Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2015 - 01:30 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: reverse-consolitis, PC, Nintendo, emulator, dolphin
Update: Fixed the title of "Pikmin". Accidentally wrote "Pikman".
Considering the recent Nintendo license requirements, I expect that their demonstrative YouTube videos will have a difficult time staying online. Regardless, if you are in a jurisdiction where this is legal, it is now possible to play some Gamecube-era games at 60 FPS (as well as 1080p) with an emulator PC.
The blog post at the Dolphin Emulator's website goes into the “hack” in detail. The main problem is that these games are tied to specific framerates, which will cause problems with sound processing and other, time-sensitive bits of code. I have actually been told that one of the most difficult aspects of bringing a console game to the PC (or restoring an old PC game) is touching the timing code. It will break things all over. For Super Mario Sunshine, this also involves patching the game such that certain parts are still ticked at 30 FPS, despite the render occurring at twice that rate.
Also interesting is that some games, like Super Smash Bros. Melee, did not require a game-side patch. Why? Because they apparently include a slow-motion setting by default, which was enabled and then promptly sped up to real time, resulting in a higher frame rate at normal speed. The PC is nothing if not interesting.
Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2014 - 12:33 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, reverse-consolitis, steam, GOG, free to play, dlc
So PC gamers rarely go to the store to buy a disk anymore. According to DFC Intelligence, via PCR-Online, 92% of sales for the PC gaming platform were online. This number seems to be based on revenue, rather than units sold. It includes both full games purchased from Steam, GoG, and other distribution services. It, also, probably includes free-to-play revenue, DLC, and so forth.
Of course, this also suggests that retail sales of PC games has quite a bit of money floating around still. While sources lump several categories together, we could still be talking about a hundreds-of-millions or low-billions order of magnitude (USD). Of course, these are personal, mental math estimates. A grain of salt is required and, in this case, probably good for your (mental) health.
Watch your cholesterol, though.
Again, this is one of the advantages of open architectures. Companies and organizations are allowed, because no-one can tell them otherwise, to try new things. Sometimes, they end up being gold mines that lead to industry revolution, whether we consider the specific positive or negative. However long it takes, it wins. It eventually finds a way, and then the blob tumbles along.
Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2014 - 08:09 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox, microsoft, pc gaming, reverse-consolitis
Ah cool. Microsoft has provided the 32-bit and 64-bit (x86) drivers for their Xbox One controllers. The controller can only be used in wired mode, connected to the PC with a micro-USB cable, and there does not seem to be any plans to develop a PC wireless dongle like the 360 had. It will support any game which can make use of an Xbox 360 controller, which is certainly a lot of games.
The D-Pad is said to be a huge step up from the 360, which is a polite way of saying the 360's directional pad was absolute garbage. I am hesitant about the rest of the controller, though. I have heard numerous complaints about its design, particularly with its shoulder buttons, although it is hard to know without physically trying it. Like all peripherals, I would expect it comes down to personal preference to some extent.
PC gamers have other choices, too. For instance, unofficial support for the PS4 controller exists, albeit it is missing features from what I remember (it does support Bluetooth wireless on the PC, however). Also, and this is a better option, numerous PC gaming companies have their own controllers, including Razer, Logitech, and others.
But, of course, if you already have an Xbox One -- then why not try its controller on your PC?
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems | September 27, 2013 - 06:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SteamOS, Steam Controller, reverse-consolitis
Steam Controller is the third, and final, announcement in the Steam Hardware event. Sure, the peripheral looks weird. It looks very weird. The first thing(s?) you will notice, and likely the driving influence for the iconography, is... or are... the touch pads which replace the expected thumbsticks. The second thing you will notice is the "high resolution" (no specific resolution or dimension was provided) touchscreen.
The most defining aspect of the controllers, as previously stated, is its pair of trackpads. This input method might actually stand the chance of precise controls while maintaining comfort for a couch. To start, I will quote Valve:
In addition, games like first-person shooters that are designed around precise aiming within a large visual field now benefit from the trackpads’ high resolution and absolute position control.
The emphasis was placed by me.
Last year, almost to the date, I published an editorial, "Is the Gamepad Really Designed for Gaming?" In it, I analyzed console controllers from an engineering standpoint. I blamed velocity-based joystick control for the need to enable auto-aim on console titles. Quoting myself, which feels a little weird to be entirely honest:
Analog sticks are a velocity-oriented control scheme where the mouse is a relative position-oriented control scheme. When you move a joystick around you do not move the pointer to a target rather you make it travel at some speed in the direction of the target. With a mouse you just need to move it the required distance and stop. It is easier to develop a sensitivity to how far you need to pull a mouse to travel to the target than a sensitivity to how long to hold a joystick in a given direction to reach a target. Joysticks are heavily reliant on our mental clocks and eye coordination.
Each trackpad can also be clicked, like the thumbsticks of current controllers just probably more comfortably, to provide extra functionality. From a User Experience (UX) standpoint, I can envision a first-person shooter which emulates a (velocity-based) joystick when the right trackpad is pressed (assuming it is very light to press and comfortably to rub your thumb against while pressing) but switches to position-based when touched but not pressed.
The implication is quick rotation when firing from the hip, but positionally-based targeting when precision is required. Maybe other methods will come up too? I find the technology particularly exciting because Valve, clearly, designed it with the understanding of position-based versus velocity-based control. This challenge you rarely hear discussed.
The touchscreen is also a large clickable surface. The controller recognizes touch input and overlays the contents of the screen atop the user's screen but it will not commit the action until the touchpad is pressed. This is designed so the gamer will not need to look at their controller to see what action they are performing.
Personally, I hope this is developer-accessible. Some games, as the WiiU suggests, can benefit from hiding information.
Haptic feedback also ties into the trackpads. Their intent is to provide sensations to the thumbs and compensate for loss of mechanical sensation with thumbsticks. Since they are in there, Valve decided to offer a large, programmable, data channel to very precisely control the effect.
They specifically mention the ability to accept audio waveforms to function as speakers "as a parlour trick".
The devices will be beta tested, via the Steam Machine quest, but without wireless or touchscreen support. Instead of a touchscreen, the controller will contain a four-quadrant grid of buttons mapped to commands.
Thus wraps up the three-pronged announcement. Valve directs interested users to their Steam Universe group for further discussion.
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | July 6, 2013 - 07:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows rt, Surface RT, reverse-consolitis
It is a good thing that Windows RT is not always online, because you would be pretty screwed if you did not have access to a wireless network. To compensate for a lack of ethernet, users can typically plug in a USB to wired internet dongle; this is even possible with consoles such as the Wii. Microsoft makes one such accessory for their line of Surface tablets.
Wow, if only my PC was as open as my console...
Paul Thurrott even tried a handful of third-party adapters to similar, depressing, results on both Windows RT RTM. While the ability to attach your device to a wired high-speed internet jack is niche nowadays, mostly for users of HD video conferencing and certain hotels, it highlights the gigantic problem with Windows RT and other consumer tablet OSes: there will be some things you wish that your device did that it simply will not be able to do.