Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: webgl, Unity
WebGL is a Web standard that allows issuing OpenGL ES 2.0-based instructions to compatible graphics cards, which is just about everything today. It has programmable vertex and fragment (pixel) shaders with a decent amount of flexibility. Engines like Unity have been looking toward using this technology as a compile target, because Web browsers are ubiquitous, relatively user friendly, and based on standards that anyone could implement should a work of art benefit from preservation.
Image Credit: Mozilla
Until Unity 5.3, this feature was in “preview” levels of support. This upcoming release, scheduled for today according to their roadmap, drops this moniker. It is now a build target with official support.
To run WebGL applications that are built in Unity, the vast majority of features target recent versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Edge for Windows 10 Version 1511. (The November Update for Windows 10 added the ability to lock the mouse cursor, which is obviously useful for mouse and keyboard titles.)
We're still a long way from web browsers being equivalent to game consoles. That said, they are catching up fast. You could easily have an experience that shames the last generation, especially when WebGL 2 lands, and you don't have to worry about what happens in 10, 40, or even hundreds of years as long as society deems your art worthy for preservation. I do hope that some artists and serious developers take real advantage of it, though. Shovelware could obscure its power and confuse users, and we know they will be pretty much first out of the gate.
Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2015 - 09:28 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, overwatch, blizzard
Jeff Kaplan of Blizzard has just announced, in the December 7th Overwatch Developer Update, embedded below, that maps and characters will always be patched in as free updates. This is particularly interesting because the game is often viewed as Team Fortress 2 being distilled through a DOTA 2 filter. Those games offer purchases of specific weapons or heroes (Update December 8th @6:15pm ET: I meant League of Legends when I was talking about hero purchasing -- I changed it to DOTA 2 for Valve symmetry, but they apparently don't sell heroes), respectively, which would be an easy way to monetize the title. The problem is that it could lead to a situation where a team doesn't have the necessary tools to counter a strategy that the opponent is fielding, not because of in-game logistics, but because the players didn't buy some piece of content ahead-of-time.
Note that, while I haven't played the game, I've been hearing that weapon loadouts for individual heros will not be a part of the game, free or otherwise. A chosen hero will be the same across all players. I say this because Blizzard hasn't denied the potential for weapons or loadouts as DLC, but that seems to be because they're not even considering them at all.
Beyond heroes, maps will also be patched in for free. This is likely for a different purpose, of course. Heroes make a huge impact on the balancing of a game and the list of available strategies. The decision to release maps for free is likely to prevent parties from being split up because individual members don't have all the required content. StarCraft II approached this issue by allowing all members of a party to be upgraded to the highest-level member until the group is disbanded. For a game like Overwatch though, which seems likely to have more than two or three tiers of content, segmenting off a handful of maps unless you play with friends is probably too petty to monetize. Might as well just give it to everyone and charge once at the door.
Here is TotalBiscuit's thoughts on this issue and others, from before this announcement.
The beta for Overwatch will be shut down on December 10th for the holidays. It is expected to reopen in January. I'm guessing that they have an update planned, but they don't want to push it until after the holidays for support reasons. Thus, rather than leave an old build open for a month, where people begin to judge its already-fixed quirks with holiday binge-gaming, they decided to just pull it. They might as well let anticipation build, and welcome back users with something new after the holidays. This is just speculation, though.
Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2015 - 05:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: STRIX Soar, sound card, audio, asus
Ever since the NFORCE2 chipset's onboard audio codec we have seen a huge increase in the quality of integrated sound on motherboards and we have hit a point where you no longer need a soundcard for general usage. This has sparked an interesting competition among soundcard makers, searching for a way to make their product relevant to users. We have seen the return of tubes, programmable and replaceable OPAmps, powered headphone ports and a variety of other features.
ASUS has released the STRIX Soar 7.1 PCIe card recently and Kitguru got a chance to review the board. It certainly looks as pretty as the cards which come with high end motherboards and is thin enough not to encroach on systems with multiple cards already installed but does it offer compelling reasons to purchase the card? Kitguru gave it their "Must Have" award so there must be something attractive about the card, check out the full review to hear more about it.
"Today we look at the most affordable of the STRIX sound cards, the Soar. Although it has much the same hardware and features as its bigger brothers, it is more affordable which could be the real kicker in convincing potential buyers."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2 @ techPowerUp
- SilverStone Hi-Fi Audio Headphone Stand @ Benchmark Reviews
- Astro A40 TR + Mix Amp Pro & Mod Kit Multi-Format Pro Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- G.Skill Ripjaws SR910 real 7.1 @ Kitguru
- Steelseries Siberia 200 Headset Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2015 - 01:12 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SoC, raspberry pi zero
It can't play Crysis but if you want to know if the new Raspberry Pi Zero has what it takes to power your latest projects then look no further than this article at Phoronix in which they benchmark the new low cost SoC. The $5 Zero is powered by a 1GHz single-core ARM processor with 512MB of RAM and a Broadcom BCM2708, outputs include mini HDMI and USB OTG ports, and a 40-pin header which you are going to be populating if you want networking. As you would expect the Zero does sit at the bottom of the benchmark tables, however at this price point you are shopping for "just good enough", not top of the pack performance. Check it out here.
"For those curious about the performance of the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, here are some benchmarks I've just finished up for this low-end, low-power ARM development board compared to other ARM, MIPS, and x86 hardware."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Pi Zero Ethernet The Hard Way @ Hack a Day
- The best Christmas gift ideas for tech lovers @ The Inquirer
- IBM looks to entice women into tech by alienating and patronising them @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft encrypts explanation of borked Windows 10 encryption @ The Register
- GalliumOS: The Ideal Linux Distribution for Chromebook Hardware @ Linux.com
- Per-core licences coming to Windows Server and System Center 2016 @ The Register
- 4 Upcoming 3D Printers We Can’t Wait to Get Our Hands On @ MAKE:Blog
- Lock up your top-of-racks, says Cisco, there's a bug in the USB code @ The Register
- Spread The Christmas Spirit Mega Global Giveaway @ NikKTech
Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2015 - 07:35 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, pc gaming, half-life 2
Today I learned that there was originally supposed to be multiple follow-ups to Half-Life 2: Episode Two. I wasn't really into Valve games at that point. At some point after Valve released Episode Three, which obviously never happened, two spin-offs were planned by two different studios. One unnamed title was supposed to be spearhead by Warren Spector and Junction Point Studios. The deal collapsed when Disney committed to Epic Mickey and the studio dropped Valve.
The other canceled title was supposed to come from Arkane Studios, which went on to create Dishonored. This one is sometimes called “Half-Life 2: Episode Four,” and “Return to Ravenholm” at others. The narrative takes place before Half-Life 2: Episode Two and is said to star a new, unannounced protagonist.
I bring this up because Valve Time has recently published a post and video that collects a bunch of screenshots from the portfolio of Robert Wilinski. The video goes through the theory of what the game was supposed to be, and how these screenshots fit in with previous leaks and rumors.
Keep in mind that the content is almost a decade old at this point, as Robert dated this folder of his portfolio between 2006 and 2008. This is older than Left 4 Dead.
Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam, pc gaming
I'm not sure how useful this is, but Valve has added the ability to remove a game from your Steam account through their customer support website. When you log into Steam with your web browser, or select “Steam Support” from the Steam Client's Help menu, you can select a game and see its available options. One is “I want to permanently remove this game from my account.”
I don't exactly know all of the specifics for will happen when you do this, but it sounds like you will need to repurchase the title if you change your mind. This is probably most useful for free little experiences, like Portal Story: Mel or Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, which you've completed and don't want cluttering your Steam library.
On the other hand, users at NeoGAF, who (of course) broke this story, are concerned that it will be abused by trolls who phish accounts. Not only can they sell off their items, they can delete all of their games just because. I would hope that Valve has methods to track deleted games, even just for a limited time, in extreme cases.
On the other hand, a service like GoG could benefit from this feature. Since everything is DRM free, it could provide a transaction and let the user delete the record after they purchase it, rather than flaunt it on a public profile as Steam sort-of does. In that case, deleting the record wouldn't destroy the content -- just place the burden on the user to back-up.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, free
Free games are a welcome trend. Sometimes they are older games that were re-released or otherwise used for promotion. You can also find many interesting prototypes after a popular game jam ends and the contestants leave their work on OneDrive or Google Drive.
This game is apparently designed to promote the future works of a new game studio. One of the co-creators of “The Stanley Parable” founded “Crows Crows Crows”. Their first game is now available for free on a few services, although I naturally just got it from Steam because why not.
It's interesting because it's basically a 15-minute short film, only in a “walking simulator” format. It's limited, though. Most of the enjoyment of “The Stanley Parable” was in seeing how your small choices had comically huge effects. Carefully following the narrator's instructions gave you a peaceful ending, and deviating made the story devolve in some absurdly disproportional way. There was even a part of a level's collision that was disabled to troll players trying to glitch outside the path, greeting them with a message for the sole purpose of saying “Nope. You didn't trick me.”
The new game, “Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist” has no such choices. This is disappointing if you were expecting a smaller The Stanley Parable. Instead, you basically get the equivalent of a single The Stanley Parable ending, which you basically need to follow. The only choices that I found is to pick up a few items, listen to a few tapes, and inaction.
It's cute though, and it was a good use of my time.
Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2015 - 09:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: shadow complex, pc gaming, epic games, chair games
At the Video Game Awards, Epic Games announced that the Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) title, Shadow Complex, has been remastered for the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Moreover, it is available on the Epic Games Launcher for free. Some sites are reporting that it's only free for a limited time, but one of the community managers at Epic Games said that it was, in fact, free forever. If you're interested, open the Epic Games launcher and download it so it's available to play whenever you get a handful of hours free. No rush, though.
While it's been about six years since I played it, Shadow Complex was fun. Chair Games set out to make a Metroid-like side-scroller (apart from a couple of sections) with secrets and items that could only be accessed by backtracking with later equipment. The story was fine.
Shadow Complex Remastered has fairly light system requirements, too.
- Windows 7 / Windows 8.x / Windows 10
- Intel Core 2 Duo (or AMD Equivalent)
- 2GB System RAM
- NVIDIA GeForce 7800 / AMD Radeon HD 4600 / Intel HD 4000
- 512MB Video RAM
- DirectX 9.0c
- Windows 7 / Windows 8.x / Windows 10
- Intel Core i5 / AMD A4 APU
- 4GB System RAM
- NVIDIA GT 540 / AMD Radeon HD 5550
- 1GB Video RAM
- DirectX 11
Of course, while you've downloaded the Epic Games Luancher, you might also consider downloading Unreal Tournament. Also, if you're a creative type, Unreal Engine 4 is available for free on the launcher too (although royalties are due if you start making money with it).
Podcast #377 - AMD Radeon Software Crimson, our Holiday Gift Guide, Scott Wasson moving to AMD and more!
Subject: General Tech | December 3, 2015 - 03:40 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, radeon software, crimson, holiday gift guide, ATIC, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, raspberry pi zero, scott wasson, tech report, Thinkpad, yoga p40
PC Perspective Podcast #377 - 12/03/2015
Join us this week as we discuss AMD Radeon Software Crimson, our Holiday Gift Guide, Scott Wasson moving to AMD and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak
Program length: 0:54:20
Week in Review:
News item of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Ryan: Emergency Underwear
Sebastian: Quad-core CPU for $70!!
Subject: General Tech | December 3, 2015 - 12:41 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: OberonStation, pascal, oberon
To paraphrase Barbie, "Linux is hard". Present a child with a Linux powered Pi of whichever flavour you like and you will spend a lot more time trying to explain why they have to do things a certain way instead of letting them create on their own. The OberonStation was released at the same time as the Pi Zero we have heard about but it has a significant difference. It uses a descendent of the Pascal programming language, which some readers may remember for both the OS and the programs which will run on the OberonStation. This simplifies things greatly and while it will limit what the device can do compared to a Pi it also means it is a better teaching tool for young programmers who won't have to learn the odd and twisted world of Linux ... or at least not yet.
The Register compares it to learning on a ZX Spectrum or Amiga 600, simple enough to grasp but yet useful enough to give you a solid foundation in programming practices and functions. This will make it more interesting and accessible for youth you want to corrupt with thoughts of a future in programming and electronics. It is unfortunately sold out, if you are still interested in turning your kids or young relatives to the dark side consider one of the littleBits kits available at MAKE such as the Deluxe Kit, it is a great way to introduce them to electronics and to get some nifty devices out of the deal as well!
"Two tiny, inexpensive, single-board educational computers just shipped. One has had lots of coverage already, but the odds are you've never heard of the other machine. However, the idea behind the obscure one is more important."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Asustek Computer to reorganize system business group @ DigiTimes
- Windows 10 lags 7, 8 … and even Vista in the channel race @ The Register
- Exchange email bounces back as Microsoft resolves Office 365 issues @ The Inquirer
- Google Updates: Chrome 47, Cloud Vision API and no SpyKids please, we're Google @ The Inquirer
- Popular 3G/4G data dongles are desperately vulnerable, say hackers @ The Register
- PHP 7 Ready For Release @ Slashdot
- Tech ARP 2015 Mega Giveaway #8 : Dell Portable HDD Giveaway