, and stated that 1.5 million copies of Battlefield 3 had been pre-ordered and that DICE was happy to be back on the PC. Further, he stated that they are enjoying the feedback from gamers and whether it is the visuals, audio, or game play that they are enjoying, “all the feedback we get is really freakin’ cool.”
The minimum (and recommended) system requirements for the PC are as follows:
|OS||Windows Vista SP2 32 bit||Windows 7 64 bit|
|Processor||2 GHz dual core||quad core|
|Memory (RAM)||2 GB||4 GB|
|Hard Drive||20 GB||20 GB|
|Graphics (GPU)||DirectX 10 with 512mb RAM||DirectX 11 with 1GB RAM|
|Sound||DirectX compatible||DirectX compatible|
|Peripherals||Keyboard, mouse, DVD-ROM||Keyboard, mouse, DVD-ROM|
Have you been following the development of Battlefield 3 and are you looking forward to the open beta? Let us know in the comments.
Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2011 - 07:50 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb, PC, mic, headsets, gaming, corsair, analog, 7.1, 5.1
Following in the success of the company’s HS1 gaming headset, Corsair recently unveiled three new gaming headsets in its new Vengeance lineup of gaming peripherals. The new arrivals include the Vengeance 1100, 1300, and 1500 audio peripherals, of which two support USB connections.
The Vengeance 1100 is the smallest of the three gaming headsets, and features a behind-the-head headphone design and boom microphone extending from the left speaker. Using 40mm drivers, the headphones are capable of a claimed 94 decibel dynamic range, and is one of Corsairs lightest headsets. The microphone is of the unidirectional variety and features noise cancellation technology. Connectivity options include two 3.5mm audio jacks at the end of the 1.8 meter cable for headphone and microphone or a single USB connection with the included adapter cable.
The Vengeance 1300 headset with dual 3.5mm analog connections.
While lightweight and open ear headphones have their place, they are not for everyone. Thankfully, Corsair have also introduced two larger designs dubbed the Vengeance 1300 and 1500 to suit the needs of gamers who prefer (whether out of desire for isolated sound or to appease the significant other) the around-the-ears circumaural design. The 1300 supports connecting to high end sound cards with 3.5mm audio connections for both sound and the noise canceling cardioid microphone while the Vengeance 1500 connects to the computer using USB for both sound and microphone. Both models feature 50mm drivers, 95 decibel dynamic range, 3 meter cables, noise canceling microphones, and support for positional audio. Further, the Vengeance 1300 uses X-Fi CMSS-3D while the 1500 headset supports 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby Headphone positional audio. The larger designs are bound to be relatively heavy compared to the smaller Vengeance 1100; however, the closed ear design should provide cleaner audio while blocking out background noise.
As far as pricing and availability are concerned, the new gaming headsets and other Vengeance gaming peripherals are slated for an October 2011 launch worldwide. The Vengeance 1100 weights in at an attractive $39 US MSRP while the larger 1300 and 1500 have a suggested retail price of $79 US and $99 USD respectively.
Do you game with headsets, or are you more of the crank-the-home-theater-speakers-to-11 (and immerse the whole neighborhood in your Battlefield match) kind of person? I have somewhat recently moved to a pair of headphones for gaming and it definitely has its benefits (including the aforementioned spouse acceptance factor...). How do you think the new Corsair headsets will stack up to the competition? Let us know in the comments!
Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2011 - 02:06 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming, deus ex 3
Yesterday the news broke that GameStop had opened new copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution PC games, and removed OnLive coupons before selling the games as new. Today, Ars Technica reports that the brick and mortar game retailer has responded to the backlash by taking their ball and going home (as the expression goes) by pulling all copies of Deus Ex: Human Revolution from store shelves.
According to a screenshot of an email posted by GameLife (shown below), GameStop has sent out an email to employees to pull all Regular PC Edition of Deus EX: Human Revolution, and place them in storage to be returned to the vendor in the future. The company further stated that the reason for pulling the copies of the game is due to the included OnLive coupon competing with their own Spawn Labs Gaming Division. “We are returning all copies of the PC regular edition to the vendor in agreement with Square Enix.”
Fortunately, any customers who had the game reserved will still be able to purchase the game if they still wished to. Returns of the game will also be honored for those with a receipt.
While this move has been supported (publicly) by Square Enix, it is sure to only further enrage customers, and result in bad PR. The issue for most customers is not the removal of the free OnLive coupon included in the package in and of itself, but the fact that GameStop represented these games and new and unopened to customers. When customers found out that their new games, which they paid a new premium price for, were actually opened (and had materials removed) prior to them purchasing them many were understandably displeased over the mis-communication.
While pulling all copies is well within the companies right, as is removing the coupons (so long as the games are not then advertised and sold as new and unopened) it is not going to help calm the waters. It is hardly my place to suggest to the company how they conduct opertions; however, as a consumer I feel that they should know their practice and recent reactions are a bit unnvering. Do you think GameStop is handling the situation correctly? What would you like to see the company do to assuage its customers?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 3, 2011 - 01:21 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SoC, qualcomm, PC, mobile, gaming, console
Mobile gaming has seen a relatively sharp rise in popularity in recent years thanks to the rise of powerful smartphones and personal media players like the iPod Touch and its accompanying App Store. Mobile networks, powerful System On A Chips (SoC) that are capable of 3D graphics, lighting, and physics, and a large catalog of easy to download and play games have created an environment where people actually want to play games on their mobile devices. Many people now indulge themselves in quick Angry Birds sessions while in long lines, on work breaks, or wherever they have time when out and about.
One area where mobile devices have not caught on; however, is at home. Mobile devices face stiff competition from game consoles and the PC. That competition has not stopped numerous manufacturers from trying to implement an all-in-one mobile console that was portable and easy to plug into a larger display when at home. Everything from cheap controllers with logic inside that allows them to play old arcade games to smart phones with HDMI outputs costing hundreds of dollars have passed through the hands of consumers; however, the mobile console has yet to overcome the sheer mind share of consumers who prefer dedicated game consoles and their PCs.
According to Anandtech, Qualcomm, a popular manufacturer of ARM SoC for smart phones has announced its plans to pursue that vision of an integrated, mobile console. They claim that the increased power provided by next generation SoC technology will allow tablets and smartphones to deliver graphics that are better than those of current dedicated game consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360. Due to Sony and Microsoft wanting to extend the lives of consoles well into the future, mobile technology may well surpass it. The company "is committed to delivering both the hardware and the software support needed to bring developers to these mobile platforms," according to Anandtech.
Qualcomm wants to bring portable consoles to the masses powered by their SoCs and backed by their software. The tablets and smartphones would be able to connect to displays using HDMI or wireless technology in addition to supporting controllers (or acting as a controller itself). Further, the games library will be the culmination of software from all platforms and will rival the graphical prowess of the current consoles. Qualcomm hopes that a large library and capable hardware will be enough to entice consumers to the idea of a portable console becoming their all-in-one gaming device.
Portable consoles are similar to tablets and 3D television in that there is a major push for it every few years, a few devices come out, and then it dies off to be reborn again a few years later. Whether Qualcomm is able to pull off the plans for a portable console remains to be seen; however, the device is bound to catch on at some point. At the very least, this is certainly not the last time we will hear about the portable console. You can see more of Qualcomms plans here.
What do you believe is holding back the portable console from catching on with consumers? Is it a good idea in the first place?
If you happened to open up the store page in the Steam client or glance at their website, you may have noticed that Steam has made a moderately big announcement. Valve's digital download service now supports Free-to-Play games, which are games that are free to download and play at the basic level; however aesthetic and other upgrades can be purchased via so-called "microtransactions". F2P games on still will be free to download and will not require a credit card to do so.
Steam seems excited about the new F2P games.
At launch, the service is featuring five new Free-to-Play games including Champions Online: Free For All, Spiral Knights, Global Agenda: Free Agent, Forsaken World, and Alliance of Valiant Arms. According to the F2P Steam FAQ, games in which you wish to purchase content will be done through the use of your Steam Wallet. Further, for any Steam account that does not have at least one purchased (non Free-to-Play) game or a funded Steam Wallet will be considered a "Limited User" and will be restricted in the community features that it is able to access. Specifically, limited users can create community groups, be added as friends, and chat with other users; however, they are not able to send out friend invitations or start chat sessions (a non-limited user must initiate chat).
In adding the new genre to its repertoire, Steam will greatly increase its digital games library and add more options for PC gamers. One game that I have not played in some time that I would love to see make its way onto the new Free-to-Play Steam selection is a FPS game called Crossfire. That game was a good example of Free-To-Play done right as even accounts that did not spend a dime where able to stay competitive. Is there a Free-to-Play game that you would like to see Steam feature, and do you think F2P will add value to the service? Let us know in the comments.
Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2011 - 12:01 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC, gaming
You may remember versions of Far Cry and Psi-Ops being released a few years ago that were free-to-play and supported by advertisements. In the case of Psi-Ops, at the start of the game you were presented with a 30 second video ad, after which you were able to jump right into the full game. Far Cry also saw a similar ad-supported version for a time that made the game free.
GamersGate is looking to continue in a similar manner with their upcoming FreeGames service. This new service, which is set to release this fall, will allow gamers to “download, install, and play up to five titles at once” for free. These games will be preceded by a short advertisement before the game launches. Gamers will further have the option to add additional game slots, possibly for a monthly subscription fee according to the FreeGames website.
GamersGate CEO has been quoted by Tom’s Hardware as saying “the new service offers the best of both worlds for both gamers and publishers.” Further, he believes that the ad-supported free-to-play model will be a great way for gamers to test out a new game before they buy the non-ad-supported version as well as a cheap way to catch up on game series. The company expects that the majority of its current catalog will be available on the free-to-play ad-supported service in the fall. The website currently has a countdown timer to the launch as well as a beta sign up via email option.
GamersGate, and its FreeGames service’s popularity will largely depend on the catalog, ad relevance and ad length. If GamersGate can provide a wide selection of new PC and Mac games as legally free-to-play, I suspect that it will see a good amount of adoption and will likely replace the once popular but now rare demo. On the other hand, the long-term success of the service will depend on publisher cooperation and DRM. The service will need a fair bit of stable DRM in order to dissuade casual pirates from stripping out the ads, because if this happens than ad and game publishers will pull back from the service and legal gamers will lose out.
You can find more information by following PC Perspective as well as the FreeGames website itself. Do you feel that the service can succeed? Would you use it?
Xi3, the makers of a series of small form factor module based computers, is launching a Chrome OS based desktop computer which they have dubbed the ChromiumPC. The ChromiumPC will be based on similar "module" technology to that in their current Xi3 computers. They have broken the traditional motherboard down into three parts and fitted them into an aluminum chasis measuring "4.0- x 3.656- x 3.656-inches." The PC will use either a single or dual core 64-bit, x86 based CPU. The device is slated for a July 4th, 2011 release, and will be generally available in the second half of the year.
If this small form factor PC is priced right, it may prove to be a popular option for schools, businesses, and people wanting a second PC. Are you interested in desktop PCs running cloud based operating systems?