Broken Age: Act 2 Delayed Until 2015

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2014 - 02:45 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gaming, Tim Schafer, broken age

Tim Schafer and the rest of Double Fine set up a Kickstarter in early 2012 to fund a classic, LucasArts-style adventure game. After being funded over eight-fold more than they intended, they allowed the production to balloon and fit their new budget. This resulted in Act 1 being released in 2014, over a year later than their original deadline, with the second half (Act 2) coming later – expected in late 2014. Within the last couple of days, they announced that the release date has slipped into “early next year” (2015).

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This is one of the problems that a Kickstarter can face. There is definitely an instinct to supercharge an over-funded product, which could lead to delays, hiccups, and other problems. On the other hand, the extra money, and the public knowledge regarding how much extra, can raise the expectations of your audience – they might feel cheated if you fail to over-deliver. Beyond this, I have been told that it is very common for budgets to inflate over the course of regular development, something that you cannot really account for in advanced crowd-funding. Again, this may be wrong – it was what I expected but, of course, hoaxes prey on that.

Since the Kickstarter launched, Ron Gilbert left the company. I pout.

Broken Age: Act 2 will be released in early 2015 and conclude the Broken Age story as a free upgrade for everyone who paid for Act 1. This is nice but, while I could see an argument for Act 1 customers needing to purchase Act 2 in the era of Telltale episodic content, it only makes sense for at least Kickstarter backers to get the whole game. I mean, it was announced as a single title; it would be a supremely bad move to promise a full game and deliver a half of one (torn at an awkward point in the narrative no-less) only to ransom the second half a year later.

Thankfully, it will be free, not just for them, but for everyone who owns Act 1.

Source: PC Gamer

Remember Google Glass?

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2014 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: Intel, google glass

Google Glass seems to have gone the way of Wave and Plus, most people have heard of it but no one seems to actively use it.  Apart from some news stories about socially inept use of the device in public areas the buzz around Google Glass has died down and for most it is Oculus who have more compelling eye wear.  Some time in the coming year there will be a second release of the Google Glass which dumps the Texas Instruments chip for an unspecified ultra low power Intel chip, or at least that is the rumour from The Register and other sites.  This launch sounds to be aimed more at enterprise customers, hard to imaging how having your PowerPoint presentation beamed into your customers eyeballs will help your sales but that is the gist of the marketing.  This product still seems to be more appropriate for those who work with their hands and could benefit from hands free overlays of schematics or details but who knows, maybe your next job interview will be with someone reading your Facebook page in real time as they conduct your interview.

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"GOOGLE REPORTEDLY plans to release a new Intel-powered version of Google Glass in 2015, as interest in its first-generation wearable dies down."

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Source: The Register

Do not throw this keyboard; it will survive, the target may not

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2014 - 04:12 PM |
Tagged: input, Cougar, 700K, Cherry MX

With a plastic body and brushed aluminium top the Cougar 700K weighs in at over a kilo and should handle the most ham fisted of users.  You can choose your favourite flavour of Cherry MX switches, Red, Blue, Black or Brown and swap keys as you see fit and toggle between NKRO and standard USB 6KRO.  The LED functionality is quite impressive, an onboard CORTEX-M0 and the included software allow you to customize your light show, swap key functionality and program macros which you can save into multiple profiles.  Modders-Inc found the keyboard to be well designed, the software even more so but be aware that there is a drawback to liking this keyboard, it retails for $150.

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"A product's function is not solely reliant on the designer but also shaped by the intended audience. Problem arises when there is a disconnect between intention, marketing and reception; the result being a product that is supposed to perform well at the intended task but comes up short due to false assumptions on what the intended audience needs."

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Source: Modders Inc

Free Windows apps, since calling them programs is not cool anymore

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2014 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: windows, freeware

Over at The Register is a round up of a variety of freeware applications that many have found useful.  Ad Aware, a program that not many have talked about since the competition picked up has made a reappearance and has stepped up their game somewhat although you will still find Malwarebytes product on this list.  Classic Shell has been very popular since Windows went metrosexual as it restores much of the familiar interface that users are accustomed to and is likely to remain popular with the release of Windows 10.  Duplicati  is a great way to locally back up your files from the Cloud while Eraser can do the opposite for those wanting to make sure that deleted file stays deleted.  They also include Notepad++ for those who actually do work on their machines, Process Explorer for those who work on the machines themselves and several others worth checking out if you are unfamiliar with the free software available for PC users.

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"No matter if you're reinstalling Windows for the 47th time this fortnight or attempting to rid a new machine of bloatware in favour of something that's actually useful, the question remains: what alternative apps exist that don’t involve coughing up for obscene licensing fees?"

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Source: The Register

Telltale's Game of Thrones Launches December 2nd

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2014 - 04:27 AM |
Tagged: telltale, game of thrones

Oh they're coming. The dragons are on their way. They're gonna be amazing. They'll be here soon. Actually, Telltale's Game of Thrones will be here on December 2nd. The game will be the first of a six-episode season, spanning the TV show's timeline from the end of Season 3 up to some point just before the start of Season 5.

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According to the ESRB, they will keep their robes on at all times.

Of course, the most interesting part about this release, to me, is its M rating – specifically, one that makes zero reference to sexuality or sexual content. While the ESRB allows modest sexual content, with Duke Nukem Forever being just about the most extreme, permitted example, you would probably get nowhere near what is allowed on HBO into retail distribution, any console, and probably not even Steam. This would limit the game to a PC release that is distributed on their company website, GoG, and maybe Amazon. The same issue was faced, in some regions, with South Park: The Stick of Truth, where a handful of scenes were censored out of certain versions of the game because they were too graphic (one of which being an alien abduction).

That tangent out of the way, Game of Thrones will launch on December 2nd.

Source: PC Gamer

Windows 10 Will Support Many New Codecs Natively

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, mkv, microsoft, hevc, h.265, flac

Native support for audio and video codecs is helpful for a platform. Software will be able to call upon the operating system's built-in functions, rather than integrating a solution. Of course, some will continue to roll their own, and that's fine, but it is obviously helpful for the foundation to have its own solution (especially in cases where licenses and royalties are required).

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Windows 10 is expected to increase its platform support to include FLAC, MKV, and HEVC (h.265), and more may be coming. The tweet from Gabriel Aul suggests that this will be available starting in the next preview build, which will land in early 2015. Hopefully these additions include both encoding and decoding support, possibly allowing audio and video editors to take advantage of these formats.

The next build of Windows 10 Technical Preview is expected for early next year. The full OS is said to launch late that year.

Source: PC Gamer

Uplay Black Friday Sale: Buy One, Get One Free

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:03 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, black friday

Another quick Black Friday post, this one on Ubisoft's Uplay service. At least in Canada, if you purchase one title of a selected list, you will get a choice of one from a second list, for free. While the headliners are Ubisoft's first-party titles, there are a few from EA, Sega, Telltale, Deep Silver, Bethesda, WB Games, Capcom, Square Enix, and Kalypso to round out the “Buy” list (every free bundle game is from Ubisoft, though).

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The list of “Buy” (full price) games are:

  • Assassin's Creed: Unity (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
  • Far Cry 4 (PC, 360, Xbox One, PS3 – Not PS4???)
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC)
  • Alien Isolation (PC)
  • Assassin's Creed: Rogue (360, PS3)
  • Tales from the Borderlands (PC)
  • Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (PC)
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)
  • The Evil Within (PC)
  • Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse (PC)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC)
  • FIFA Soccer 15 (PC)
  • The Sims 4 (PC)
  • Football Manager 2015 (PC)
  • Rocksmith (2014) (PC, 360, PS3 – Xbox One is listed by not available in the store???)
  • Just Dance 2015 (360, Xbox One, PS3, Wii)
  • Escape Dead Island (PC)
  • Tropico 5 (PC)
  • Shape Up (Xbox One)
  • Metro: Redux Bundle (PC)

Purchasing one of the above allows you to get one of the following PC titles:

  • Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Far Cry 3
  • Assassin's Creed III: Deluxe Edition
  • Watch_Dogs
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry
  • Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Anno 2070
  • Might and Magic: Heroes VI (Complete)
  • Rayman Legends

Of course, the first thing that pops into my mind is the AMD "Never Settle" promotion. It is interesting that game publishers are also considering a "build your own bundle" initiative, breaking from the "these two games are shrink-wrapped together" model that was previously dominant. Perhaps this will be something that Valve considers for one of their future promotions?

If you were considering paying full price for one of the first list of titles, than purchasing it through the Ubisoft store might get you an extra game for free. Personally, I've been considering Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag has been given a lot of good publicity. The sale started on the American Thanksgiving season and runs until December 15th, so you have a little time to think.

Source: Ubisoft

Microsoft and Yahoo Want to Be Apple's Default Search

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: apple, safari, google, yahoo, bing, microsoft, mozilla

After Mozilla inked the deal with Yahoo, the eyes turned to Apple and its Safari browser. Currently, the default search engine is Google on both iOS and OSX, although Bing is the primary engine used for other functions, like Siri and Spotlight. Until early 2015, they are tied into a contract with Google for those two browsers, but who will get the new contract?

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Apparently Yahoo and Microsoft have both approached the company for the position, and Apple is not ruling any of the three out. Probably the most interesting part is how Yahoo is genuinely taking the search business seriously. The deal with Mozilla is fairly long-term, and with Yahoo approaching Apple as well, it probably was not just charity on Mozilla's part because no-one else wanted to be Firefox's default. Yahoo would probably need some significant monetary backing for an Apple deal, which suggests the same for their deal with Mozilla.

If both Mozilla and Apple leave Google, it will take a significant chunk out of the search engine. Power users, like those who read this site, will likely be unaffected if they care, because of how low the barrier is to change the default search engine. On the other hand, even the most experienced user will often accept default settings until there is a reason to change. The winning party will need to have a good enough product to overcome that initial shock.

But the money will at least give them a chance when the decision comes into effect. That is, unless the barrier to changing default search engines is less than the barrier to changing default web browsers.

Google will always be default on Google Chrome.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Chooses IBM and NVIDIA for Two Supercomputers, Summit and Sierra

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 27, 2014 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, IBM, power9, Volta

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been interested in a successor for their Titan Supercomputer. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the new computer will be based on NVIDIA's Volta (GPU) and IBM's POWER9 (CPU) architectures. Its official name will be “Summit”, and it will have a little sibling, “Sierra”. Sierra, also based on Volta and POWER9, will be installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Image Credit: NVIDIA

The main feature of these supercomputers is expected to be “NVLink”, which is said to allow unified memory between CPU and GPU. This means that, if you have a workload that alternates rapidly between serial and parallel tasks, that you can save the lag in transferring memory between each switch. One example of this would be a series of for-each loops on a large data set with a bit of logic, checks, and conditional branches between. Memory management is like a lag between each chunk of work, especially across two banks of memory attached by a slow bus.

Summit and Sierra are both built by IBM, while Titan, Oak Ridge's previous supercomputer, was developed by Cray. Not much is known about the specifics of Sierra, but Summit will be about 5x-10x faster (peak computational throughput) than its predecessor at less than a fifth of the nodes. Despite the fewer nodes, it will suck down more total power (~10MW, up from Titan's ~9MW).

These two supercomputers are worth $325 million USD (combined). They are expected to go online in 2017. According to Reuters, an additional $100 million USD will go toward research into "extreme" supercomputing.

Source: Anandtech

Well done virtual 7.1 surround from Corsair's H1500

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: audio, corsair, H1500, gaming headset, 7.1 headset

Corsair's H1500 Dolby 7.1 headset has a pair of 50mm drivers with a response of 20Hz to 20kHz which uses software to emulate 7.1 and 5.1 Dolby surround as well as simple 2.0 audio.  The headset comes with software but not a dedicated soundcard which is why they were able to keep the price to $70.  Benchmark Reviews used the headset in Battlefield 4 and found it quite useful in preventing enemies from sneaking up from behind them with a knife though the stiff padding and narrow head band did tire them out after a while.  Music and movies also sounded great after a little tweaking of the equalizer and the noise cancellation feature on the microphone was effective at reducing background noise while speaking into the mic.  Overall if you want a good set of surround headphones are on a bit of a budget the H1500 are worth adding to your short list of possible purchases.

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"Longevity is very important in any industry. It is extremely likely that, when the longevity moniker is affixed to an organization's label, consumers can buy with confidence. Corsair is one of those labels that can has been doing it well since 1994 and in this industry, 20 years is a VERY long time. Whether you are buying a power supply or a gaming mouse, you know that if it wears the Corsair logo, it is a quality device that will withstand the test of time and perform brilliantly."

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