Microsoft Publishes Build 10525 to Fast Ring Insiders

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2015 - 08:24 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Almost exactly a month ago, Windows 10 Build 10240 was released to both Fast and Slow. This build served as the milestone for an everyperson's operating system, and it gave OEMs something to validate drivers and software against. According to BuildFeed, the first known branches at that build number were compiled on July 9th.

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Today, Windows Insiders on the Fast ring will receive Build 10525 when they next perform a Windows Update. This build was first compiled last week on August 12th, and it represents the first published milestone of the TH2 branch. It contains two new (advertised) features: extra color options for Windows UI elements and improvements to Windows 10 memory management.

I'll talk about Memory Manager first.

As Windows 10 builds were released, there was one where I noticed the System process begun to use a significant amount of RAM -- a whole gigabyte or two. I figured that this was a memory leak that would be fixed in a later build, so I put up with it. Some time later, I noticed that its usage would actually go up and down as I open or close applications. It was also never “fixed” before release.

It turns out that it was an intended feature.

When operating systems decide that a chunk of memory is unlikely to be used, they tend to push them to the hard drive. This could be an application that has been minimized for a while, or portions that were displaced by a big, RAM-hungry program. You will often see this when you switch programs. Sometimes, there's a program that's already open, albeit minimized, but it still takes a few seconds to pop up. This behavior is often because it was pushed out of system memory and Windows (or Mac, Linux, and so forth) wasn't prepared to abruptly fetch it again.

Now, system memory is big and cheap, and Windows is being installed on devices with small banks of flash storage and relatively fast processors. Microsoft now believes that it makes sense to cram old chunks of memory into a container, which resides in RAM, that is compressed (as opposed to just dumping it onto permanent storage). This occurs in the system process, which explains why it tends to inflate when you're doing a lot of things at once.

Build 10525 tweaks this feature a bit in undescribed ways. I could imagine that Microsoft cut development in the public branches to make it robust for Windows 10's launch. They now have an opportunity to point Insiders to the less tested branches.

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I think this is interesting, and could make a lot of sense if they successfully manage data into their most efficient storage locations. I do notice that System tends to get large even when a lot of RAM is still available. For instance, I have 55% of my memory unallocated at this point, but System is about 1.2 GB large. There could be very good reasons for this, which might be something that my operating system would know better than I, but it might also be a sign that it's slightly over-aggressive. Maybe my system could benefit from a big, contiguous chunk of available memory, or maybe my PC is being unreasonably taxed. Who knows.

The other major feature is color management. While the three displayed toggles are available in 10240, the user is apparently now able to adjust more colors. Without installing 10525, I cannot figure out what those changes are, but Microsoft asserts that they're there.

If you register as a Windows Insider Fast Ring user, you can now receive 10525.

Source: Microsoft

Tt eSPORTS updated BLACK V2 Gaming Mouse

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2015 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: input, gaming mouse, thermaltake esports, black v2

The new Black V2 has the high quality OMRON switches common to gaming mice and has been upgraded to use an AVAGO laser sensor which allows you to increment your sensitivity in 100DPI increments up to 5700 DPI.  It sports 7 programmable buttons all of which can be set to send macros, a total of 35 programmable macros across 5 profiles using the included software.  The LEDs which illuminate the logo and indicate the current DPI sensitivity level can be turned on or off and apparently will change depending on how fast you are clicking if you enable Battle Mode.  Five 4.5g weights allow you to modify how the mouse feels in your hand, not a bad set of features for a mouse under $60Check out Mad Shrimps' full review to see what they thought of the Black V2.

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"During our time with the Black V2, the product seemed quite responsive and comfortable, while the extra buttons can be accessed easily when in-game. The mouse was tested in multiple game genres and here we could count League of Legends, Echo of Soul, The Talos Principle, Serious Sam BFE but also GTA V; thanks to the new AVAGO sensor, the experience was accurate and if we feel that the default DPI steps are not for us in the current game, we can easily reconfigure them from the supplied application."

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Source: Mad Shrimps

Move over Twinkies and cockroaches; meet the unkillable cookie

Subject: General Tech | August 18, 2015 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: super cookie, security

Congratulations, if you use Verizon, AT&T, Bell Canada, Bharti Airtel, Cricket, Telefonica de Espantilde;a, Viettel Peru S.a.c., Vodafone NL or Vodafone Spain as your provider your browsing is being tracked and there is nothing you can do about it.  These providers have assigned your device a unique token which the provider injects into every HTTP request your device makes, the cookie is actually external to your device and so you have no way to remove it.  You will see targeted ads based on your browsing no matter how many times you remove cookies or even factory reset your phone.  Verizon has now made it an opt-out feature and The Register has been told that AT&T no longer injects the 'super cookie' into headers but based on businesses recent behaviour it is probably because they have found a better way to track you.

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"At least nine telcos around the world are using so-called super-cookies to secretly monitor citizens' online behavior, according to a new study."

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Source: The Register

How many new machines shipped with Windows 10?

Subject: General Tech | August 17, 2015 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, sales

With the humorously tight margin between the release of the Windows RTM and the release date for the rest of the world it is not surprising that new laptops and desktops were not available with Windows 10 installed.  All that changed the next week when there were actual machines available of which some were even purchased.  According to the information given to The Register there were 150 machines sold in Europe and while they did not have exact numbers for the North American market it is not going to be significantly different.  It looks like the new OS is not bringing the large surge in PC sales that companies were hoping for immediately, perhaps as more systems become available with new hardware we will start to see the increase.

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"No PCs pre-loaded with Windows 10 made their way into distributors’ warehouses in the week before launch of the OS – but by golly, they did in seven days after the 'big event'."

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Source: The Register

Bad Google! That is not how you patch

Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2015 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: google, stagefright, Android, security

So it would seem that the patch which Google rolled out and carriers have been pushing OTA is not going to be the last that we hear of Stagefright as the patch is not all that effective.  Stagefright is a vulnerability present on all 950 million devices running Android 2.2 to 5.1 and allows certain MMS to be able to execute code on your mobile device.  The recently released patch does not completely ameliorate this vulnerability, an MMS can still cause the library to crash, most likely just preventing you from using the application but possibly allowing other attacks to occur. 

Also of note is the monthly Android patches that Google is providing to various phone manufacturers who are supposed to be pushing them out.  As many Android users will have noticed, up to and including the staff at The Register, you may not have seen the flawed patch yet, let alone the update for the patch.

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"Google's security update to fix the Stagefright vulnerability in millions of Android smartphones is buggy – and a new patch is needed.

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Source: The Register

Gameworks VR, NVIDIA's Direct Driver Mode for the Oculus Rift

Subject: General Tech, Displays | August 13, 2015 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, oculus rift, gameworks vr

The news that Oculus SDK 0.7

would incorporate Direct Driver Mode after the August 20th update is not very old and now NVIDA has announced the availability of the beta version of their GameWorks VR.  As mentioned on this podcast, until now your GPU has treated the Oculus as a secondary monitor but with this update your graphics driver will directly talk to the Oculus as a separate device, which should help greatly with latency and development of the tricks and treats yet to be discovered when programming for this type of interface.

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NVIDIA's Gameworks VR, as well as AMD's LiquidVR will provide a platform for developers to program for the Oculus Rift as well as the competeing products from other companies.  The new beta SDK from NVIDIA has been updated to support VR SLI and is compatible with the new 350.60 Game Ready drivers.  Programmers working with the Maxwell architecture will benefit from Multi-Res Shading which should increase the performance of your current programs.  Follow the links if you are interested in developing for Oculus, otherwise wait patiently for the day you can pre-order them.

Source: NVIDIA

Meet the Galaxy S6 Edge+

Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2015 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, Galaxy S6 Edge+

We all knew it was coming and now we have the official information on the Galaxy S6 Edge+ from Samsung.  It is as Edge-y as the non-plus model and sports the same 5.7in 1440x2560 QHD Super AMOLED dual screen.  As you would expect there is a 64-bit octa-core Exynos 7420 inside, using the same 14nm process but the RAM has been upped to 4GB from the previous 3GB.  The metal and glass housing is similar to the Edge but discerning eyes should still be able to tell you forked over money to upgrade to the newest model.  The Inquirer has some of the press release here but don't watch the full release video as it is only slightly less terrible than last years horror show from Blackberry.

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"SAMSUNG HAS SURPRISED NOBODY with the unveiling of the Galaxy S6 Edge+, the firm's latest smartphone for big-handed folk."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #362 - Benchmarking a Voodoo 3, Flash Media Summit 2015, Skylake Delidding and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2015 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, nvidia, GTX 970, Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Extreme Core Edition, dx12, 3dfx, voodoo 3, Intel, SSD 750, NVMe, Samsung, R9 Fury, Fiji, gtx 950

PC Perspective Podcast #362 - 08/13/2015

Join us this week as we discuss Benchmarking a Voodoo 3, Flash Media Summit 2015, Skylake Delidding and more!

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

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The Steam Boy gets a new name and pre-order price

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2015 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Steam Machine, valve, Smach Zero

The portable Steam machine previously referred to as the Steam Boy is now called the Smach Zero and you can pre-order it starting November 10th for $300.  The device will feature a 5-inch 720p touch screen powered by an AMD Steppe Eagle SoC with a Jaguar-based CPU and GCN-based Radeon graphics.  It will have 4GB of RAM onboard, 32GB of internal storage with more available vis an SD Card Slot and support for USB OTG.  HEXUS was told the device should be able to handle Half-Life 2, Civilization V, Dota 2, Tropico 5, BioShock Infinite or Cities: Skylines on its integral display or outputted via the HDMI port.  Check out more on the Smach Zero here.

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"Smach Zero Steam Machine pre-order availability and pricing have both been confirmed by the device maker. Smach published a press release yesterday saying that the handheld will be available on pre-order from 10th November at a special introductory price of $299."

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Source: HEXUS

Looking at that Ubuntu phone? Hope you don't live in North America

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2015 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, smartphone, HPSA+, Aquaris E4.5, Aquaris E5 HD

The new Ubuntu powered Aquaris E4.5 and the Aquaris E5 HD are now available but thanks to North America's carriers not supporting HPSA+ properly, or in many cases at all, the best you could hope for on this side of the pond is a 2G connection.  They chips inside the phones are  quad-core ARM Cortex A7's running at 1.3GHz with Mali 400 graphics.  The E5 has a 5" screen with a resolutions of 720 x 1280, the 4.5 is 4.5" in size with a 540 x 960 resolution.  Overall the specs are not awe inspiring and the prices of roughly $190 and $220 seem a bit high but are certainly lower than what you would pay for a new Samsung or Apple product without a contract.  If you are interested then follow the links from The Register to order one.

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"In a Tuesday blog post, Ubuntu maker Canonical said that BQ, its Spanish hardware partner, has opened a new online store where customers around the world can order the Aquaris E4.5 and the Aquaris E5 HD, the two current Ubuntu models."

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 for everything arrives

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2015 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, iot, raspberry pi 2

The slimmed down version of Windows 10 for devices such as the Raspberry Pi 2 has arrived and it is royalty free for makers, available right here.  The Register describes some problems with the current version, mostly incompatibility with certain peripherals but also include occasional video crashes or networking issues.  Seeing as how this particular incarnation of the OS is designed for creative minds tinkering on custom hardware the issues are not unexpected nor should you consider it proof the OS is not usable if you plan on tinkering with it.  You will need a full PC for development with Windows 10 and Visual Studio 2015 to start using the slimmed down Windows 10, nothing new but certainly worth noting.  Check out more on the Universal Windows Platform and Windows 10 for the IoT at The Register.

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"Microsoft has shipped the public release of Windows 10 IoT Core, the pared-down version of Windows 10 for embedded devices, including the Intel MinnowBoard Max and the Raspberry Pi 2."

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Source: The Register

Running a small Win7 Domain and having bandwidth issues today?

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2015 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, oops, microsoft

Microsoft promised that Windows 10 would not be pushed out to computers on a Domain, or at least allow you to block the update; a claim which has turned out to be slightly less than accurate.  If you are running a Windows 7 Domain which still relies Microsoft update as opposed to WSUS you may have noticed some serious traffic spikes this morning.  That is because some, perhaps all, of your computers are slurping down the 3GB Windows 10 update.  Check the Register for links to Microsoft and consider blocking Microsoft Update on your firewall until this has been sorted, unless you like a slow network and living dangerously.

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"The problem is affecting domain-attached Windows 7 PCs not signed up to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) for patches and updates, but looking for a Microsoft update instead."

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Source: The Register

The Intel SMM bug is bad, but not that bad

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: fud, security, Intel, amd, x86, SMM

The SSM security hole that Christopher Domas has demonstrated (pdf)  is worrying but don't panic, it requires your system to be compromised before you are vulnerable.  That said, once you have access to the SMM you can do anything you feel like to the computer up to and including ensuring you can reinfect the machine even after a complete format or UEFI update.  The flaw was proven on Intel x86 machines but is likely to apply to AMD processors as well as they were using the same architecture around the turn of the millennium and thankfully the issue has been mitigated in recent processors.  Intel will be releasing patches for effected CPUs, although not all the processors can be patched and we have yet to hear from AMD.  You can get an over view of the issue by following the link at Slashdot and speculate on if this flaw was a mistake or inserted there on purpose in our comment section.

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"Security researcher Christopher Domas has demonstrated a method of installing a rootkit in a PC's firmware that exploits a feature built into every x86 chip manufactured since 1997. The rootkit infects the processor's System Management Mode, and could be used to wipe the UEFI or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldnt help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure."

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Source: Slashdot

DOTA 2 to Increase Custom Game Mode Player Limit to 24

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: valve, DOTA 2

MOBAs tend to be focus on gameplay mechanics with three to five players per team. The concept is that a handful of players will need to balance between the various attack paths, and a limited amount of cooperation is possible before you start leaving zones uncovered. It also means that one problematic player can tank an entire team.

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This will not change in the official DOTA 2 game, but Valve is expanding the limit for custom games. At The International 5, Valve announced that those games can support up to 24 players. The first public game was a 10 vs 10 match at the end of the fourth day of the tournament. While I don't play DOTA 2, it sounds like Custom Games in DOTA 2 Reborn are a lot like StarCraft Arcade, where users can create mods like dungeon crawlers and even objective-based games. In this case, an increased player limit would be very useful. I am not sure whether it works for the base game, though -- maybe it works better?

This patch launches next week.

World of Warcraft Legion Announced

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, wow, blizzard

Shortly after Blizzard has released their financial results, they announced “Legion”, a new expansion pack for World of Warcraft. They are arriving more rapidly than they have in the past. The amount of time between Mists of Pandaria's release and Warlords of Draenor's announcement is a little more than a year and a month. A year later, Warlords of Draenor was released and now, nine months later, Legion was announced. I expect that the stream of content is to either stimulate subscriptions or, less likely, finish the narrative before the game fades out.

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Image via PC Gamer

Before we get to the expansion, we'll briefly mention those financial results. In May, Blizzard reported that, while Warlords of Draenor pushed the subscription count to over 10 million, it fell back down to about 7.1 million by the end of the quarter. This is a loss of about 29%. This quarter saw another loss of about 1.5 million subscribers, from 7.1 million to 5.6 million. This is a loss of about 27%. This is a fairly steady, exponential loss of a little more than 25% every 3 months, which is fairly quick. This also means that Draenor was enough to offset about six months. Not much more to say about that -- I just find it interesting.

As for Legion, it will be a fairly sizable boost in content. The level cap has been increased to 110, which will hopefully include new skills and armor leading up to it. A new class, Demon Hunter, has also been added. You will not need to level them up from 1, and they will be capable as either DPS or tank. Of course, new raids will be included. Blizzard seems to have wanted to highlight dungeons, however. The way it was described to PC Gamer makes it sound like they want them to be more interesting as set pieces, with story and an interesting environment.

No pricing or availability information, but we'll probably hear a lot at Blizzcon.

Source: PC Gamer

Wireless productivity, Logitech's MX Master and MX Anywhere 2

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: logitech, mx master, mx anywhere 2, input

Logitech is found on many desktops, both gamer and spreadsheet slaves often choose this familiar name in peripherals.  The Tech Report looks at two wireless mice aimed at those who use their mice to make money as opposed to war, the larger MX Master and the smaller and more portable MX Anywhere 2.  Both these mice can have up to three profiles to let you move between different PCs, letting you save base station or Bluetooth 4 connections and swap them at the press of a button.  Check out how they perform in their duties in the full review.

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"Logitech's MX Master and MX Anywhere 2 mice represent the pinnacle of the company's productivity-oriented pointing devices. We spent some hand time with each one to see whether they're truly the overlords of the office."

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Podcast #361 - Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: Z170-A, z170 deluxe, Z170, video, Skylake, podcast, nvidia, maxwell, logitech g29, Lenovo, lavie-z, Intel, gigabyte, asus, 950ti, 6700k

PC Perspective Podcast #361 - 08/06/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z and more!

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

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Can it Run VR? Crytek and Basemark Join Forces to Create Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: Basemark, crytek, oculus rift

With the release of Oculus Rift and various other head mounted displays you may be wondering if your current machine is powerful enough for you to use one of these devices or if you need to upgrade before you will enjoy the experience. 

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Basemark and Crytek have joined forces to create a new benchmark to test how your system will fare.  The benchmark will give you information on latency, verify your if hardware is able to run at 60, 75, 90 or 120fps with varying levels of graphics detail and even verify if your audio source can properly provide spacial audio cues.

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Helsinki (Finland) and Frankfurt am Main (Germany) August 6th, 2015 – Basemark and Crytek today announced a new partnership to help create a definitive PC system test for virtual reality gaming.

The new VR benchmark will enable gamers and PC hardware companies to easily assess the level of experience they can expect when running virtual reality content, and will be the first service available that gives users recognizable, real-world metrics to describe their system’s VR readiness with various HMDs out there.

Developed using Crytek’s CRYENGINE technology, the benchmark will provide detailed feedback in areas such as the best graphical settings to use with a variety of VR headsets. Basemark’s expertise in measuring performance standards will be key as they formulate an objective test that evaluates everything from frame rate capabilities to memory consumption, latency issues, 3D audio performance and much more.

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Crytek’s Creative Director for CRYENGINE, Frank Vitz, said: “Basemark is already helping to measure technology standards in other areas of gaming, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with them as we work to establish a user-friendly yardstick for VR performance. We believe CRYENGINE can become a go-to tool for developers looking to create compelling VR experiences, and this partnership means players can also count on CRYENGINE as they evaluate whether their PC is ready for the most advanced, cutting-edge VR content available.”

“We wanted to make a real-world VR gaming benchmark as opposed to a theoretical one and hence we’re very excited to announce this partnership with Crytek, the leading game engine company”, said Tero Sarkkinen, founder and CEO of Basemark, “By using CRYENGINE as the base and vetting the test workloads under our rigorous development process involving all the key technology players, we will forge the definitive benchmark for all PC VR gamers.”

Source: Basemark

Everyone needs an automated elastic band turret

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: DIY, turrent, arduino, 3d nand

With Black Hat in full swing anyone with even half a mind on their systems security is already depressed and likely to be even more so by the wrap up.  That is why you should all stare at this 3D printed, Arduino powered elastic band turret.  At the very least it should cheer you up and at best get you downloading the Thing Files to start printing your own.  The full load of 24 rubbers can be launched in a very short time, either automatically if you program the Arduino appropriately or manually with an optional joystick.  Head on over to MAKE:Blog to see this new step in desk defence.

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"Looking like it would fit in perfectly in the smash hit game Portal, this little turret can launch a barrage of rubber bands on command. Designed by Kevin Thomas, this perky little gatling gun is mostly 3D printed, with an Arduino for a brain."

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Mount & Blade II Bannerlord Progress Update at Gamescom

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mount & blade ii, mount & blade

TaleWorlds has a cult classic franchise with Mount & Blade. Warband, the follow-up to the first Mount & Blade but didn't earn its own number, placed right behind Skyrim in Ars Technica's Steam Gauge for “Most Played Older Releases (2012 or Before) on Steam”. It is my most played game by far with over 800 hours recorded, albeit over the course of several years. I also participated in (and even hosted) organized events on a regular basis throughout that entire period, too.

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The new game looks quite interesting, though. While the previous game's mods were more popular than its default content, its Siege mode drew a lot of attention. Armies were able to push siege towers against fortresses and slowly overtake the defenders -- attackers had unlimited respawns, but defenders did not. Eventually they would take a flag. Mods even played with destructible walls and buildings to force the attackers to create their own ways in, and the defenders to adapt in response. It seems like this version is expanding upon that with battering rams, catapults, and other team-controlled devices. While this is not as effective as a Napoleonic-era cannon, this might lead to the same effect.

They also flaunt time and weather rendering effects, and board games. Still no release date (or even publisher). This information is not even on their website yet. They're not known for rushing, at least.

Source: PC Gamer