The Creative Assembly tries a different take on DLC for Total War: Warhammer

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | April 13, 2016 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: creative assembly, warhammer fantasy, total war, dlc, gaming

After committing the double sin of pimping preorders and Day 1 DLC announced before the release date, The Creative Assembly seems to be trying to win back some of their fans by offering free new content for all some time down the road.  There will be new Legendary Lords, magic items, quest chains, and units and towards the end of the year.  If you want to play as Chaos you will still have to preorder the game or pay for it after release.

The offer of free content is appreciated, apart from one small problem; the game's release date is still over a month away.  The offer of future free content seems to be a thinly veiled effort to increase the sales of preorders, since many of us have refused to take them up on their offer.  Hopefully this is a hint that the industry is beginning to realize that publishing the actual game in full will draw more customers than releasing a partial game with DLC already planned. 

Iceberg Interactive has a much better model, Endless Legends was released as planned and once they realized how popular the game was they put effort into adding entirely new features and races.  Instead of taunting their customers with DLC announced at the same time as they released the game, they have treated it more as a reward for customer loyalty.  Then again, perhaps their customers are the exception and The Creative Assembly's announcement will succeed in selling more copies of the game before the release date.

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"Now, developers The Creative Assembly have released details of their post-release plans and that includes loads of free add-ons. There will be new Lords with their own quest chains, items and campaign bonuses, new magic, and, most intriguing of all, an entire new playable race."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Author:
Subject: Editorial, Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Hardware Experience

Seeing Ryan transition from being a long-time Android user over to iOS late last year has had me thinking. While I've had hands on with flagship phones from many manufacturers since then, I haven't actually carried an Android device with me since the Nexus S (eventually, with the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade). Maybe it was time to go back in order to gain a more informed perspective of the mobile device market as it stands today.

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So that's exactly what I did. When we received our Samsung Galaxy S7 review unit (full review coming soon, I promise!), I decided to go ahead and put a real effort forth into using Android for an extended period of time.

Full disclosure, I am still carrying my iPhone with me since we received a T-Mobile locked unit, and my personal number is on Verizon. However, I have been using the S7 for everything but phone calls, and the occasional text message to people who only has my iPhone number.

Now one of the questions you might be asking yourself right now is why did I choose the Galaxy S7 of all devices to make this transition with. Most Android aficionados would probably insist that I chose a Nexus device to get the best experience and one that Google intends to provide when developing Android. While these people aren't wrong, I decided that I wanted to go with a more popular device as opposed to the more niche Nexus line.

Whether you Samsung's approach or not, the fact is that they sell more Android devices than anyone else and the Galaxy S7 will be their flagship offering for the next year or so.

Continue reading our editorial on switching from iOS to Android with the Samsung Galaxy S7!!

AT&T Will Start Enforcing U-Verse Data Caps, Charging Extra For Unlimited Data

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: U-Verse, opinion, isp, Internet, FTTN, FTTH, editorial, data cap, AT%26T

AT&T U-Verse internet users will soon feel the pain of the company's old school DSL users in the form of enforced data caps and overage charges for exceeding new caps. In a blog post yesterday, AT&T announced plans to roll out new data usage caps for U-Verse users as well as a ('Comcastic') $30 per month option for unlimited data use.

Starting on May 23, 2016 AT&T U-Verse (VDSL2 and Gigapower/Fiber) customers will see an increase to their usage allowance based on their speed tier. Currently, U-Verse FTTN customer have a 250 GB cap regardless of speed tier while FTTH customers in its Gigapower markets have a higher 500 GB cap. These caps were soft caps and not enforced meaning that customers were not charged anything for going over them. That will soon change, and all U-Verse customers will be charged for going over their cap at a rate of $10 for every 50 GB over the cap. (e.g. Even if you use only 1 GB over the cap, you will still be charged the full $10 fee.).

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The new U-Verse caps (also listed in the chart below) range from 300 GB for speeds up to 6 Mbps and 600 GB for everything up to its bonded pair 75 Mbps tier. At the top end, customers lucky enough to get fiber to the home and speed plans up to 1 Gbps will have a 1 TB cap.

Internet Tier New Data Caps Overage Charges
AT&T DSL (all speeds) 150 GB $10 per 50GB
AT&T U-Verse (768 Kbps – 6 Mbps) 300 GB $10 per 50GB
AT&T U-Verse (12 Mbps – 75Mbps) 600 GB $10 per 50GB
AT&T U-Verse FTTH (100 Mbps – 1 Gbps)  1 TB $10 per 50GB

Uverse customers that expect to use more than 500 GB over their data cap ($100 is the maximum overage charge) or that simply prefer not to worry about tracking their data usage can opt to pay an additional $30 monthly fee to be exempt from their data cap.

It's not all bad news though. General wisdom has always been that U-Verse customers subscribed to both internet and TV would be exempt from the caps even if AT&T started to enforce them. This is not changing. U-Verse customers subscribed to U-Verse TV (IPTV) or Direct TV on a double play package with U-Verse internet will officially be exempt from the cap and will get the $30/month unlimited data option for free.

AT&T DSL users continue to be left behind here as they will not receive an increase in their 150 GB data allowance, and from the wording of the blog post it appears that they will further be left out of the $30 per month unlimited data option (which would have actually been a very welcome change for them).

Karl Bode over at DSLReports adds a bit of interesting history in mentioning that originally AT&T stated that U-Verse users would not be subject to a hard data cap because of the improved network architecture and its "greater capacity" versus the old school CO-fed DSL lines. With the acquisition of Direct TV and the way that AT&T has been heavily pushing Direct TV and pushing customers away from its IPTV U-Verse TV service, it actually seems like a perfect time to not enforce data caps since customers going with its Direct TV satellite TV would free up a great deal of bandwidth on the VDSL2 wireline network for internet!

This recent move is very reminiscent of Comcast's as it "trials" data caps and overages in certain markets as well as having it's own extra monthly charge for unlimited data use. Considering the relatively miniscule cost to deliver this data versus the monthly service charges, these new unlimited options really seem more about seeking profit than any increased costs especially since customers have effectively had unlimited data this whole time and will soon be charged for the same service they've possibly been using for years. I will give AT&T some credit for implementing more realistic data caps and bumping everyone up based on speed tiers (something Comcast should adopt if they are set on having caps). Also, letting Internet+TV customers keep unlimited data is a good thing, even if it is only there to encourage people not to cut the cord.

The final bit of good news is that existing U-Verse customers will have approximately four months before they will be charged for going over their data caps. AT&T claims that they will only begin charging for overages on the third billing cycle, giving customers at least two 'free' months of overages. Users can opt to switch between unlimited and capped options at will, even in the middle of a billing cycle, and the company will send as many as seven email reminders at various data usage points as they approach the cap in the first two months as a warning to the overages.

This is a lot to take in, but there is still plenty of time to figure out how the changes will affect you. 

Are you a U-Verse or AT&T DSL user? What do you think about the new data caps for U-Verse users and the $30/month unlimited data option?

Source: AT&T

Tim Sweeney (Epic Games) Is Concerned About Openness

Subject: Editorial | March 28, 2016 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Oculus, microsoft

... and so am I.

When you develop software, you will always be reliant upon platforms. You use their interfaces to make your hardware do stuff. People who maintain these will almost always do so with certain conditions. In iOS's case, you must have all of your content certified by Apple before it can be installed. In Linux's case, if you make any changes to the platform and distribute them, you need to also release what those changes are.

Sometimes, they are enforced with copyright law. Recently, some platform vendors use chains of trust with strong, mathematical keys. This means that, unless Apple, Microsoft, Oculus, or whoever else made a mistake, members of society can be entirely locked out of creating and installing content.

This has pros and cons.

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On the one hand, it can be used to revoke malware authors, scammers, and so forth. These platforms, being more compact, are usually easier to develop for, and might even be portable across deeper platforms, like x86 or ARM.

On the other hand, it can be used to revoke anything else. Imagine that you live in a jurisdiction where the government wants to ban encryption software. Imagine you live in a jurisdiction where the government wants to ban art featuring characters who are LGBT. Imagine you just want to use your hardware in a way that the vendor does not support, such as our attempts to measure UWP application performance.

We need to be extra careful when dealing with good intentions. These are the situations where people will ignore potential abuses because they are blinded by their justifications. This should not be taken lightly, because when you build something, you build it for everyone to use and abuse, intentionally, or even blinded by their own justifications, which often oppose yours.

For art and continued usability, Microsoft, Oculus, and everyone else needs to ensure that their platforms cannot be abused. They are not a government, and they have no legal requirement to grant users free expression, but these choices can have genuine harm. As owners of platforms, you should respect the power that your platform enables society to wield, and implement safeguards so that you can continue to provide it going forward.

Are We Crazy? 12-hour Live Stream on Sunday, March 6th with Prizes, Guests, Fun!

Subject: Editorial | March 6, 2016 - 11:05 AM |
Tagged: video, streaming out loud, sol., pcper live, live

Missed the 12-hour event? Live the magic for yourself here:

Several weeks ago, I tossed out the idea of doing a long-form live stream with the goal of showcasing for our readers, viewers and fans what we do around here. Why not dedicate a full day to interviewing guests, playing some games, doing some Q&A and putting together some projects? Well that's what we are doing.

Let me introduce you to...

pcper-sol.jpg

Streaming Out Loud - PCPer Live!

March 6th
Starts: 9am PT / 12pm ET
Ends: 9pm PT / 12am ET

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

That's right, we are hosting a 12-hour long live stream on PC Perspective in which we will drag as many guests in with us as possible to talk shop, giveaway some hardware and celebrate PC enthusiasts and technology!

Guests:

Prizes:

  • EVGA
    • 650 GQ Power Supply
    • 650 P2 Power Supply
    • Z170 Classified K
    • GTX 970 (3975)
  • AMD
    • AOC G2460PF FreeSync 24" 1080p TN
  • Corsair
    • VOID Surround RGB Headset
    • M65 RGB Mouse
    • Strafe RGB Keyboard MX Silent
  • Logitech
    • G502 Proteus Spectrum mouse
    • G810 Orion Spectrum keyboard
    • G640 mouse pad
  • MSI
    • X99S SLI Krait Edition motherboard
    • 5x Thunder Storm gaming mouse pads
  • OCZ Storage Solutions
    • 2x Trion 150 480GB SSDs
  • More to be confirmed!!

Activities (schedule to be determined):

  • Allyn teaches soldering
  • Future of VR discussion
  • Q&A from chat and Twitter
  • Building a table PC
  • Gaming sesssions: Rocket League, UT2004, more
  • Ken vs. Ryan Steam Controller Challenge
  • Riveting game of RISK on a table-top PC

And of course, who wouldn't want to tune in and see the carnage of a team of wily computer nerds attempt to keep a live stream on and stable for the entirety of a 12 hour day? If nothing else, it might be fun to see what breaks, right?

I want to thank our friends and sponsors for getting together some prizes for us as well as to the guests that willingly are going to spend some of their Sunday with us, all in the name of PC gaming and PC hardware! 

Have anything specific you want us to cover or discuss? Let me know in the comments below!! Don't forget to sign up for our PC Perspecgive Live! Mailing List to get the latest updates on dumb shit like this we will be doing in the future!

PS: You can find the schedule for Sunday's live stream festivities after the break!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

28HPCU: Cost Effective and Power Efficient

Have you ever been approached about something and upon first hearing about it, the opportunity just did not seem very exciting?  Then upon digging into things, it became much more interesting?  This happened to me with this announcement.  At first blush, who really cares that ARM is partnering with UMC at 28 nm?  Well, once I was able to chat with the people at ARM, it is much more interesting than initially expected.

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The new hotness in fabrication is the latest 14 nm and 16 nm processes from Samsung/GF and TSMC respectively.  It has been a good 4+ years since we last had a new process node that actually performed as expected.  The planar 22/20 nm products just were not entirely suitable for mass production.  Apple was one of the few to actually develop a part for TSMC’s 20 nm process that actually sold in the millions.  The main problem was a lack of power and speed scaling as compared to 28 nm processes.  Planar was a bad choice, but the development of FinFET technologies hadn’t been implemented in time for it to show up at this time by 3rd party manufacturers.

There is a problem with the latest process generations, though.  They are new, expensive, and are production constrained.  Also, they may not be entirely appropriate for the applications that are being developed.  There are several strengths with 28 nm as compared.  These are mature processes with an excess of line space.  The major fabs are offering very competitive pricing structures for 28 nm as they see space being cleared up on the lines with higher end SOCs, GPUs, and assorted ASICs migrating to the new process nodes.

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TSMC has typically been on the forefront of R&D with advanced nodes.  UMC is not as aggressive with their development, but they tend to let others do some of the heavy lifting and then integrate the new nodes when it fits their pricing and business models.  TSMC is on their third generation of 28 nm.  UMC is on their second, but that generation encompasses many of the advanced features of TSMC’s 3rd generation so it is actually quite competitive.

Click here to continue reading about ARM, UMC, and the 28HPCU process!

PCPer Racing Livestream! Thurs. Jan. 28th at 5:30 ET!

Subject: Editorial | January 27, 2016 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: Thrustmaster, T150, Rocket League, racing wheel, racing, project cars, livestream, GRID Autosport, gaming, force feedback, DiRT Rally, Assetto Corsa

Did you miss the live stream for yesterday racing action? No worries, catch up on the replay right here!

On Thursday, January 28th at 5:30 PM ET we will be hosting a livestream featuing some racing by several of our writers.  We welcome our readers to join up and race with us!  None of us are professionals, so there is a very good chance that anyone that joins can easily outrace us!

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We have teamed up with Thrustmaster to give away the TM T150 Racing Wheel!  The MSRP on this number is $199.99, but we are giving it away for free.  This was reviewed a few months ago and the results were very good for the price point.  You can read that entire review here!

We will be playing multiple games throughout the livestream, so get those Steam clients fired up and updated.

DiRT Rally

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We will be racing through the Rallycross portion of DR.  These are fun races and fairly quick.  Don't forget the Joker lap!

 

Project CARS

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This is another favorite and features a ton of tracks and cars with some interesting tire (tyre) physics thrown in for good measure!

 

Assetto Corsa

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Another fan favorite with lovely graphics and handling/physics that match the best games out there.

 

We will be announcing how to join up in the contest during the livestream!  Be sure to tune in!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: AMD

Fighting for Relevance

AMD is still kicking.  While the results of this past year have been forgettable, they have overcome some significant hurdles and look like they are improving their position in terms of cutting costs while extracting as much revenue as possible.  There were plenty of ups and downs for this past quarter, but when compared to the rest of 2015 there were some solid steps forward here.

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The company reported revenues of $958 million, which is down from $1.06 billion last quarter.  The company also recorded a $103 million loss, but that is down significantly from the $197 million loss the quarter before.  Q3 did have a $65 million write-down due to unsold inventory.  Though the company made far less in revenues, they also shored up their losses.  The company is still bleeding, but they still have plenty of cash on hand for the next several quarters to survive.  When we talk about non-GAAP figures, AMD reports a $79 million loss for this past quarter.

For the entire year AMD recorded $3.99 billion in revenue with a net loss of $660 million.  This is down from FY 2014 revenues of $5.51 billion and a net loss of $403 million.  AMD certainly is trending downwards year over year, but they are hoping to reverse that come 2H 2016.

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Graphics continues to be solid for AMD as they increased their sales from last quarter, but are down year on year.  Holiday sales were brisk, but with only the high end Fury series being a new card during this season, the impact of that particular part was not as great as compared to the company having a new mid-range series like the newly introduced R9 380X.  The second half of 2016 will see the introduction of the Polaris based GPUs for both mobile and desktop applications.  Until then, AMD will continue to provide the current 28 nm lineup of GPUs to the market.  At this point we are under the assumption that AMD and NVIDIA are looking at the same timeframe for introducing their next generation parts due to process technology advances.  AMD already has working samples on Samsung’s/GLOBALFOUNDRIES 14nm LPP (low power plus) that they showed off at CES 2016.

Click here to continue reading about AMD's Q4 2015 and FY 2015 results!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Patreon
Tagged: video, patreon

Thank you for all you do!

Much of what I am going to say here is repeated from the description on our brand new Patreon support page, but I think a direct line to our readers is in order.

First, I think you may need a little back story. Ask anyone that has been doing online media in this field for any length of time and they will tell you that getting advertisers to sign on and support the production of "free" content has been getting more and more difficult. You'll see this proven out in the transition of several key personalities of our industry away from media into the companies they used to cover. And you'll see it in the absorption of some of our favorite media outlets, being purchased by larger entities with the promise of being able to continue doing what they have been doing. Or maybe you've seen it show as more interstitial ads, road blocks, sponsored site sections, etc. 

At PC Perspective we've seen the struggle first hand but I have done my best to keep as much of that influence away from my team. We are not immune - several years ago we started doing site skins, something we didn't plan for initially. I do think I have done a better than average job keeping the lights on here though, so to speak. We have good sell through on our ad inventory and some of the best companies in our industry support the work we do. 

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Some of the PC Perspective team at CES 2016

Let me be clear though - we aren't on the verge of going out of business. I am not asking for Patreon supporters to keep from firing anyone. We just wanted to maintain and grow our content library and capability and it seemed like the audience that benefits and enjoys that content might be the best place to start.

Some of you are likely asking yourself if supporting PC Perspective is really necessary? After all, you can chug out a 400 word blog in no time! The truth is that high quality, technical content takes a lot of man hours and those hours are expensive. Our problem is that to advertisers, a page view is a page view, they don't really care how much time and effort went into creating the content on that page. If we spend 20 hours developing a way to evaluate variable refresh rate monitors with an oscilloscope, but put the results on a single page at pcper.com, we get the same amount of traffic as someone that just posts an hour's worth of gameplay experiences. Both are valuable to the community, but one costs a lot more to produce.

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Frame Rating testing methodology helped move the industry forward

The easy way out is to create click bait style content (have you seen the new Marvel trailer??!?) and hope for enough extra page views to make up for the difference. But many people find the allure of the cheap/easy posts too easy and quickly devolve into press releases and marketing vomit. No one at PC Perspective wants to see that happen here.

Not only do we want to avoid a slide into that fate but we want to improve on what we are doing, going further down the path of technical analysis with high quality writing and video content. Very few people are working on this kind of writing and analysis yet it is vitally important to those of you that want the information to make critical purchasing decisions. And then you, in turn, pass those decisions on to others with less technical interest (brothers, mothers, friends). 

We have ideas for new regular shows including a PC Perspective Mailbag, a gaming / Virtual LAN Party show and even an old hardware post-mortem production. All of these take extra time beyond what each person has dedicated today and the additional funding provided by a successful Patreon campaign will help us towards those goals.

I don't want anyone to feel that they are somehow less of a fan of PC Perspective if you can't help - that's not what we are about and not what I stand for. Just being here, reading and commenting on our work means a lot to us. You can still help by spreading the word about stories you find interesting or even doing your regular Amazon.com shopping through our link on the right side bar.

But for those of you that can afford a monthly contribution, consider a "value for value" amount. How much do you think the content we have produced and will produce is worth to you? If that's $3/month, thank you! If that's $20/month, thank you as well! 

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Support PC Perspective through Patreon

http://www.patreon.com/pcper

The team and I spent a lot of our time in the last several weeks talking through this Patreon campaign and we are proud to offer ourselves up to our community. PC Perspective is going to be here for a long time, and support from readers like you will help us be sure we can continue to improve and innovate on the information and content we provide.

Again, thank you so much for support over the last 16 years!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: ARM

Looking Towards 2016

ARM invited us to a short conversation with them on the prospects of 2016.  The initial answer as to how they feel the upcoming year will pan out is, “Interesting”.  We covered a variety of topics ranging from VR to process technology.  ARM is not announcing any new products at this time, but throughout this year they will continue to push their latest Mali graphics products as well as the Cortex A72.

Trends to Watch in 2016

The one overriding trend that we will see is that of “good phones at every price point”.  ARM’s IP scales from very low to very high end mobile SOCs and their partners are taking advantage of the length and breadth of these technologies.  High end phones based on custom cores (Apple, Qualcomm) will compete against those licensing the Cortex A72 and A57 parts for their phones.  Lower end options that are less expensive and pull less power (which then requires less battery) will flesh out the midrange and budget parts.  Unlike several years ago, the products from top to bottom are eminently usable and relatively powerful products.

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Camera improvements will also take center stage for many products and continue to be a selling point and an area of differentiation for competitors.  Improved sensors and software will obviously be the areas where the ARM partners will focus on, but ARM is putting some work into this area as well.  Post processing requires quite a bit of power to do quickly and effectively.  ARM is helping here to leverage the Neon SIMD engine and leveraging the power of the Mali GPU.

4K video is becoming more and more common as well with handhelds, and ARM is hoping to leverage that capability in shooting static pictures.  A single 4K frame is around 8 megapixels in size.  So instead of capturing video, the handheld can achieve a “best shot” type functionality.  So the phone captures the 4K video and then users can choose the best shot available to them in that period of time.  This is a simple idea that will be a nice feature for those with a product that can capture 4K video.

Click here to read the rest of ARM's thoughts on 2016!