Rumor: MLG "Assets" Sold to Activision Blizzard

Subject: General Tech | January 1, 2016 - 10:08 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mlg, esports, blizzard, Activision

Update (10:10pm ET): Forgot to add "rumor" to title.

So I didn't expect this. According to eSports Observer, MLG has basically been liquidated to Activision Blizzard for $46 million USD. Neither company has confirmed the report. The source is a leaked letter that was allegedly sent to stockholders, many of whom, if the rumors are true, were not informed prior to the sale. That's kind-of crappy.

Major_League_Gaming_(logo).png

We will probably hear this story evolve, if true, over the next couple weeks. The organization was said to have been running on a substantial amount of debt, relative to the company's size, for quite some time. If the organization shuts down as it seems it will, then many investors will probably get next to nothing.

On the other hand, it is interesting to see what Activision Blizzard will do with their acquisition. The publisher holds several popular spectator titles, such as Call of Duty, StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, and soon to be Overwatch. I doubt that the company would roll their games into their own eSport service, especially as they are growing closer to rival ESL, so I would have to expect that these “assets” will be used to support (or leverage control) over third-party broadcasters and/or leagues.

WebGL2 Is On Its Way

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 10:25 PM |
Tagged: webgl2, webgl, mozilla, firefox

The Khronos Group created WebGL to bring a GPU-accelerated platform to web browsers. With a few minor differences, it is basically JavaScript bindings for OpenGL ES 2.0. It also created a few standards in JavaScript itself to support things like raw buffers of data that could be assigned types in an unmanaged way. Basically every latest-version web browser supports it these days, and we're starting to see it used in interesting ways.

webgl2-2015-particles.jpg

The next step is WebGL2. OpenGL ES 3.0 adds a bunch of new features that are sorely needed for modern games and applications. For instance, it allows drawing to multiple render targets, which is very useful for virtual cameras in video games (although the original WebGL software could access this as an optional extension when supported). The addition of “Uniform Buffer Objects” is a better example. This allows you to store a bunch of data, like view transformation matrices, as a single buffer that can be bound to multiple applications, rather than binding them one at a time to every draw that needs them.

It's hard to describe, but demos speak a thousand words.

The news today is that Mozilla Nightly now ships with WebGL2 enabled by default. It was previously hidden, disabled by default, behind an option in the browser. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but one of the largest hurdles to WebGL2 is how the browsers actually implement it. The shading language in WebGL was simple enough that most browsers convert it to DirectX HLSL on Windows. This is said to have the added advantage of obfuscating the ability to write malicious code, since developers never directly writes what's executed. GLSL in OpenGL ES 3.0 is much more difficult. I'm not sure whether the browsers will begin to trust OpenGL ES 3.0 drivers directly, or if they finally updated the GLSL translator, but supported implementations means that something was fixed.

Unfortunately, OpenGL compute shaders are not supported in WebGL2. That said, the biggest hurdle is, again, to get WebGL2 working at all. From my talks with browser vendors over the last year or so, it sounds like features (including compute shaders) should start flying in easily once this hurdle is cleared. From there, GPGPU in a website should be much more straightforward.

Meanwhile, Oculus Touch Won't Arrive Until 2H16

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, oculus touch, vive vr

Valve and Oculus are targeting roughly the same window to release the consumer editions of their respective VR equipment. While technical information will likely wait until next week, we are hearing about delays ahead of CES. In the Vive's case, they couldn't afford to wait until the show, because it was supposed to launch in Holiday 2015. That has been revised to April.

oculus-2015-touchcontrollers1.jpg

But this is about Oculus. Their headset is still expected to arrive on time, which is enough for many experiences. The Xbox One controller is supposedly the default for this platform. This puts them out of the running for motion-control software, as seen on the Vive, though. Oculus is developing their own, called the Oculus Touch. They said they were launching without it and that it is optional. We now know that this will be in the second half of the year, which could be as early as the “few months after the Rift” as we were told, or as late as a year from now.

We're already hearing concerns about incompatibility between the two systems, since it will lead to some level of platform-exclusivity. Lead time could help a platform gain ground, unless consumers outright refuse to buy in to any of them in case it ends up being the Betamax or HD-DVD. I'm not sure what we, as consumers, can do to prevent any of these negative outcomes, but it's something we need to be mindful of, especially throughout 2016.

Source: Oculus

Final Fantasy IX PC Version Confirmed (for Japan)

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: square enix, pc gaming, final fantasy

Back in September, SquareEnix announced that Final Fantasy V was coming to the PC. I took the opportunity to list all the main-line Final Fantasy titles, sorted by generation, and classified them as having a PC release (or not). The odd one out was Final Fantasy IX. It belongs in the set of three original PlayStation titles, but, unlike VII and VIII, was not given a PC release at the time. I was worried that SquareEnix might not go through the trouble for just a single game.

square-2015-ff9-logo.jpg

Apparently, they are doing a version for PCs and Smartphones. It looks somewhat similar to the handheld remake of Final Fantasy III, although that is similar to the PlayStation graphics. It is possible that it will not make it to a worldwide release, but, since the website is fully translated into English, you would expect that the game would be localized, too. If the game is localized, there's very little reason to block it off geographically.

They only have system requirements for iOS. They will probably list Windows system requirements at a later date, which I assume the disable “System” button refers to. Android 4.1 is required for that platform, but they don't say anything about hardware. Regardless, I doubt that this will require much.

Source: Square Enix

FCC Approves the Vive VR "Base station"

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: htc, valve, vive, vive vr

This bit of news is a little more pleasant for Valve. According to Engadget, the HTC Vive has passed FCC approval. HTC recently announced that the product would launch in April, slipping from its original launch date, Holiday 2015, by a few months. This was due to a “very, very big technological breakthrough” that was in no way elaborated on.

valve-2015-htc-vive-fcclaser.png

The linked FCC report calls the device the “HTC Base station.” This likely refers to the Lighthouse laser tracking system that are monitored by light sensors on the headset and controllers. The public notice includes the FCC warning label, which mentions that the device is a Class 1 laser system. There are five classifications of lasers, from Class 1 through Class 4 (with Class 3 split into Class 3a and Class 3b). Class 1 means that the laser is completely incapable of producing harmful radiation. Class 4 can cause fires. Since HTC's device is Class 1, this means that either the laser's intensity is too low to cause damage, even with sustained viewing, or the laser never produces a harmful amount of radiation in a way that could be viewed under normal operation. For instance, a laser printer is a “Class 1” laser, because everything occurs within the device. Laser pointers, on the other hand, are typically Class 2.

This raises an interesting question about how the lasers are used. They are clearly emitted into open space, because the sensors are on the visor. This suggests that the lasers are either very low power, or the beam is manipulated in such a way that it cannot be pointed into someone's eye for a meaningful amount of time. How? No idea.

HTC and Valve are expected to fully unveil the product at CES. PC Perspective will be at the event, and we'll probably have more information at that time.

Source: Engadget

Podcast #381 - Picks of the Year, the EK Predator 240, ASUS MG278Q FreeSync and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2015 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: video, Skylake, Silverstone, predator 240, podcast, picks of the year, mg278q, Intel, g-sync, freesync, EKWB, Broadwell, asus

PC Perspective Podcast #381 - 12/31/2015

Join us this week as we discuss our Picks of the Year, the EK Predator 240, ASUS MG278Q FreeSync and more!

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

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Morry Tietelman, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 2:13:30

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. PC Perspective Hardware Picks of the Year
    1. 0:48:30 Graphics Card of 2015
    2. 1:00:40 CPU of 2015
    3. 1:06:55 Storage of 2015
    4. 1:11:15 Case of 2015
    5. 1:20:50 Motherboard of 2015
    6. 1:29:20 Price Drop of 2015
    7. 1:38:30 Mobile Device of 2015
    8. 1:45:50 Best Trend of 2015
    9. 1:57:40 Worst Trend of 2015
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Valve Comments on Christmas Security Issues

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2015 - 11:48 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, security, Privacy

On Christmas Day, Valve had a few hours of problems. Their servers were being overloaded by malicious traffic. The best analogy that I could provide would be a bad organization who sent a thousand people to Walmart, to do nothing but stand in the check-out line and ask the cashier about the time. This clogs up the infrastructure, preventing legitimate customers from making their transactions. This was often done after demanding a ransom. Don't pay? Your servers get clogged at the worst time.

steam-family.png

A little too much sharing...

There are two ways to counter-act a DDoS attack: add hardware or make your site more efficient.

When a website is requested, the server generates the page and sends it to the customer. This process is typically slow, especially for complicated sites that pull data from one or more database(s). It then feeds this data to partners to send to customers. Some pages, like the Steam Store's front page, are mostly the same for anyone who views it (from the same geographic region). Some pages, like your order confirmation page, are individual. You can save server performance by generating the pages only when they change, and giving them to relevant users from the closest delivery server.

Someone, during a 20-fold spike in traffic relative to the typical Steam Sale volume, accidentally started saving (caching) pages with private information and delivering them to random users. This includes things like order confirmation and contact information pages for whatever logged-in account generated them. This is pretty terrible for privacy. Again, it does not allow users to interact with the profiles of other users, just see the results that other users generated.

But this is still quite bad.

Users complained, especially on Twitter, that Valve should have shut down their website immediately. From my position, I agree, especially since attempting to make a purchase tells the web server to pull the most sensitive information (billing address, etc.) from the database. I don't particularly know why Valve didn't, but I cannot see that from the outside.

It's probably a simple mistake to make, especially since Valve seems to blame a third-party for the configuration issue. On the other hand, that also meant that Valve structured their website such that sensitive information is in the hands of third-parties to properly cache. That might have been necessary, depending on their browser compatibility requirements, but I would hope that it's something Valve restructures in the future. (For instance, have the caching server store the site's framework, and fill in the individual's data with a JavaScript request to another, uncached server.)

But again, I don't work there. I don't know the details.

Source: Valve

Rantopad and Gateron, a switch from your usual mechanical keyboard provider

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: cherry mx rgb, Gateron Black, Gateron Blue, K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, rantopad, Rantopad MXX

Gateron is yet another company to join the mechanical switch crowd and appears on the Rantopad MXX gaming keyboard.  The keyboard is tenkeyless and designed tore let you remove keys as you see fit thought it does not seem to come with additional keys to customize the board.  As you might expect it is backlit, there will soon be a Cherry MX RGB model for those who want more than just a single colour of light to display.  MadShrimps provides a full review of this $80 mechanical keyboard here, for those interested.

5.jpg

"Despite the fact that the Rantopad MXX does not feature software for additional configuration purposes, we were quite impressed with the build quality of the keyboard, while the compact (TKL) size and space-grade aluminum cover give the product a professional look. MXX does come for now with Gateron Black or Blue switches (and aluminum covers in blue or dark grey), but in the future we will also see white and red variants introduced and a much wider switch selection, including Cherry MX RGB switches."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: MadShrimps

UNIGINE 2 Earth Demo (Video)

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2015 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: UNIGINE, unigine 2

Apparently something is coming in 2016, but I don't know what that is. All I can see at the moment is a highly-detailed rendering of Earth, which UNIGINE classifies as a research and development project. The first couple of views are pretty impressive although, despite begging in the comments for a flight simulator with this technology, it looks like this content only works in an as viewed from space context.

That said, it ends up scaling down to the planet's surface, that would be highly entertaining.

Even still, the technology required to convert from recorded, public data into a rendered sphere is impressive. The “procedural data refinement” that converts various masks into clusters of human-made lighting, and so forth, look shiny and believable. This could be highly useful for space games and cinematics at the very least.

unigine-2-space.jpg

The engine itself is impressive. The original UNIGINE was a staple of DirectX 11 benchmarks for years. It made use of tessellation in one of the most compelling, stylized ways we've seen to date. Unfortunately, they seem to be sticking with their large (but not too large) up-front licensing cost business model. This stands against the free with royalty trend of modern engines today, such as CryEngine, Unity, and Unreal. Hopefully it delivers enough revenue to keep them running.

UNIGINE 2.1 was just released in November.

Fallout 4 can get confused if you aren't a gun toting yahoo

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2015 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: fallout 4, bug, gaming

The Fallout series has never been pacifistic, the isometric originals could allow you to become a drug addicted slave trader however they did not used to be so linear as Fallout 4 seems to be.  An inventive gamer decided to try to play the new Fallout without killing a soul and has accomplished that goal after much effort and a few bugs.  While it is certainly a blast to roam the wastelands slaughtering all those who get in your way, this article at Kotaku illustrates the problems you can face when playing a game differently than the developers expected you to.  The usual, and sadly inevitable game bugs aside, there are quite a few new ones that arise when you get creative with your playthrough.  As any DM worth their salt knows, you can never account for everything your players will do and flexibility is a must.  One hopes that devs at Bethesda read through this article and expand their creativity as a result.

o6v44jxqozehj9dfqxax.png

"Fallout 4 expects you to commit murder. While you can occasionally avoid killing others, the wasteland is ruthless and demands violence. That’s how Bethesda intended the game to be played, anyway—but clever players are finding ways around it."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Kotaku