As GDC progresses here in San Francisco, AMD took the wraps off of a new SDK for game developers to use to improve experiences with virtual reality (VR) headsets. Called LiquidVR, the goal is provide a smooth and stutter free VR experience that is universal across all headset hardware and to keep the wearer, be it a gamer or professional user, immersed.
AMD's CTO of Graphics, Raja Koduri spoke with us about the three primary tenets of the LiquidVR initiative. The 'three Cs' as it is being called are Comfort, Compatibility and Compelling Content. Ignoring the fact that we have four C's in that phrase, the premise is straight forward. Comfortable use of VR means there is little to no issues with neusea and that can be fixed with ultra-low latency between motion (of your head) and photons (hitting your eyes). For compatibility, AMD would like to assure that all VR headsets are treated equally and all provide the best experience. Oculus, HTC and others should operate in a simple, plug-and-play style. Finally, the content story is easy to grasp with a focus on solid games and software to utilize VR but AMD also wants to ensure that the rendering is scalable across different hardware and multiple GPUs.
To address these tenets AMD has built four technologies into LiquidVR: late data latching, asynchronous shaders, affinity multi-GPU, and direct-to-display.
The idea behind late data latching is to get the absolute most recent raw data from the VR engine to the users eyes. This means that rather than asking for the head position of a gamer at the beginning of a render job, LiquidVR will allow the game to ask for it at the end of the rendering pipeline, which might seem counter-intuitive. Late latch means the users head movement is tracked until the end of the frame render rather until just the beginning, saving potentially 5-10ms of delay.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2015 - 05:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: MWC, mwc 15, GDC, gdc 15, htc, valve, vive, vive vr, Oculus
Mobile World Congress (MWC) and Game Developers Conference (GDC) severely overlap this year, and not just in dates apparently. HTC just announced the Vive VR headset at MWC, which was developed alongside Valve. The developer edition will contain two 1200x1080 displays with a 90Hz refresh rate, and it will launch this spring. The consumer edition will launch this holiday. They made sure to underline 2015, so you know they're serious. Want more information? Well that will be for Valve to discuss at GDC.
The confusing part: why is this not partnered with Oculus? When Michael Abrash left Valve to go there, I assumed that it was Valve shedding its research to Facebook's subsidiary and letting them take the hit. Now, honestly, it seems like Facebook just poached Abrash, Valve said “oh well”, and the two companies kept to their respective research. Who knows? Maybe that is not the case. We might find out more at GDC, but you would expect that Oculus would be mentioned if they had any involvement at all.
Valve will host an event on the second official day of GDC, March 3rd at 3pm. In other words, Valve will make an announcement on 3/3 @ 3. Could it involve Left 4 Dead 3? Portal 3? Will they pull a Crytek and name their engine Source 3? Are they just trolling absolutely everyone? Will it have something to do with NVIDIA's March 3rd announcement? Do you honestly think I have any non-speculative information about this? No. No I don't. There, I answered one of those questions.
Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2015 - 12:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: valve, greece, economics
In 2008 Gabe Newell contacted a Greek academic economist by the name of Yanis Varoufakis to see if he would be interested in consulting with Valve on how to create a successful shared economy as well as how to balance payments globally and between the real and virtual economies that Valve now has. He agreed and among other things started a Valve Economist blog which you can start reading here and which shows that he did contribute far more than just hats and the dreaded Steam Sale. In what seems at first to be a rather bizarre turnaround in his career Yanis has gone from author, blogger and Valve consultant to being appointed the Finance Minister of his home country of Greece. A closer look at his bona fides provide a good explanation, as he has been focused on how European economies interact since before the beginning of the economic downturns and austerity measures in countries like Greece. Follow the previous links for a look at what he has accomplished or if you prefer, head to Slashdot for more hat jokes.
"A turnover in the Greek government resulted from recent snap elections placing SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) in power — just shy of an outright majority by two seats. Atheist, and youngest Prime Minister in Greek history since 1865, Alexis Tsipras has been appointed the new prime minister and begun taking immediate drastic steps against the recent austerity laws put in place by prior administrations. One such step has been to appoint Valve's economist Yanis Varoufakis to position of Finance Minister of Greece."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- University’s Virtual Reality Setup Runs on Linux and Open Source Software @ Linux.com
- How to get Cortana working on Windows 10 preview in the UK @ The Inquirer
- Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers @ Slashdot
- Linux chaps want to recycle your mobe as a supercomputer @ The Register
- iControl Networks Piper Smart Home Security System Review @ NikKTech
- IBM to cut '118k jobs worldwide' – report claims
- Tech ARP 2015 Mega Giveaway
Subject: General Tech | December 26, 2014 - 05:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tf2, valve
So Valve is working on a new game mode for Team Fortress 2, called “Mannpower Mode”. It is a variation of Capture the Flag and it is currently available in the beta map pool, accessible from the Play Beta Maps checkbox in Play Multiplayer. While it will change significantly over its development period, this beta launch corresponds with their Christmas promotion.
Even though it's like Capture the Flag, there are some significant differences. First, similar to many other franchises, the objective is touch-return. Fans of Unreal Tournament, Halo, and many other franchises will know that this is different in two main ways: a dropped objective will return to base instant when it is touched by a defender, and the attacker's flag must be returned in to capture the opponent's one. Second, random critical hits are disabled.
Third, grappling hooks and power-ups? I am guessing the Valve wants TF2 to be more competitive in with the fast-paced shooter crowd, so they are finding ways to increase mobility and map control within the Team Fortress 2 ruleset. Of course, that is not a criticism about TF2's game design – quite the opposite; it is different, not worse. It is interesting to think about the relatively slow characters of TF2 being used in more of a higher-reward, lower-forgiveness game mode. The updates add mobility and incentives to use it, both rewarding flag returns as well as acquiring power-ups.
Team Fortress 2 is still free-to-play, but rarely free-toupee.
Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2014 - 04:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam
Especially with digital distribution, some regions of the world receive different pricing for the same content based on what their target market is capable of paying for it. On Steam, most regions are just about equivalent to their exchange rate with the US dollar. There are a few, most notably Russia, that receive steep price cuts (because the increase in expected customers outweighs the decrease per unit).
This leads some thrifty people to purchase keys that were intended for other, lower-cost regions. Recently, Valve has adjusted the Steam back-end to block gifting from certain, reduced-price regions to other regions. It does not affect existing purchases, only new ones. This also might not be their final decision, as Valve claims that they are still “assessing the market”, according to PC Gamer. This currently applies to: Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore.
I am quite... conflicted on this decision.
On the one hand, I believe that moving a game from one region to another should be acceptable. Unless Steam requires that users (or gift givers of unactivated keys) declare that the license is intended for members of a given region, which could be fraud to lie about, then I cannot see any reasonable way to prevent this. On the other hand, I find Valve's method to be fair and targeted, even though it is relying upon DRM to restrict user access.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments! (Registration is not required)
Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2014 - 02:11 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, source engine, contest, awards
Once each year, Valve hosts a competition, called The Saxxy Awards, to find the best Team Fortress 2 animation. It is named after Saxton Hale, a character from the game's irrelevant (but amazingly well developed) lore that is best known for being an eccentric action hero and executive of a fictional corporation. Its goal is to promote the use of Source Filmmaker and the rest of Valve's user-generated content tools.
This year's overall winner as Animation vs Animator, embed below, where The Scout makes a movie where he torments The Heavy (who responds in kind). The video is likely a reference to the oppositely-named classic series of Flash animations where a stick figure in Flash Professional fights against its creator. Four videos were nominated in each of the four categories, short, action, comedy, and drama, each with its own winner.
Be sure to check them out if you want something to watch for a few minutes, or sixteen somethings.
Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2014 - 09:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, source engine, Source 2, DOTA 2
While it may not seem like it in North America, we are in a busy week for videogame development. GDC Europe, which stands for Game Developers Conference Europe, is just wrapping up to make room for Gamescom, which will take up the rest of the week. Valve will be there and people are reading tea leaves to find out why. SteamOS seems likely, but what about their next generation gaming engine, Source 2? Maybe it already happened?
Valve is the most secretive company with values of openness that I know. They are pretty good at preventing leaks from escaping their walls. Recently, Dota 2 was updated to receive new features and development tools for user-generated maps and gametypes. The tools currently require 64-bit Windows and a DirectX 11-compatible GPU.
Those don't sound like Source requirements...
And the editor doesn't look like Valve's old tools.
Video Credit: "Valve News Network".
Leaks also point to things like "tf_imported", "left4dead2_source2", and "left4dead2_imported". This is interesting. Valve is pushing Dota 2, their most popular, free-to-play game into Source 2. Also, because it is listed as "tf" rather than "tf2", like "dota" is not registered as "dota2" but "left4dead2" keeps its number, this might mean that the free-to-play Team Fortress 2 could be in a perpetual-development mode, like Dota 2. Eventually, it could be pushed to the new engine and given more content.
As for Left4Dead2? I am wondering if it is intended to be a product, rather than an internal (or external) Source 2 tech demo.
Was this what brought Valve to Gamescom, or will be be surprised by other announcements (or nothing at all)?
Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2014 - 04:12 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, espn, DOTA 2, DOTA
eSports? Did someone say sports? ESPN is there. DOTA 2 is one of the most popular PC Games, #2 in Raptr's listing, and currently the most played Valve game (by more than a factor of two over Counter-Strike: GO). The International 2014 is their fourth multi-million dollar tournament. This year's prize pool of almost $11 million USD.
And ESPN is broadcasting it on TV through their ESPN3 channel. On Sunday, the second-last day of the tournament, ESPN2 will air "Live from The International" at 11:30 PM EDT (UTC-4). This will have match highlights, discussion, interviews with players, and an interview with Gabe Newell. The tournament will host its grand finals the next day, on ESPN3.
Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2014 - 12:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hack, valve, glados, tf2, kick ass
Hack a Day have been accepting entries to their Sci-Fi contest for long enough that they have a few worth showing off before the entry deadline of April 29th, specifically the Valve themed ones. A table top sized level 1 sentry gun from TF2 is being entered, perhaps not as heavy duty as the one currently guarding Valve HQ but destined to be able to fire paint balls if all goes to plan. There is a French team who are modifying some personal assistant software called RORI into a replica of GLaDOS, hopefully a version at least slightly less murderous than the original while another team is going about creating a physical version of the homicidal AI complete with a camera to allow face tracking. Check these entrants and other in the full Hack a Day post.
"While most of the entries to our Sci-Fi contest come from movies and TV shows, a select few are based on the Valve universe, including a few builds based on Portal and Team Fortress 2."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- It's a done deal! Microsoft-Nokia merger to close on Friday @ The Register
- Troubleshooting Linux Applications Without Using the Command Line @ Linux.com
- Cooling module makers to further reduce mobile device heat pipe thickness; expect penetration rate of over 15% @ DigiTimes
- How to Install and Try Linux the Absolutely Easiest and Safest Way @ Linux.com
- Linksys EA6900 AC1900 802.11ac Dual- Band Wireless Router @ eTeknix
- Microsoft’s Office in the Cloud: Office 365 Review @ Techgage
- Samsung Gear Fit @ The Inquirer
- AMD posts $1.4bn in sales, beats Wall Street moneymen's predictions @ The Register
- D-Link DCS-2330L HD Wireless Network Camera @ Phoronix
- OpenSSL Heartbleed bug sniff tools are 'BUGGY' – what becomes of the broken hearted? @ The Register
- Reddit users discover iOS malware threat @ The Register
- Intentional Backdoor In Consumer Routers Found @ Slashdot
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | April 16, 2014 - 01:56 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam
Valve does not release sales or hours played figures for any game on Steam and it is rare to find a publisher who will volunteer that information. That said, Steam user profiles list that information on a per-account basis. If someone, say Ars Technica, had access to sufficient server capacity, say an Amazon Web Services instance, and a reasonable understanding of statistics, then they could estimate.
If interested, I would definitely look through the original editorial for all of its many findings. Here, if you let me (and you can't stop me even if you don't), I would like to add my own analysis on a specific topic. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PC, according to VGChartz, sold 3.42 million copies on at retail, worldwide. The thing is, Steamworks was required for every copy sold at retail or online. According to Ars Technica's estimates, 5.94 million copies were registered with Steam.
5.94 minus 3.42 is 2.52 million copies sold digitally. Almost a third of PC sales were made through Steam and other digital distribution platforms. Also, this means that the PC was the game's second-best selling platform, ahead of the PS3 (5.43m) and behind the Xbox 360 (7.92m), minus any digital sales on those platforms if they exist, of course. Despite its engine being programmed in DirectX 9, it is still a fairly high-end game. That is a fairly healthy install base for decent gaming PCs.
Did you discover anything else on your own? Be sure to discuss it in our comments!