Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Codemasters

Digging in a Little Deeper into the DiRT

Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to play the early access "DiRT Rally" title from Codemasters.  This is a much more simulation based title that is currently PC only, which is a big switch for Codemasters and how they usually release their premier racing offerings.  I was able to get a hold of Paul Coleman from Codemasters and set up a written interview with him.  Paul's answers will be in italics.

Who are you, what do you do at Codemasters, and what do you do in your spare time away from the virtual wheel?

paul_coleman.jpg

Hi my name is Paul Coleman and I am the Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally. I’m responsible for making sure that the game is the most authentic representation of the sport it can be, I’m essentially representing the player in the studio. In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips with my family in our 1M Coupe. I’ve been co-driving in real world rally events for the last three years and I’ve used that experience to write and voice the co-driver calls in game.

If there is one area that DiRT has really excelled at is keeping frame rate consistent throughout multiple environments.  Many games, especially those using cutting edge rendering techniques, often have dramatic frame rate drops at times.  How do you get around this while still creating a very impressive looking game?

The engine that DiRT Rally has been built on has been constantly iterated on over the years and we have always been looking at ways of improving the look of the game while maintaining decent performance. That together with the fact that we work closely with GPU manufacturers on each project ensures that we stay current. We also have very strict performance monitoring systems that have come from optimising games for console. These systems have proved very useful when building DiRT Rally even though the game is exclusively on PC.

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How do you balance out different controller use cases?  While many hard core racers use a wheel, I have seen very competitive racing from people using handheld controllers as well as keyboards.  Do you handicap/help those particular implementations so as not to make it overly frustrating to those users?  I ask due to the difference in degrees of precision that a gamepad has vs. a wheel that can rotate 900 degrees.

Again this comes back to the fact that we have traditionally developed for console where the primary input device is a handheld controller. This is an area that other sims don’t usually have to worry about but for us it was second nature. There are systems that we have that add a layer between the handheld controller or keyboard and the game which help those guys but the wheel is without a doubt the best way to experience DiRT Rally as it is a direct input.

Continue reading the entire DiRT Rally Interview here!

NVIDIA VR Headset Patent Found

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 6, 2015 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: VR, nvidia, gameworks vr

So I'm not quite sure what this hypothetical patent device is. According to its application, it is a head-mounted display that contains six cameras (??) and two displays, one for each eye. The usage of these cameras is not define but two will point forward, two will point down, and the last two will point left and right. The only clue that we have is in the second patent application photo, where unlabeled hands are gesturing in front of a node labeled “input cameras”.

nvidia-2015-vr-patent-1.png

Image Credit: Declassified

The block diagram declares that the VR headset will have its own CPU, memory, network adapter, and “parallel processing subsystem” (GPU). VRFocus believes that this will be based on the Tegra X1, and that it was supposed to be revealed three months ago at GDC 2015. In its place, NVIDIA announced the Titan X at the Unreal Engine 4 keynote, hosted by Epic Games. GameWorks VR was also announced with the GeForce GTX 980 Ti launch, which was mostly described as a way to reduce rendering cost by dropping resolution in areas that will be warped into a lower final, displayed resolution anyway.

nvidia-2015-vr-patent-2.png

Image Credit: Declassified

VRFocus suggests that the reveal could happen at E3 this year. The problem with that theory is that NVIDIA has neither a keynote at E3 this year nor even a place at someone else's keynote as far as we know, just a booth and meeting rooms. Of course, they could still announce it through other channels, but that seems less likely. Maybe they will avoid the E3 hype and announce it later (unless something changes behind the scenes of course)?

Source: VRFocus

GDC 15: Upcoming Flagship AMD Radeon R9 GPU Powering VR Demo

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 5, 2015 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, amd, radeon, R9, 390x, VR, Oculus

Don't get too excited about this news, but AMD tells me that its next flagship Radeon R9 graphics card is up and running at GDC, powering an Oculus-based Epic "Showdown" demo.

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Inside the box...

During my meeting with AMD today I was told that inside that little PC sits the "upcoming flagship Radeon R9 graphics card" but, of course, no other information was given. The following is an estimated transcript of the event:

Ryan: Can I see it?

AMD: No.

Ryan: I can't even take the side panel off it?

AMD: No.

Ryan. How can I know you're telling the truth then? Can I open up the driver or anything?

AMD: No.

Ryan: GPU-Z? Anything?

AMD: No.

Well, I tried.

Is this the rumored R9 390X with the integrated water cooler? Is it something else completely? AMD wouldn't even let me behind the system to look for a radiator so I'm afraid that is where my speculation will end.

Hooked up to the system was a Crescent Bay Oculus headset running the well-received Epic "Showdown" demo. The experience was smooth though of course there were no indications of frame rate, etc. while it was going on. After our discussion with AMD earlier in the week about its LiquidVR SDK, AMD is clearly taking the VR transition seriously. NVIDIA's GPUs might be dominating the show-floor demos but AMD wanted to be sure it wasn't left out of the discussion.

Can I just get this Fiji card already??

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Liquid...get it?

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.

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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.

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To address these tenets AMD has built four technologies into LiquidVR: late data latching, asynchronous shaders, affinity multi-GPU, and direct-to-display.

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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.

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Continue reading our first impressions of the new AMD LiquidVR SDK for virtual reality!!

CES 2015: Razer OSVR Dev Kit, Forge TV Android Gaming Streamer, and Nabu X Fitness Band

Subject: General Tech | January 6, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: OCVR, VR, virtual reality, razer, google tv, fitness band, ces 2015, CES, nabu x, Forge TV, Android 5.0, lollipop

Razer, maker of gaming peripherals and components, has some announcements today that are a big departure from their previous products.

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First we have the announcement of an open VR standard, the Open-Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) ecosystem. Razer is contributing to this with the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit, "a virtual reality device and open-source software that enables programming for any variety of VR technology". The kit will be shipping in June for $199. There's a lot more information about this new VR platform on the Razer's OSVR page.

Next we have Forge TV, an Android gaming device for the living room that Razer says is "powered by a quad-core processor and gaming-grade graphics", which doesn't sound like your usual streamer.

forge_tv.jpg

Essentially a high-powered tablet in a box, the Razer Forge TV has impressive specs for an Android device:

  • OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 - Quad-Core Krait 450 CPU (2.5GHz per core), Adreno 420 GPU, 2GB RAM
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Connectivity: Wireless 802.11ac 2X2, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.1 + HS
  • Ports: HDMI 1.4, USB 3.0
  • Dimensions: 105mm X 105mm X 17mm

There is a product page up for the Forge TV on Razer's site, but no word on pricing or availability yet.

Finally we have Razer's entry into the popular fitness wearable market, the Nabu X.

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This is compatible with Android and iOS devices and promises "5 to 7 days" battery life per charge. More info from Razer here.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Razer

Oculus Announces Crescent Bay (Prototype)

Subject: General Tech, Displays | September 21, 2014 - 01:55 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, VR, crescent bay, oculus connect

As they progress toward a consumer product, Oculus announced another prototype at their Oculus Connect developer conference. Dubbed Crescent Bay, the headset contains a new display, with a higher refresh rate and higher resolution, better optics, and 360-degree head tracking. It is also lighter and includes built-in speakers.

oculus-crescent-bay-prototype.png

Of course, these features were not quantified with hard specifications.

Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, stressed that this is not the consumer product yet. He claims that this is an increase over DK2 that is equivalent to the increase DK2 saw over the original Oculus Rift. It is not all about hardware, though. This company is engaged in hardware and software, video and audio. This should make sense considering their early acquisition of John Carmack and hundreds of other engineers. They, rightly, see themselves as a platform and, while they see game engines as necessary for VR, due to the ability to reposition the camera in milliseconds of notice, compared to film's never, they are not limiting themselves to just "games" (but yes they consider it a big part of it).

oculus-crescent-bay-prototype2.png

Honestly, months ago, I was sitting at my desk with its five monitors, each with bits of news posts, chats, reference material, and maybe a StarCraft tournament live stream, and Oculus was being discussed. I started to wonder if monitors, especially multiple displays, are just an approximation -- our current best effort -- of how to receive video cues from a PC. I could see a VR platform take on entertainment and even productivity with its infinite, virtual environments.

Currently, there is not even a hint about pricing and availability (as far as I found).

Source: Oculus

Now Valve Doesn't Have Michael Abrash OR Jeri Ellsworth

Subject: General Tech, Displays | March 28, 2014 - 04:21 PM |
Tagged: VR, valve, Oculus, facebook

Today, Oculus VR issued a statement which claims that Michael Abrash has joined their ranks as Chief Scientist. Abrash was hired by Valve in 2011 where he led, and apparently came up with the idea for, their wearable computing initiatives. For a time, he and Jeri Ellsworth were conducting similar projects until she, and many others, were forced out of the company for undisclosed reasons (she was allowed to take her project with her which ultimately became CastAR). While I have yet to see an official announcement claim that Abrash has left Valve, I have serious doubts that he would be employed in both places for any reasonable period of time. With both gone, I wonder about Valve's wearable initaitive going forward.

Abrash at Steam Dev Days

This press statement comes just three days after Facebook announced "definitive" plans to acquire Oculus VR for an equivalent of $2 billion USD (it is twice the company Instragram was). Apparently, the financial stability of Facebook (... deep breath before continuing...) was the catalyst for this decision. VR research is expensive. Abrash is now comfortable working with them, gleefully expending R&D funds, advancing the project without sinking the ship.

And then there's Valve.

On last night's This Week in Computer Hardware (#260), Patrick Norton and I were discussing the Oculus VR acquisition. He claimed that he had serious doubts about whether Valve ever intended to ship a product. So far, the only product available that uses Valve's research is the Oculus Rift DK2. Honestly, while I have not really thought about it until now, it would not be surprising for Valve to contribute to the PC platform itself.

And, hey, at least someone is not afraid of Facebook's ownership.

Oculus VR Rift HD 1080p Prototype Headset Impresses

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | June 12, 2013 - 08:24 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, VR, E3

I have been a big proponent of the Oculus Rift and its move into the world of consumer-ready VR (virtual reality) technology.  I saw it for the first time at Quakecon 2012 where Palmer Luckey and John Carmack sat on stage and addressed the new direction.  Since then we saw it at CES and finally got in our own developer kit last month for some extended hands-on.

While I have definitely been impressed with the Rift in nearly every way while using it, the first thing anyone says when putting on the headset for the first time is about the graphics - the resolution of the unit was just too low and it creates a "screen door" effect because of it.  As I wrote in my first preview:

I will say that the low resolution is definitely a barrier for me.  Each eye is only seeing a 640x800 resolution in this version of the kit and that close up you can definitely see each pixel.  Even worse, this creates a screen door effect that is basically like looking through a window with a screen installed.  It's not great but you could get used to it if you had to; I am just hoping the higher resolution version of this kit is closer.

At E3 2013 the team at Oculus was able to put together a very early prototype of an HD version of the screen.  By using a new 1920x1080 display each eye is able to see 960x1080; roughly twice the pixel density of the initial developer kit.

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I got to spend some time with the higher resolution model today and I have to say that the difference is striking - and instantly noticeable.  Gone was the obvious screen door effect and I was able to focus purely on the content.  The content itself was new as well - Oculus and Epic were showing the Unreal Engine 4 integration with a custom version of the Elemental demo.  The colors were crisp, the effects were amazing and only in a couple of rare instances of solid white color did we notice the black lines that plagued the first version.

As of now Oculus doesn't have plans to offer an updated developer kit with the 1080p screen installed but you just never know.  They are still looking at several different phone screens and haven't made any final decisions on which direction to go but they are definitely close.

When I inquired about improvements on head tracking latency and accuracy to aid in motion sickness concerns (like I seem to have) Oculus was hesitant to say there was any single fix.  Instead, a combination of lower latency, better hardware and even better thought out content were key to reducing these effects in gamers.

Podcast #249 - Corsair 350D, Frame Rating in 4K, the Oculus Rift and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 2, 2013 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Indiegogo, corair, obsidian, 350d, mATX, frame rating, 4k, titan, 7990, 690, Oculus, rift, VR, 3d, amd, amd fx, vishera, hUMA, hsa

PC Perspective Podcast #249 - 05/02/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Corsair 350D, Frame Rating in 4K, the Oculus Rift 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: Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Scott Michaud and Morry Teitelman

Program length: 1:04:02

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. Ryan: Windows Movie Maker lets you record webcam videos!
    2. Jeremy: anti-pick - hotels that don't offer a RJ45 jack in the rooms!
    3. Allyn: Ventev USB charging stuff (home / auto)
  3. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  4. Closing/outro

 

Podcast #212 - Live from QuakeCon 2012!

Subject: General Tech | August 4, 2012 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: VR, ssd, Seagate, quakecon, podcast, ocz, oculus rift, nvidia, Intel, carmack, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #212 - 08/03/2012

In this special live edition of the PC Perspective Podcast, we discuss QuakeCon 2012 and other news of the week!

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, Allyn Malvantano and Steve Grever

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI!

Program length: 49:04

Program Schedule:

In this special live edition of the PC Perspective Podcast, we discuss QuakeCon 2012 and other news of the week!