From now on you will refer to this mouse as Master! Cooler Master's new mouse

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2016 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: cooler master, MasterMouse Pro L, ambidextrous

Rejoice computer users as you will no longer be a slave to chirality thanks to your new rodent overlord, Cooler Master's MasterMouse Pro L!  This mouse is properly ambidextrous, both sides of the mouse have the same buttons and fancy RGB lighting and the DPI button is equally inconvenient for everyone as it is located on the bottom of the mouse.  For hardware it uses a Avago PMW-3360 IR optical sensor which can be set up to a sensitivity of 12,000 DPI.  The mouse also comes with two swapable shells for the top of the mouse and CM plans on releasing the specifications so you can print your own if you so desire.

It is currently $60 on NewEgg, you can see more information on the mouse and software over at KitGuru.

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"Today, we are taking a look at the Cooler Master ‘MasterMouse Pro L’, a true ambidextrous mouse with modular covers for the body and side grips, allowing users to make physical changes to the mouse to better suit them."

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Source: Kitguru

Battlefield 1 Beta is out, as is the GeForce 372.70 driver

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | August 30, 2016 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, GeForce 372.70, driver

NVIDIA continues with their Game Ready driver program, releasing the GeForce 372.70 driver, hand crafted in the new world by artisanal engineers to bring enhanced support to World of Warcraft: Legion, Battlefield 1: Open Beta, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Quantum Break.  There is not much to see in the release notes, although you can now enjoy Deus Ex in glorious 3D vision assuming you have the monitor and glasses.

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If you are testing the new Battlefield you should consider updating, one would suppose the bug reports submitted using this driver will be more beneficial to the developers than an older release.  You know the drill, grab them from GeForce.com or NVIDIA.com.

Source: NVIDIA

The new solid state standard for laptop vendors?

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2016 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: ssd, laptop, ultraportable

The increasing use of on-board memory by OEMs in ultraportables has some enthusiasts unhappy, however the trend that DigiTimes mentioned today should cheer them up somewhat.  It is predicted by DRAMeXchange that over half of all laptops will use an SSD for storage by 2018.  There are some rather interesting bits of data in the post, for instance the pricing of SSDs for OEMs have reportedly stabilized for the first time, with a quoted rise in prices of 0-0.5% for MLC and 0-1% TLC based models compared with the prior quarter.  These numbers seem in direct opposition to the retail market where not only have we seen a steady decline in SSD prices, the change has been much greater than 1%.

There is a shadow cast by this silver lined cloud; with more demand by OEMs for NAND there will be more pressure on manufacturers and so it is predicted that supply will be unable to meet demand in Q3 of this year.  One would expect manufacturers to produce for the market segment that offers a greater profit margin and if the pricing mentioned previously is accurate, that is not retail.  It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens to SSD pricing in the fall.

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"DRAMeXchange has maintained its estimate given earlier in 2016 that the adoption of SSDs in notebooks would exceed 30% in 2016. The proportion is forecast to reach 56% in 2018, according to the research firm."

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Source: DigiTimes

Samsung is being a little cagey about their new Z-SSD

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2016 - 02:27 PM |
Tagged: z-ssd, NVMe, Samsung, HHHL

The Register had a quick chat with Samsung about the Z-SSD they announced at FMS 2016, hoping to get some details from the company about the technology behind the new product, with little success.  We know it will be DRAM-NAND gap-filler such as the one Netlist announced earlier and will be possible competition for Intel's XPoint.  Samsung did confirm that it will be NVMe and will initially launch as a half height, half length PCIe card, with other interfaces to follow.  They did admit it will use 3D V-NAND, but would only hint at the custom circuit design they will use.  The Register offers some prognostication at the end of the quick interview, you can see that right here.

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"The mysterious Samsung Z-SSD was announced at the Flash Memory Summit, and positioned as a DRAM-NAND gap-filler. This makes it competition for XPoint. We asked Samsung about it, and here is what we learnt."

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Source: The Register

Win $100 Steam Gift Cards - Intel Extreme Rig Challenge

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2016 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, contest, giveaway, video, extreme rig challenge

Happy Monday everyone! How about a little contest to start off your work week right?

Intel Extreme Rig Challenge - Win a $100 Steam Gift Card!

The contest will run for one week, open to anyone in the world! 

Sometimes these short and sweet posts are pretty, huh?

Fanatec Releases New CSL Elite Products - Affordable Racing!

Subject: General Tech | August 27, 2016 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: wheel base, Thrustmaster, T500RS, T300, steering wheel, pedals, Fanatec, CSL Elite, ClubSport V2

This past Summer I was introduced to Fanatec products for the first time.  Before that I had only handled some lower end Genius products, as well as low end and midrange Thrustmaster units.  My review of the Fanatec setup will be posted here this next week, but my overall impressions of what Fanatec offers is overwhelmingly positive.  The only issue, and it is a glaring one, is the lack of an affordable setup based on their designs.  This past Friday Fanatec introduced a new series of products that aims to make their setups far more affordable than what we have seen so far.

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The new CSL Elite Series of products offer many of the same features of the higher end ClubSport series of products, but at a much more affordable price range.  This does not mean that they are skimping out on features and quality construction.  The CSL Elite Pedals with Loadcell Kit offer a full aluminum build with a three pedal setup and the load cell on the brake pedal.  This allows increasing resistance during braking that other spring loaded pedals may not offer.  Fanatec claims that up to 90kg of pressure can be applied to the load cell.  Having used their upper end ClubSport pedals, I can attest to what a difference such a load cell and a heavy aluminum base can do for the racing experience.  Fanatec includes three different types of anti-skid pads that can be swapped out on the pedals.

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The CSL Elite Wheel Base offers 6NM of force to the wheel.  This is more than the ClubSport V1 base, but slightly less than the V2.  In violent crashes, the wheel certainly can break the grip of the user’s hands.  The base accepts a wide variety of wheels from Fanatec, but the bundle comes with the CSL Steering Wheel P1 for Xbox One.  The base comes with the automotive grade quick release unit that easily swaps in and out wheels.  The base also includes an RPM LED display on the base that is not included in the ClubSport series.  The base also includes a built-in table clamp that is a $50 accessory for the ClubSport V2 setup.

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The smaller motor, single belt design, and plastic construction of the wheel base allows Fanatec to shave a big portion of the price off of this part.  It still features the metal drive shaft and metal quick release mechanism (something that Thrustmaster doesn’t have even on their high end T500RS base).  The base still allows the connections for the optional shifter and e-brake.

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Fanatec offers the bundle with a full version of Assetto Corsa for Xbox One for $639.85.  This is a tremendous price point that puts it in range of the T500RS.  Fanatec products have never been this reasonable for PC and Xbox One racers.  It is still a chunk of change, but it is nowhere near the $1800 range where a full ClubSport V2 setup can be bought for.

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The base can be upgraded with options such as a static paddle shifters.

I’m looking forward to seeing reviews of these parts and how they stack up to the V2 and other setups from competitors.

Click here to read the entire release and pricing.

Source: Fanatec

Blizzard Announces Live Streaming

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2016 - 10:19 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, facebook, OBS

So I was greeted with an interesting pop-up when I updated my Battle.net launcher today. Turns out Blizzard is pushing Blizzard Streaming to “the Americas, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand”. Currently, Facebook is the only platform that you can stream to, and Blizzard hasn't announced bringing it to others, but the settings area is clearly a vertical list of horizontal widgets, so that suggests they intend to add more than one at some point.

As for the application, itself, this could be useful (especially if other services are added) for users who only stream Blizzard titles, and who want something designed a bit more mainstream than OBS. That said, Raptr and GeForce Experience both fall under this category. Moreover, Blizzard doesn't clarify whether or not the stream will make use of NVIDIA's NVENC, Intel's Quick Sync, or AMD's VCE, all three of which are supported on OBS Studio. Granted, Blizzard titles tend to be easy to compute, but it is hard to beat encoding on an idle, integrated GPU, if you should have one.

That said, choices are good, and you now have another.

GDDR6's timing will be a little slower than we had hoped

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2016 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: gddr6, Samsung, delay

The Inquirer offered some sad news for anyone hoping to see GDDR6 next year as Samsung is now aiming to deliver in 2018.  The specifications remain the same, internal bandwidth topping out at 16Gbps, compared to GDDR5X at 12Gbps.  That will translate to a maximum of 512GBps on a 256-bit memory bus, 786GBps on a 384-bit bus.  Mobile devices will also appreciate the new standard as it should use around 20% less power, good news for those who buy gaming laptops.

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"SAMSUNG HAS ANNOUNCED that GDDR6 memory interface technology will be introduced in 2018, not 2017 as was previously expected."

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Source: The Inquirer

Faster WiFi is great but ... MegaMIMO 2.0; really?

Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2016 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: MegaMIMO 2.0, wireless router, wifi, mu-mimo

Multi-In Multi-Out routers are a wonderful thing, not only are the routers far more tentacular than before, the technology also make our unwired lives better as Sebastian explained.  The only thing that could make it better is a bandwidth boost, which is what these researchers at MIT have been working on.  In an experiment involving laptop bearing Roombas they showed a increase of 330% in transfer speeds thanks to synchronized phases allowing multiple signals to be sent on the same frequency.  Pop on over to Slashdot to learn more about their research.

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"Scientists at MIT claim to have created a new wireless technology that can triple Wi-Fi data speeds while also doubling the range of the signal. Dubbed MegaMIMO 2.0, the system will shortly enter commercialization and could ease the strain on our increasingly crowded wireless networks."

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Source: Slashdot

Podcast #414 - AMD Zen Architecture Details, Lightning Headphones, AMD GPU Market Share and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2016 - 10:51 AM |
Tagged: Zen, video, seasonic, Polaris, podcast, Omen, nvidia, market share, Lightning, hp, gtx 1060 3gb, gpu, brix, Audeze, asus, architecture, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #414 - 08/25/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the newly released architecture details of AMD Zen, Audeze headphones, AMD market share gains 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!

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

Program length: 1:37:15
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

Qualcomm and OSIsoft Announce Snapdragon-Powered Smart Ballpark

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: utilities, SoC, snapdragon, Smart Ballpark, San Diego, qualcomm, Padres, OSIsoft, iot, industrial, baseball

Ever wonder how efficiently a major venue operates when it's only full of fans on game days? It turns out they don't operate all that efficiently, and the overhead is very expensive. This is where Qualcomm and OSIsoft step in, collaborating on a new “Smart Ballpark” project for San Diego's Petco Park.

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“The San Diego Padres are utilizing edge intelligence gateways, powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, to collect data from critical infrastructure systems and stream it in real-time to OSIsoft’s PI System in order to monitor utilities, improve operating efficiencies and drive sustainability across the team’s entire Petco Park ballpark.”

With usage monitoring for utilities (electrical and gas energy, potable and non-potable water) the Padres - San Diego’s Major League Baseball team that calls Petco Park home - see the potential to save more than 25% in the next five years.

“The edge intelligence gateways, using Snapdragon processors, connect to sensors and legacy systems throughout the ballpark using a broad range of communication methods, including wired and wireless technologies, analog and digital inputs and multiple communication protocols. These edge intelligence gateways acquire, store and stream data in real-time to the OSIsoft PI System which then presents the data to the Padres’ facilities managers using OSIsoft’s Visualization Suite and analytics, providing the operations team with deep situational awareness of everything happening in the venue.”

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This is a mammoth implementation of IoT (Internet of Things), with OSIsoft’s PI system a major player on the industrial side. Qualcomm naturally needs no introduction, as the smartphone SoC maker found in so many devices across virtually all brands. Qualcomm has also worked on improving mobile data performance in large venues such as ballparks, with products like the X16 modem (expected in products starting in the second half of 2016) offering improved connections via carrier and link aggregation, and use of unlicensed spectrum.

Full press release after the break:

Source: Qualcomm

Deus Ex: GPU-kind divided

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: gaming, deus ex: mankind divided

You are probably wondering what kind of performance you will see when you run the new Deus Ex after you purchase it; as obviously you did not pre-order the game.  TechPowerUp has you covered as they have tested the retail version of the game with a variety of cards to give you an idea of the load your GPU will be under.  They started out testing memory usage with a Titan, running Ultra settings at 4K will use up to 5.5GB of memory, so mid range cards will certainly suffer at that point.  Since not many of us are sporting Titans in our cases they also tried out the GTX 1060, 980Ti and 1080 along with the RX 480 and Fury X at a variety of settings.  Read through their review to garner a rough estimate of your expected performance in Mankind Divided.

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"Deus Ex Mankind Divided has just been released today. We bring you a performance analysis using the most popular graphics cards, at four resolutions, including 4K, at both Ultra and High settings. We also took a closer look at VRAM usage."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Love upgrading memory on your laptop? Double check any Apollo Lake machines you like.

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: ultraportable, LPDDR4, Intel, apollo lake

A report from DigiTimes is bad news for those who like to upgrade their ultraportable laptops.  To cut down on production costs companies like Acer, Lenovo, Asustek Computer, HP and Dell will use on-board memory as opposed to DIMMs on their Apollo Lake based machines.  This should help keep the costs of flipbooks, 2 in 1's and other small machines stable or even lower them by a small amount but does mean that they cannot easily be upgraded. Many larger notebooks will also switch to this style of memory so be sure to do your research before purchasing a new mobile system.

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"Notebook vendors have mostly adopted on-board memory designs in place of DIMMs to make their Intel Apollo Lake-based notebooks as slim as possible, according to sources from Taiwan's notebook supply chain"

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Source: DigiTimes

Hey Ken, print me out a shroud! ASUS introduces 3D printed parts for their motherboards, GPUs and peripherals

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2016 - 07:02 PM |
Tagged: asus, 3d printing

ASUS have just released FreeCAD and 3D source files for you to print out embellishments and useful add-ons for your ASUS motherboards, graphics cards and peripherals such as the ROG Spatha.  Below you can see a 3D-printed finger rest addition to the Spatha, just one of the possibilities this new program opens up.

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Certain motherboards such as the Z170 Pro Gaming/Aura sport mounting points specifically designed for 3D printed parts, or you can use empty M.2 mount points as the designs ASUS have made available use the same screws as you would use in an M.2 port. 

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You could add a nameplate, an additional fan mount or even extra plastic shielding, in whatever colours you have available to print with.  ASUS chose to use FreeCAD to design the parts so that you do not necessarily need a 3D printer yourself, services such as ShapeWays can print the parts out for you.

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If you have SLI or CrossFire bridges that need sprucing up, they have designed covers to snap over your existing parts as well as cable combs to keep your cables under control.  The current designs only scratch the surface of what you could create and add to your builds and you can bet ASUS will be adding more possibilities in the coming months.  You can just add a little something to make your machine unique or go all out with modifications, just check out the designs and see what grabs your attention.

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Source: ASUS

What dwells in the heart of HoloLens? Now we all know!

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2016 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: hololens, microsoft, Tensilica, Cherry Trail, hot chips

Microsoft revealed information about the internals of the new holographic processor used in their Hololens at Hot Chips, the first peek we have had.  The new headset is another win for Tensilica as they provide the DSP and instruction extensions; previously we have seen them work with VIA to develop an SSD controller and with AMD for TrueAudio solutions.  Each of the 24 cores has a different task it is hardwired for, offering more efficient processing than software running on flexible hardware.

The processing power for your interface comes from a 14nm Cherry Trail processor with 1GB of DDR and yes, your apps will run on Windows 10.  For now the details are still sparse, there is still a lot to be revealed about Microsoft's answer to VR.  Drop by The Register for more slides and info.

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"The secretive HPU is a custom-designed TSMC-fabricated 28nm coprocessor that has 24 Tensilica DSP cores. It has about 65 million logic gates, 8MB of SRAM, and a layer of 1GB of low-power DDR3 RAM on top, all in a 12mm-by-12mm BGA package. We understand it can perform a trillion calculations a second."

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Source: The Register

A trio of mechanical keyboards from AiZO, the new MGK L80 lineup

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2016 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: AiZO, MGK L80, Kailh, gaming keyboard, input

The supply of mechanical keyboards continues to grow, once Cherry MX was the only supplier of switches and only a few companies sold the products.  Now we have choice in manufacturer as well as the switch type we want, beyond the choice of Red, Brown, Blue and so on.  AiZO chose to use Kailh switches in their MGK L80 lineup, your choice of click type and also included a wrist rest for those who desire such a thing.  Modders Inc tested out the three models on offer, they are a bit expensive but do offer a solid solution for your mechanical keyboard desires.

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"The MGK L80 series is the latest line of gaming keyboards manufactured by AZIO. Available in red, blue or RGB backlighting, the MGK L80 offers mechanical gaming comfort with a choice of either Kailh brown or blue switch mounted on an elegant brushed aluminum surface."

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Source: Modders Inc

Use Bing in Edge for 30 hours a month and get ...

Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2016 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, microsoft rewards, windows 10, bing, edge

If you remember Bing Rewards then this will seem familiar, otherwise the gist of the deal is that if you browse on Edge and use Bing to search for 30 hours every month you get a bribe similar to what credit card companies offer.  You can choose between Skype credit, ad-free Outlook or Amazon gift cards, perhaps for aspirin to ease your Bing related headache; if such things seem worth your while.  The Inquirer points out that this is another reminder that Microsoft tracks all usage of Edge, otherwise they would not be able to verify the amount of Bing you used. 

Then again, to carry on the credit card analogy ...

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"Microsoft Rewards is a rebrand of Bing Rewards, the firm's desperate attempt to get people using the irritating default search engine, and sure enough the bribes for using Edge apply only if you use Bing too."

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Source: The Inquirer

Mozilla Publishes WebVR 1.0 to Nightly Releases

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2016 - 05:36 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, webvr, Oculus

Earlier this month, the W3C published an Editor's Draft for WebVR 1.0. The specification has not yet been ratified, but the proposal is backed by engineers from Mozilla and Google. It enables the use of VR headsets in the web browser, including all the security required, such as isolating input to a single tab (in case you need to input a password while the HMD is on your face).

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Firefox Nightly, as of August 16th, now supports the draft 1.0 specification.

The browser currently supports Oculus CV1 and DK2 on Windows. It does not work with DK1, although Oculus provided backers of that KickStarter with a CV1 anyway, and it does not (yet) support the HTC Vive. It also only deals with the headset itself, not any motion controllers. I guess, if your application requires this functionality, you will need to keep working on native applications for a little while longer.

Source: Mozilla

Now we know what happened to Josh's stream; does your camera do YUY2 encoding?

Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2016 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: yuy2, windows 10, skype, microsoft, idiots

In their infinite wisdom, Microsoft has disabled MJPEG and H.264 encoding on USB webcams for Skype in their Adversary Update to Windows 10, leaving only YUY2 encoding as your choice.  The supposed reasoning behind this is to ensure that there is no duplication of encoding which could lead to poor performance; ironically the result of this change is poor performance for the majority of users such as Josh.  Supposedly there will be a fix released some time in September but for now the only option is to roll back your AU installation, assuming you are not already past the 10 day deadline.   You can thank Brad Sams over at Thurrott.com for getting to the bottom of the issue which has been plaguing users of Skype and pick up some more details on his post.

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"Microsoft made a significant change with the release of Windows 10 and support for webcams that is causing serious problems for not only consumers but also the enterprise. The problem is that after installing the update, Windows no longer allows USB webcams to use MJPEG or H264 encoded streams and is only allowing YUY2 encoding."

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Source: Thurrott

Gamescom 2016: Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord Video

Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2016 - 01:40 AM |
Tagged: mount & blade ii, taleworlds

Mount & Blade is a quite popular franchise in some circles. It is based around a fairly simple, but difficult to master combat system, which mixes melee, blocking, and ranged attacks. They are balanced by reload time (and sometimes accuracy) to make all methods viable. A 100 vs 100 battle, including cavalry and other special units, is quite unique. It is also a popular mod platform, although Warband's engine can be a little temperamental.

As such, there's quite a bit of interest for the upcoming Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord. The Siege game mode involves an attacking wave beating down a fortress, trying to open as many attack paths as possible, and eventually overrunning the defenders. The above video is from the defending perspective. It seems like it, mechanically, changed significantly from Warband, particularly the Napoleonic Wars DLC that I'm used to. In that mod, attackers spawn infinitely until a time limit is reached. This version apparently focuses on single-life AI armies, which Warband had as Commander Battles.

Hmm. Still no release date, though.