The Witcher 3's DRM Strategy: Still None on PC

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | June 19, 2013 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: DRM, The Witcher 3, GOG

cdp.pl, formerly CD Projekt, has been one of the last holdouts against DRM. Founders of GoG.com and developer/publisher for The Witcher franchise, they offer a DRM-free platform for users to purchase games. Sure, they are usually good and old ones, aptly enough, but they are confident enough to include their most ambitious titles, The Witcher and The Witcher 2.

With The Witcher 3, we will see the title launch without DRM on GoG, trusting their users will purchase the title and be honest.

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Apparently, the game will have a world slightly larger than Skyrim.

Hopefully, with very little empty space.

I have long been a proponent of DRM-free media, as you could probably tell. I believe that DRM-free titles end up netting more sales than the same title would have with encryption; even if that were not true, society is harmed more than enough to justify its non-existence. Sure, we all know unapologetic jerks and they are, indeed, jerks. Just because these jerks exist does not mean your company should, or successfully will, be the alpha a-hole on the a-hole food-chain. Chances are you will just upset your actual customers, now former customers. There are reasons why I never purchased (never pirated either, I just flat-out ignored the entire franchise's existence) another Crysis title after the first one's SecuROM debacle wrecked my camcorder's DVD-authoring software.

So, when The Witcher 3 comes out, back it up on your external hard drive and maybe even keep a copy on your home theater PC. Most importantly, buy it... sometime in 2014.

Source: PC Gamer
Manufacturer: Adobe

OpenCL Support in a Meaningful Way

Adobe had OpenCL support since last year. You would never benefit from its inclusion unless you ran one of two AMD mobility chips under Mac OSX Lion, but it was there. Creative Cloud, predictably, furthers this trend with additional GPGPU support for applications like Photoshop and Premiere Pro.

This leads to some interesting points:

  • How OpenCL is changing the landscape between Intel and AMD
  • What GPU support is curiously absent from Adobe CC for one reason or another
  • Which GPUs are supported despite not... existing, officially.

adobe-cs-products.jpg

This should be very big news for our readers who do production work whether professional or for a hobby. If not, how about a little information about certain GPUs that are designed to compete with the GeForce 700-series?

Read on for our thoughts, after the break.

E3 2013: Microsoft can ban your Xbox One library

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2013 - 03:16 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, microsoft, ea, E3 13, E3

Update: Microsoft denies the statements from their support account... but this is still one of the major problems with DRM and closed platforms in general. It is stuff like this that you let them do.

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Electronic Arts knows that they need to shake their terrible public image.

Welcome to Microsoft's PR strategy for the Xbox One.

Consumers, whether they acknowledge it or not, fear for the control that platform holders have over their content. It was hard for many to believe that having your EA account banned for whatever reason, even a dispute with a forum moderator, forfeited your license to games you play through that EA account. Sounds like another great idea for Microsoft to steal.

Not stopping there, later on in the thread they were asked what would happen in the event of a security breach. You know, recourse before destroying access to possibly thousands of dollars of content.

While not a "verified account", @xboxsupport is.

They acknowledge ownership of this account in the background image there.

Honestly, there shouldn't have been any doubt that these actually are Microsoft employees.

... Yikes.

At this point, we have definitely surpassed absurdity. Sure, you typically need to do something fairly bad to have Microsoft stop charging your for Xbox Live. Removing access to your entire library of games, to me, is an attempt to limit cheating and the hardware community.

Great, encourage spite from the soldering irons, that works out well.

Don't worry, enthusiasts, you know the PC loves you.

Gaming as a form of entertainment is fundamentally different than gaming as a form of art. When content is entertainment, its message touches you without any intrinsic value and can be replaced with similar content. Sometimes a certain piece of content, itself, has specific value to society. It is these times where we should encourage efforts by organizations such as GoG, Mozilla and W3C, Khronos, and many others. Without help, it could be extremely difficult or impossible for content to be preserved for future generations and future civilizations.

It does not even need to get in the way of the industry and its attempt to profit from the gaming medium; a careless industry, on the other hand, can certainly get in the way of our ability to have genuine art. After all, this is the main reason why I am a PC gamer: the platform allows entertainment to co-exist with communities who support themselves when the official channels do not.

Of course, unless Windows learns a little something from the Xbox. I guess do not get your Windows Store account banned in the future?

Intel is not slowing down, exclamation exclamation. Haswell-E for Holiday 2014 question mark.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Processors | June 15, 2013 - 07:02 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Ivy Bridge-E, Haswell-E

In my analysis of the recent Intel Computex keynote, I noted that the displayed confidence came across more as repressing self-doubt. It did not seem, to me, like Intel wants to abandon the high-end enthusiast but rather catch up with their low performance and high efficiency competitors; they just know they are secure in that market. Of course, we could see mid-range choices dwindle and prices stagnate, but I cast doubt that Intel wants to exit the enthusiast market despite their silence about Ivy Bridge-E.

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All Images, Credit: VR-Zone

And Intel, now, wants to return some confidence to their high-end consumers comma they are not slowing down exclamation point exclamation point.

VR-Zone, the site which published Ivy Bridge-E's lazy release roadmap, are also the ones to suggest Haswell-E will come before mainstream Broadwell offerings. Once again, all is right with the world. Slated for release around holiday 2014, just a year after Ivy Bridge-E, Haswell-E will come alongside the X99 chipset. Instead of Broadwell, the back to school window of 2014 will by filled by a refresh of 22nm Haswell products with a new 9-series chipset.

Seriously, it's like watching the face of Intel's Tick-Tock while a repairman is tweaking the gears.

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In terms of specifications, Haswell-E will come in 8 and 6-core offerings with up to 20MB of cache. Apart from the inclusion of DDR4 support, the main advantage of Haswell-E over the upcoming Ivy Bridge-E is supposed to be raw performance; VR-Zone estimates up to 33-50% better computational strength. A depressingly novel area of improvement as of recent...

Lastly, with recent discussion of the awkwardly hobbled K-series parts, our readers might be happy to know that all Haswell-E parts will be unlocked to overclocking. This, again, leads me to believe that Intel is not hoping to suffocate the enthusiast market but rather sort their users: mid-range consumers will take what they are given and, if they object, send them on the bus to Funk-E town.

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Note, while the headlining slide definitively says "All Processors Unlocked"...

... this slide says "For K and Extreme series products." I will assume the latter is out of date?

Which begs the question: what does our readers think about that potential strategy? It could lead to mainstream performance products being pushed down into BGA-territory, but cements the existence of an enthusiast platform.

Source: VR-Zone

WWDC 13: Dissecting Apple's New Hardware Changes. MacBook Air and the new Mac Pro.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2013 - 04:06 AM |
Tagged: wwdc 13, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, apple

Sometimes our "Perspective" is needed on Apple announcements because some big points just do not get covered by the usual sources. Other times, portions of the story can be relevant to our readers. This is one of those days where both are true. Either side should review our thoughts and analysis of Apple's recent ultrabook and, especially, their upcoming desktop offerings.

The MacBook Air has been, predictably, upgraded Intel's Haswell processors. Battery life is the first obvious benefit of the CPU, and that has been well reported. The 11-inch MacBook Air gains an extra four hours of battery life, usable for up to 9 hours between charges. The extra space on the 13-inch MacBook Air allows it to last 12 hours between charges.

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Less discussed, both MacBook Airs will contain Intel's Iris iGPU more commonly known as Intel HD 5000. You cannot get Intel HD 5000 graphics without selecting a BGA socket component which you would install by soldering it in place. While there are several better solutions from competing GPU vendors, Apple will have one of the first shipping implementations of Haswell's canonical graphics processor. Iris is said to have double the performance of previous generation Ivy Bridge graphics for a fraction of its power consumption.

Also included in the MacBook Air is an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi network adapter and Bluetooth 4.0. Apple is not typically known to introduce new standards and often lags severely behind what is available on the PC unless they had a hand in trademarking it, USB 3.0 being the obvious and recent example.

The specifications will be somewhat customizable, the user is able to select between: an i5 and an i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128, 256, or 512GB SSD. It has shipped the day it was announced with base prices ranging between $999 for an entry-level 11-inch and $1099 for an entry-level 13-inch.

But now we move on to the dying industry, desktop PCs, where all innovation has died unless it is to graft a touch interface to anything and everything.

"Can't innovate any more, my ass", grunts Phil Schiller, on the keynote stage.

Whether you like it, or think "innovation" is the best word, it's a legitimate new design some will want.

While the new Mac Pro is not a system that I would be interested in purchasing, for issues I will outline soon, these devices are what some users really want. I have been a very strong proponent of OEM devices as they highlight the benefit of the PC industry: choice. You can purchase a device, like the new Mac Pro, from a vendor; alternatively, you can purchase the components individually to assemble yourself and save a lot of money; otherwise, you can hire a small business computer store or technician.

We need more companies, like Apple, to try new devices and paradigms for workstations and other high-performance devices. While it is less ideal for Apple to be the ones coming up with these redesigns, Apple's platform encourages applications to be vendor-specific (only run on a Mac), it can still benefit the PC industry by demonstrating that life and demand still exists; trying something new could reap large benefits. Not everyone wants to have a full ATX case with discrete components but still want workstation performance, and that is okay.

Now when it comes to actual specifications, the typical coverage glossed over what could be easily approximated by a trip to Wikipedia and Google. Sure, some may have been in a rush within the auditorium, but still.

The specifications are:

  • Intel Xeon E5-2600 V2-class CPU, Ivy Bridge-E, 12 cores max (suggests single-socket)
  • 4-channel DDR3 ECC RAM, apparently 4 DIMMS which suggests 4x16GB (Max).
  • Dual FirePro GPUs, 4096 total shaders with 2x6GB GDDR5.
  • PCIe SSD
  • Thunderbolt 2, USB3.0, and WiFi ac (+ a/b/g/n??), Bluetooth 4.0

Now the downside is that basically anything you wish to add to the Mac Pro needs to be done through Thunderbolt, Bluetooth 4.0, or USB 3.0. When you purchase an all-in-one custom design, you forfeit your ability to reach in and modify the components. There is also no mention of pricing, and for a computer with this shoplist you should expect to pay a substantial invoice even without "The Apple Tax", but that is not the point of purchasing a high-end workstation. Apple certainly put in as close to the best-of-the-best as they could.

Now could people stop claiming the PC is dead and work towards sustaining it? I know people love stories of jarring industry shifts, but this is ridiculous.

Source: Apple

Win an AMD A10-6800K Richland APU + SimCity!!

Subject: Editorial, Processors | June 10, 2013 - 10:53 AM |
Tagged: SimCity, Richland, giveaway, contest, APU, amd, a10-6800k

Odd, turns out I found two brand new AMD A10-6800K Richland APUs sitting on my desk this morning.  I called AMD to ask what this was all about and they said that if I didn't need them, I might as well give them away to our readers. 

"Oh, and throw in a free copy of the new SimCity while you're at it," they told me.

apugiveaway.jpg

Who am I to argue?

So let's have a giveaway! 

We are handing out two AMD A10-6800K "Richland" APUs for you to build a brand new PC around and including a key for SimCity with each of them.  If you haven't read Josh's review of the A10-6800K APU you should definitely do so; it will help educate you on exactly what you are getting - for FREE. 

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To enter, I need you to leave a comment on this very news post below telling us what you would build with a brand new A10 APU - you don't have to be registered to do so but we'd sure like it if you were.  (Make sure you leave your correct email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.)  Also, feel free to stop by the PC Perspective YouTube channel and either give our videos a gander or subscribe.  I think we put out some great content there and we'd like more of you to see it. 

I will pick one winner on June 17th and another on June 24th so you have two separate weeks to potentially win! 

A big thanks goes out to AMD for supplying the APUs and copies of SimCity for this giveaway.  Good luck!!

Source: AMD

Computex 2013: The Comedic Return of the Ultra GPUs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | June 10, 2013 - 02:49 AM |
Tagged: Ultra, geforce titan, computex

So long to Computex 2013, we barely knew thee. You poured stories all over our news feed for more than a whole week. What say you, another story for the... metaphorical road... between here... and... Taipei? Okay, so the metaphorical road is bumpy and unpaved, work with me.

It was substantially more difficult to decipher the name of a video card a number of years ago. Back then, products would be classified by their model numbers and often assigned a suffix like: "Ultra", "Pro", or "LE". These suffixes actually meant a lot, performing noticeably better (or maybe worse) than the suffix-less number and possibly even overlapping with other number-classes.

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Image Credit: zol.com.cn via Tom's Hardware

Just when they were gone long enough for us to miss them, the suffixes might make some measure of a return. On the show floor, Colorful exhibited the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Ultra Edition. This card uses a standard slightly-disabled GK110-based GeForce GTX Titan GPU, with the usual 2688 CUDA cores, and 6GB of GDDR5. While the GK110 chip has potential for 2880 CUDA cores, NVIDIA has not released any product (not even Tesla or Quadro) with more than 2688 CUDA cores enabled. Colorful's Titan Ultra and the reference Titan are electrically identical; this "Ultra" version just adds a water block for a cooling system and defaults to some amount of a factory overclock.

But, this is not the first time we have heard of a Titan Ultra...

Back in April, ExtremeTech found a leak for two official products: the GTX Titan LE and the GTX Titan Ultra. While the LE would be slightly stripped down compared to the full GTX Titan, the GTX Titan Ultra would be NVIDIA's first release of a GK110 part without any CUDA cores disabled.

So if that rumor ends up being true, you could choose between Colorful's GTX Titan Ultra with its partially disabled GK110 based on the full GTX Titan design; or, you could choose the reference GTX Titan Ultra based on a full GK110 GPU unlike the partially disabled GK110 on the full GTX Titan.

If you are feeling nostalgic... that might actually be confusion... as this is why suffixes went away.

E3 2013: Bludgeon that horse again! Xbox One DRM

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 08:46 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, E3 13, E3

So heading up to E3, Microsoft decided to drop their DRM bombshell so it would get buried over the next couple of days. In terms of permissiveness, the Xbox One is not nearly as bad as feared; of course, it is still terrible in certain ways.

Microsoft will allow games to be played offline on the Xbox One... for 24 hours. If your internet connection has been offline for longer than that period (unclear whether the timer starts when internet goes out or from last update) then your system will be locked to live TV and disc-based movies. Games and apps, even ones which should have no online functionality, will cease to function until you reconnect with Xbox servers.

This also means that if the Xbox servers have an outage lasting between 24 hours and "taken offline forever", all gaming and apparently apps will cease to function on the Xbox One.

And people wonder why I freak out about Windows Store.

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It's like if Wall-E grew a Freddie Mercury

But at least they will allow some level of used-game transfer... if the publisher agrees. Check out this statement from Microsoft Studios:

In our role as a game publisher, Microsoft Studios will enable you to give your games to friends or trade in your Xbox One games at participating retailers. Third party publishers may opt in or out of supporting game resale and may set up business terms or transfer fees with retailers. Microsoft does not receive any compensation as part of this. In addition, third party publishers can enable you to give games to friends. Loaning or renting games won’t be available at launch, but we are exploring the possibilities with our partners.

So this will be an interesting experiment: how will revenue and profitability be affected for game publishers who deny used game sales? I honestly expect that used game sales actually promote the purchasing of more games and that initiatives to limit used game transfers will reduce user engagement. Of course Microsoft is now taking all of the flak from Sony, who may or may not be considering the same practice, but I am sure at least Microsoft is hoping that everyone will forget this when shiny new trailers erase the collective gamer memory.

In return, however, Microsoft is being fairly permissive when it comes to how many users can be licensed on a single disk. Up to ten family members are allowed access to your collective library.

And, after all, it should not be a surprise that a console game disappears when Microsoft shuts down their servers: consoles were always designed to be disposable. I have been proclaiming that for quite some time. The difference is now, people cannot really deny it.

Source: Microsoft

Computex 2013 / E3 2013: Unreal Engine 4 Partners Program

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 6, 2013 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, ue4, E3 13, E3, computex

We are bleeding through the overlap between Computex and E3 media windows; this news has a somewhat relevant fit for both. Unreal Engine 4 is coming and I expect we will see one or more demos and UE4-powered titles over the next week. In fact, I would be fairly shocked if we do not see the end of the Elemental Demo with the Xbox One E3 keynote. We may also potentially see Unreal Engine 4 running on mobile devices and maybe even HTML5 at some point throughout the tradeshow, either canonically through Epic or via a licensee product.

This morning, Epic opened the Unreal Engine 4 Integrated Partners Program (IPP). Of course they already have a couple of members, most of which were partners with Unreal Engine 3.

The founding IPP partners are:

  • Wwise from Audiokinetic
    • Manages large databases of sound effects and voice-overs
    • Manages subtitles and multiple dubbings of voice clips
  • Autodesk Gameware from Autodesk
    • Contains multiple packages including Beast, Navigation, and Scaleform
    • Scaleform is a Flash rendering engine for HUDs, menus, etc. developed using Flash Professional in 2D or 3D. It is what StarCraft II, Mass Effect, and Borderlands uses.
    • Beast is a lighting toolkit for global illumination, radiosity, etc.
    • Navigation is an AI solver, predominantly for pathfinding.
  • Simplygon from Donya Labs
    • Reduces polygon count of models so they take up less processing resources especially as they get further away from the camera.
  • Enlighten from Geomerics
    • Another Global Illumination solver, most popular usage being Battlefield 3.
  • SpeedTree for Games from IDV
    • Makes a bunch of efficient trees so studios do not need to hire as many minimum wage peons.
  • Intel Threading Building Blocks (TBB) from Intel
    • Helps developers manage C++ threading for multicore systems.
    • Deals with memory management and scheduling tasks
  • morpheme from NaturalMotion
    • Animation and physics software for designers to create animations
    • Works with NVIDIA PhysX
  • euphoria from NaturalMotion
    • Simulates animations based on driving conditions via the CPU, most popular usage being GTA IV.
  • PhysX and APEX from NVIDIA
    • You probably know this one.
    • GPU-based rigid body, soft body, fluid, and cloth solvers.
    • Allows for destructible environments and other complex simulations.
  • Oculus Rift from Oculus VR
  • Bink Video from Rad Game Tools
    • ... is not included! Just kidding, that stuff'll survive a nuclear apocalypse.
    • Seriously, check in just about any DirectX or OpenGL game's credits if it includes pre-rendered video cutscenes or video-textures.
    • I'll wait here.
    • In all seriousness, Rad Game Tools has been licensed in over 15,500 titles. It's been a meme to some extent for game programmers. This should be no surprise.
  • Telemetry Performance Visualizer from Rad Game Tools
    • Allows developers to see graphs of what their hardware is working on over time.
    • Helps developers know what benefits the most from optimization.
  • RealD Developer Kit (RDK) from RealD
    • Helps game developers create stereoscopic 3D games.
  • Umbra 3 from Umbra Software
    • Determines what geometry can be seen by the player and what should be unloaded to increase performance.
    • Sits between artists and programmers to the former does not need to think about optimization, and the latter does not need to claw their eyes out.
  • IncrediBuild-XGE from Xoreax
    • Apparently farms out tasks to idle PCs on your network.
    • I am not sure, but I think it is mostly useful for creating a pre-render farm at a game studio for light-baking and such.

We still have a little while until E3 and so we do not know how E3 will be, but I highly expect to see Unreal Engine 4 be a recurring theme over the next week. Keep coming back to PC Perspective, because you know we have a deep interest in where Epic is headed.

Source: Epic Games
Manufacturer: Intel

An new era for computing? Or, just a bit of catching up?

Early Tuesday, at 2am for viewers in eastern North America, Intel performed their Computex 2013 keynote to officially kick off Haswell. Unlike ASUS from the night prior, Intel did not announce a barrage of new products; the purpose is to promote future technologies and the new products of their OEM and ODM partners. In all, there was a pretty wide variety of discussed topics.

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Intel carried on with the computational era analogy: the 80's was dominated by mainframes; the 90's were predominantly client-server; and the 2000's brought the internet to the forefront. While true, they did not explicitly mention how each era never actually died but rather just bled through: we still use mainframes, especially with cloud infrastructure; we still use client-server; and just about no-one would argue that the internet has been displaced, despite its struggle against semi-native apps.

Intel believes that we are currently in the two-in-one era, which they probably mean "multiple-in-one" due to devices such as the ASUS Transformer Book Trio. They created a tagline, almost a mantra, illustrating their vision:

"It's a laptop when you need it; it's a tablet when you want it."

But before elaborating, they wanted to discuss their position in the mobile market. They believe they are becoming a major player in the mobile market with key design wins and outperforming some incumbent system on a chips (SoCs). The upcoming Silvermont architecture pines to be fill in the gaps below Haswell, driving smartphones and tablets and stretching upward to include entry-level notebooks and all-in-one PCs. The architecture promises to scale between offering three-fold more performance than its past generation, or a fifth of the power for equivalent performance.

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Ryan discussed Silvermont last month, be sure to give his thoughts a browse for more depth.

Also, click to read on after the break for my thoughts on the Intel keynote.