Uplay Black Friday Sale: Buy One, Get One Free

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:03 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, black friday

Another quick Black Friday post, this one on Ubisoft's Uplay service. At least in Canada, if you purchase one title of a selected list, you will get a choice of one from a second list, for free. While the headliners are Ubisoft's first-party titles, there are a few from EA, Sega, Telltale, Deep Silver, Bethesda, WB Games, Capcom, Square Enix, and Kalypso to round out the “Buy” list (every free bundle game is from Ubisoft, though).

ubisoft-black-friday-2014.jpg

The list of “Buy” (full price) games are:

  • Assassin's Creed: Unity (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
  • Far Cry 4 (PC, 360, Xbox One, PS3 – Not PS4???)
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC)
  • Alien Isolation (PC)
  • Assassin's Creed: Rogue (360, PS3)
  • Tales from the Borderlands (PC)
  • Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (PC)
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)
  • The Evil Within (PC)
  • Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse (PC)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC)
  • FIFA Soccer 15 (PC)
  • The Sims 4 (PC)
  • Football Manager 2015 (PC)
  • Rocksmith (2014) (PC, 360, PS3 – Xbox One is listed by not available in the store???)
  • Just Dance 2015 (360, Xbox One, PS3, Wii)
  • Escape Dead Island (PC)
  • Tropico 5 (PC)
  • Shape Up (Xbox One)
  • Metro: Redux Bundle (PC)

Purchasing one of the above allows you to get one of the following PC titles:

  • Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Far Cry 3
  • Assassin's Creed III: Deluxe Edition
  • Watch_Dogs
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry
  • Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Anno 2070
  • Might and Magic: Heroes VI (Complete)
  • Rayman Legends

Of course, the first thing that pops into my mind is the AMD "Never Settle" promotion. It is interesting that game publishers are also considering a "build your own bundle" initiative, breaking from the "these two games are shrink-wrapped together" model that was previously dominant. Perhaps this will be something that Valve considers for one of their future promotions?

If you were considering paying full price for one of the first list of titles, than purchasing it through the Ubisoft store might get you an extra game for free. Personally, I've been considering Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag has been given a lot of good publicity. The sale started on the American Thanksgiving season and runs until December 15th, so you have a little time to think.

Source: Ubisoft

Podcast #326 - Intel's Core M 5Y70, Assassin's Creed Unity, Intel P3500 and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 13, 2014 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, core m, core m 5y70, Broadwell, broadwell-y, Lenovo, yoga 2 pro, yoga 3 pro, assasins creed unity, ubisoft, farcry 4, p3500, gskill blade

PC Perspective Podcast #326 - 11/13/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Intel's Core M 5Y70, Assassin's Creed Unity, Intel P3500 and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Ubisoft Responds to Low Frame Rates in Assassin's Creed Unity

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 12, 2014 - 09:03 PM |
Tagged: Unity, ubisoft, assassin's creed

Over the last couple of days there have been a lot of discussions about the performance of the new Assassin's Creed Unity from Ubisoft on current generation PC hardware. Some readers have expressed annoyance that the game is running poorly, at lower than expected frame rates, at a wide range of image quality settings. Though I haven't published my results yet, we are working on a story comparing NVIDIA and AMD GPUs in Unity, but the truth is that this is occurring on GPUs from both sides.

For example, using a Core i7-3960X and a single GeForce GTX 980 4GB reference card, I see anywhere from 37 FPS to 48 FPS while navigating the crowded city of Paris at 1920x1080 and on the Ultra High preset. Using the Low preset, that frame rate increases to 65-85 FPS or so.

unity3.jpg

Clearly, those are lower frame rates at 1920x1080 than you'll find in basically any other PC game on the market. The accusation from some in the community is that Ubisoft is either doing this on purpose or doing it out of neglect with efficient code. I put some questions to the development team at Ubisoft and though I only had a short time with them, the answers tell their side of the story.

Ryan Shrout: What in the Unity game engine is putting the most demand on the GPU and its compute resources? Are there specific effects or were there specific design goals for the artists that require as much GPU horsepower as the game does today with high image quality settings?

Ubisoft: Assassin’s Creed Unity is one of the most detailed games on the market and [contains] a giant, open world city built to the scale that we’ve recreated. Paris requires significant details. Some points to note about Paris in Assassin’s Creed Unity:

  • There are tens of thousands of objects are visible on-screen, casting and receiving shadows.
  • Paris is incredibly detailed. For example, Notre-Dame itself is millions of triangles.
  • The entire game world has global illumination and local reflections.
  • There is realistic, high-dynamic range lighting.
  • We temporally stabilized anti-aliasing.

RS: Was there any debate internally about downscaling on effects/image quality to allow for lower end system requirements?

Ubisoft: We talked about this a lot, but our position always came back to us ensuring that Assassin’s Creed Unity is a next-gen only game with breakthrough graphics. With this vision, we did not degrade the visual quality of the game. On PC, we have several option for low-scaling, like disabling AA, decreasing resolution, and we have low option for Texture Quality, Environment Quality and Shadows.

RS: Were you looking forward or planning for future GPUs (or multi-GPU) that will run the game at peak IQ settings at higher frame rates than we have today?

Ubisoft: We targeted existing PC hardware.

RS: Do you envision updates to the game or to future GPU drivers that would noticeably improve performance on current generations of hardware?

Ubisoft: The development team is continuing to work on optimization post-launch through software updates. You’ll hear more details shortly.

Some of the features listed by the developer in the first answer - global illumination methods, high triangle counts, HDR lighting - can be pretty taxing on GPU hardware. I know there are people out there pointing out games that have similar feature sets and that run at higher frame rates, but the truth is that no two game engines are truly equal. If you have seen Assassin's Creed Unity in action you'll be able to tell immediately the game is beautiful, stunningly so. Is it worth that level of detail for the performance levels achieved from current high-end hardware? Clearly that's the debate.

unity2.jpg

When I asked if Ubisoft had considered scaling back the game to improve performance, they clearly decided against it. The developer had a vision for the look and style of the game and they were dedicated to it; maybe to a fault from some gamers' viewpoint.

Also worth nothing is that Ubisoft is continuing to work on optimization post-release; how much of an increase we'll actually see with game patches or driver updates will have to be seen as we move forward. Some developers have a habit of releasing a game and simply abandoning it as it shipped - hopefully we will see more dedication from the Unity team.

So, if the game runs at low frame rates on modern hardware...what is the complaint exactly? I do believe that Ubisoft would have benefited from better performance on lower image quality settings. You can tell by swapping the settings for yourself in game but the quality difference between Low and Ultra High is noticeable, but not dramatically so. Again, this likely harkens back to the desire of Ubisoft to maintain an artistic vision.

Remember that when Crysis 3 launched early last year, running at 1920x1200 at 50 FPS required a GTX 680, the top GPU at the time; and that was at the High settings. The Very High preset only hit 37 FPS on the same card.

PC gamers seems to be creating a double standard. On one hand, none of us want PC-ports or games that are developed with consoles in mind that don't take advantage of the power of the PC platform. Games in the Call of Duty series are immensely popular but, until the release of Advanced Warfare, would routinely run at 150-200 FPS at 1080p on a modern PC. Crysis 3 and Assassin's Creed Unity are the opposite of that - games that really tax current CPU and GPU hardware, paving a way forward for future GPUs to be developed and NEEDED.

If you're NVIDIA or AMD, you should applaud this kind of work. Now I am more interested than ever in a GTX 980 Ti, or a R9 390X, to see what Unity will play like, or what Far Cry 4 will run at, or if Dragon Age Inquisition looks even better.

Of course, if we can get more performance from a better optimized or tweaked game, we want that too. Developers need to be able cater to as wide of a PC gaming audience as possible, but sometimes creating a game that can scale between running on a GTX 650 Ti and a GTX 980 is a huge pain. And with limited time frames and budgets, don't we want at least some developers to focus on visual quality rather than "dumbing down" the product?

Let me know what you all think - I know this is a hot-button issue!

UPDATE: Many readers in the comments are bringing up the bugs and artifacts within Unity, pointing to YouTube videos and whatnot. Those are totally valid complaints about the game, but don't necessarily reflect on the game's performance - which is what we were trying to target with this story. Having crashes and bugs in the game is disappointing, but again, Ubisoft and Assassin's Creed Unity aren't alone here. Have you seen the bugs in Skyrim or Tomb Raider? Hopefully Ubisoft will be more aggressive in addressing them in the near future. 

UPDATE 2: I also wanted to comment that even though I seem to be defending Ubisoft around the performance of Unity, my direct feedback to them was that they should enable modes in the game that allow it to play at higher frame rates and even lower image quality settings, even if they were unable to find ways to "optimize" the game's efficiency. So far the developer seems aware of all the complaints around performance, bugs, physics, etc. and is going to try to address them.

UPDATE 3: In the last day or so, a couple of other media outlets have posted anonymous information that indicates that the draw call count for Assassin's Creed Unity is at fault for the poor performance of the game on PCs. According to this "anonymous" source, while the consoles have low-level API access to hardware to accept and process several times the draw calls, DirectX 11 can only handle "7,000 - 10,000 peak draw calls." Unity apparently is "pushing in excess of 50,000 draw calls per frame" and thus is putting more pressure on the PC that it can handle, even with high end CPU and GPU hardware. The fact that these comments are "anonymous" is pretty frustrating as it means that even if they are accurate, they can't be taken as the truth without confirmation from Ubisoft. If this turns out to be true, then it would be a confirmation that Ubisoft didn't take the time to implement a DX11 port correctly. If it's not true, or only partially to blame, we are left with more meaningless finger-pointing.

FarCry 4, NVIDIA Gameworks and hair products for beasts

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, far cry 4, ubisoft, gameworks, txaa, hbao+

Check out the video for a look at the various in game enhancements that NVIDIA's new feaures will be bringing to FarCry 4 and gaze in awe at that gorgeous yak featured at 1:37, just look at its hair waving in the breeze and reacting to the motions of the animal.  It is not clear if AMD's TressFX will provide equivalent body and shine to the beasts that HairWorks does but you have to admit that is an impressive amount of work to make meat on the hoof look pretty.  There are two different technologies to improve the look of shadows, Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS, aka ShadowWorks) softens the edges of shadows based on the distance between the object creating the shadow and the surface the shadow appears on while Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion (HBAO+) is a new and efficient way to render ambient lighting and shadows accurately without paying for it with a big hit in performance.  Temporal anti-aliasing, TXAA is reputed to offer the benefits of MSAA 8x at the performance cost of 4x; while it is hard to judge the accuracy of that in the video you can certainly see it is an effective way of removing jaggies from straight edges.  You can also expect to see God Rays rendered properly, the shot of the sun through the tree near the end makes a rather nice set peice to display that effect.

Below you can see the recommended hardware, it is worth emphasizing that only 64bit OSes need apply on the PC.

fc4-global-header-logo_142138.png

SANTA CLARA, Calif - November 6, 2014 - Ubisoft announces today a new technology PC gaming development partnership with NVIDIA that will bring players closer to their games than ever before.

Thanks to the power of NVIDIA GeForce GTX technology, including the just-released GTX 980 and 970 GPUs, this holiday’s long-awaited FPS, Far Cry 4 will look even more beautiful. By integrating NVIDIA’s GameWorks technologies, such as HBAO+ for realistic shadows, TXAA for cinema quality smoothness, as well as enhanced 4K support, Ubisoft is delivering cutting-edge content that allow PC players to become fully immersed in their gaming environments. In addition, Far Cry 4 also integrates NVIDIA Godrays technology so gamers can feel the sun beating down in the Himalayas, and NVIDIA HairWorks, for rendering the realistic, but deadly adversaries that will be encountered in the game.

Ubisoft also reveals Far Cry 4 PC system requirements:

  • Supported 64-Bit OS: Windows 7 (SP1) x64 / Windows 8 x64 / Windows 8.1 x64 ·
  • Processor: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5-750 or 3.2 GHz AMD Phenom II X4 955 (2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-2400S or 4.0 GHz AMD FX-8350 or better recommended)
  • RAM: 4 GB (8 GB or greater recommended)
  • Video Card: 1 GB DirectX 11–compliant with Shader Model 5.0 or higher
    • Supported Video Cards at Time of Release: AMD Radeon HD 5850 / 6000 / 7000 / R7 / R9 series
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 / 500 / 600 / 700 / TITAN series \
  • Sound Card: DirectX-compatible (5.1 surround sound recommended)
  • DVD-ROM Drive: Dual-layer Hard Drive Space: 30 GB
  • Peripherals Supported: Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360 Controller for Windows recommended)
  • Multiplayer: 256 kbps or faster broadband connection ·
  • Note: This product supports 64-bit operating systems only.

Laptop versions of these cards may work, but are not officially supported. For the most up-to-date minimum requirement listings, please visit the FAQ on our support website at support.ubi.com.

If you are wondering whether or not your PC can run Far Cry 4 smoothly at the highest settings, please run the NVIDIA GPU ANALYZER which detects your graphics hardware and compares it to the developer's recommended GPU specification for Far Cry 4. It's a quick and easy way to see if your graphics hardware will provide you with an optimal experience in Far Cry 4.

With Far Cry 4 players will experience the most expansive and immersive Far Cry ever, in an entirely new, massive open-world. Players will find themselves in Kyrat, a breathtaking, perilous and wild region of the Himalayas struggling under the regime of a despotic self-appointed king. Using a vast array of weapons, vehicles and animals, players will write their own story across an exotic open-world landscape. Developed by Ubisoft Montréal in collaboration with other Ubisoft studios, Far Cry 4 will be available worldwide on November 18 for PlayStation4 and PlayStation3 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC.

Source: NVIDIA

Assassin's Creed Unity Has NVIDIA-exclusive Effects via GameWorks

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 29, 2014 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, assassin's creed

Ubisoft has integrated GameWorks into Assassin's Creed Unity, or at least parts of it. The main feature to be included is NVIDIA's Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion Plus (HBAO+), which is their implementation of Ambient Occlusion. This effect darkens areas that would otherwise be incorrectly lit with our current limitations of Global Illumination. Basically, it analyzes the scene's geometry to subtract some of the influence of "ambient light" in places where it is an unrealistic approximation (particularly in small crevices). This is especially useful for overcast scenes, where direct sunlight does not overwhelm the contribution of scatters and bounces.

The other features to be included are Temporal Anti-alising (TXAA), Percentage-Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS), and GeometryWorks Advanced Tessellation. TXAA and PCSS were both included in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, alongside the previously mentioned HBAO+, so it makes sense that Ubisoft continues to use what worked for them. GeometryWorks is a different story. NVIDIA seems to claim that it is like DirectX 11 tessellation, but is better suited for use alongside HBAO+ and PCSS.

unity2.jpg

Assassin's Creed Unity will be available on November 11th.

Source: NVIDIA

Assassin's Creed: Rogue Might Be for the PC?

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2014 - 02:59 AM |
Tagged: assassin's creed, pc gaming, ubisoft

Ubisoft's upcoming Assassin's Creed: Rogue is currently only announced for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but it might see a PC release, too. This is particularly weird because Rogue is scheduled to launch, for the two aforementioned consoles, on the same day as Assassin's Creed: Unity is scheduled for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Unless they are planning a delayed PC launch, PC gamers might receive two games, in the same franchise, on the same day.

ubisoft-assassinscreed-rogue.jpg

I would have to expect that its PC release would need to be staggered though, right? I mean, how would they market two similar games at the same time? In particular, how would they market two fairly long, similar games at the same time? I mean, thanks Ubisoft, but it just seems like an unnecessary risk of market cannibalization.

About that evidence, though. PC Gamer apparently found reference to the title in the Brazillian software ratings board and the title was mentioned on one of Ubisoft's Uplay page for the PC. Those are pretty good pieces of evidence, although we need to take their word on it, which is implicitly trusting screenshots from NeoGAF. Also, PC Gamer really needs to link to the exact thread at NeoGAF because it was buried under the first several pages by the time I got there.

Assassin's Creed: Unity launches on November 11th, 2014 (not the 14th). Rogue -- maybe?

Watch_Dogs Patched to Optimize Performance and Fix Bugs

Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2014 - 06:55 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, watch_dogs, watch dogs, pc gaming

Today, Ubisoft has issued a patch for Watch_Dog that fixes bugs and performance issues. Mainly, it is designed to reduce stuttering with higher levels of texture quality, especially "High Textures". "Ultra Textures" could still have problems for "some players", but Ubisoft suggests that future updates to reduce stutter are in progress.

ubisoft-watch_dogs-pistolpose.jpg

Without knowing much about the internal workings of the patch, I expect that it addresses hiccups when swapping textures. Loading textures into memory can take a significant amount of time, and overhead, but it is necessary if the one you need is not in there. As the size of each individual texture increases, fewer can be stored in the same memory space, leading to more swapping required (especially when it is difficult to tell what a user can see at any given point in time). Ubisoft might have found a more efficient organization (for lack of a better word that I can think of) for textures that allow "High Textures" to stay below their target memory footprint, but not "Ultra Textures", at least not frequently enough to call it fixed.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong.

This patch also addresses bugs with multiple network adapters, crashes, and error messages. According to Ubisoft forums, it is available now. It is not yet on their news blog, though.

Source: Ubisoft

Watch_Dogs; who watches the optimized code?

Subject: General Tech | June 25, 2014 - 04:38 PM |
Tagged: gaming, watch_dogs, ubisoft, excuses

Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have posted UbiSoft's reasoning behind the disabled graphics options on Watch_Dogs in this article.  The explanation they chose is a little bit disingenuous as performance issues are likely not the main reason the so called "E3 enhancements" were removed, though their point about Bokeh sometimes creating issues in seeing the environment around is well founded.  After all how can you have a long distance gun battle against distant blurry figures?  The more likely reasoning revolves around a standard practice for AAA games when showing off a demo at a show like E3, they polished the engine specifically for that specific in game demo.  By cherry picking one or more scenes and spending extra programming time to make it as pretty as possible they raise buzz about their unreleased game and hope to accrue extra pre-orders.  Unfortunately this rather dishonest practice has become a tradition for shows like E3, but on the plus side gives modders extra things to play with!

If you would rather watch frogs; or even better join them, make sure to check up on what they are doing tonight and Friday.

smwatchdogsgraphicsmod1.jpg

"Good thing: Watch_Dogs on PC can look nearly as good as the (in)famous 2012 E3 demo that started at all, and it’s not even that hard to do thanks to some hidden graphics files that modders dug up. Bad thing: they were hidden. That certainly doesn’t look good. Ubisoft has an explanation, though."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Podcast #302 - ASUS PB287Q 4K Monitor, NVIDIA and AMD's fight over GameWorks, Haswell-E Leaks and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 29, 2014 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, asus, 4k, pb287q, nvidia, amd, gameworks, ubisoft, watch dogs, crucial, mx100, tegra k1, gsync

PC Perspective Podcast #302 - 05/29/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS PB287Q 4K Monitor, NVIDIA and AMD's fight over GameWorks, Haswell-E Leaks and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Allyn Maleventano

Program length: 1:29:01
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: For Josh - the Wenger Giant Knife
  4. Closing/outro

 

Watch this Dog run

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2014 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: watch_dogs, ubisoft, gaming

Watch_Dogs introduces us to a new game engine called Disrupt and uses NVIDIA's new GameWorks development platform to include HBAO+ as well as TXAA 2X and TXAA 4X.  That is not to say that AMD cards cannot run the game but you will need to be running  the 14.6 Beta driver the game prefers; Win 8.1 no longer required with the released vesrion.  AMD does benefit from its tendency to sport more VRAM as [H]ard|OCP saw some texture loading issues with the GTX 780 Ti and overall preferred the performance of the 290X.  Other sites have found rather different results, it is worth keeping an eye out for further investigations on what is happening.  You can also feast your eyes on [H]'s gallery of screenshots showing the differences in texture settings.

1401224279MyyhWfCPnN_1_6_l.png

"We have previewed the performance experienced in Watch Dogs, now it is time to preview image quality and look at some specific image quality differences. We will look at texture quality and the great differences between modes, anti-aliasing, and Horizon-Based Ambient Occlusion effects, AKA HBAO."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP