CES 2016: Activision Blizzard Confirms MLG Purchase

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2016 - 11:44 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mlg, esports, blizzard, Activision

On New Year's Day, rumors flew about MLG being purchased by Activision Blizzard for $46 million USD. At the time, the vast majority of available information discussed how this would affect shareholders, particularly those with lower-class stock in the eSport company. (As it turns out, very poorly.) I wondered why Activision Blizzard would want MLG's assets, especially considering their heavy involvement with ESL, afreecaTV, and others.

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According to a press release from Activision Blizzard themselves, they intend to “create the ESPN of esports.” The Activision Blizzard Media Networks division will be led by the former CEO of ESPN, Steve Bornstein, and the co-founder of MLG, Mike Sepso. The other co-founder of MLG, Sundance DiGiovanni, will remain at MLG. It was previously rumored, during the investor's leak, that he was replaced by the former CFO of MLG, Greg Chisholm. While I expect that some shuffling has occurred, DiGiovanni will apparently remain in a management role at MLG. Granted, it could be equivalent to Hideo Kojima's “holiday” last October, but that would just be silly.

As far as I can tell, other broadcasters have not commented on what this means to them.

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G.Skill makes a move into the gaming headset market

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2016 - 11:16 AM |
Tagged: SV710, SR910, gskill, gaming headset, audio

G.Skill have been focusing on the peripheral market recently, releasing a gaming mouse and keyboard and now a pair of headphones, the SR910 and SV710.  Hardware Canucks recently put up a video review of the two headsets, which are almost identical apart from the external controls.  The SV710 has a very large inline volume controller that was not well received while the SV910 has a larger control hub that sits on your desktop and allows individual control over the drivers in the headset.  Unfortunately they were not overly impressed with the design and performance of the headsets and the less expensive stereo SV710 model was preferred over the more complex and expensive SR910.

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"G.Skill has entered the audio segment with its SR910 and SV710 gaming headsets—and that's a big step for a company still finding its feet outside its core market."

Here is some more Tech News from aroud the web:

Audio Corner

Meet GCN next, AMD's Polaris

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2016 - 10:48 AM |
Tagged: amd, Polaris, FinFET

Ryan's coverage of the new Polaris architecture will be up momentarily but in the meantime you can take a peek at The Tech Report's coverage here.  The new architecture will utilize FinFETs of an unspecified process node and is designed to power the new UHD displays and VR headsets due for release over this coming year.  Raja Koduri discusses the two major goals of the new architecture, fast pixels and deep pixels.  Fast pixels refers to the awe inspiring amount of bandwidth required to draw on UHD displays, twin 4K displays would require addressing 1.8 gigapixels per refresh which would certainly need some fast pixels.  Deep pixels refers to improved support for variable refresh rates and likely encompasses support for the new HDR technology we will see appear on the market in the near future.  If you can't hold off your curiosity for our coverage you can pop over here.

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"AMD will release new Radeons built on its next-gen Polaris architecture in mid-2016. We got an early look at this new architecture and AMD's plans for building these chips with FinFETs last month at the company's Radeon Technologies Group tech summit."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Keep your tired lithium batteries on ice

Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2016 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: battery

We know that heat and Lithium based batteries don't mix but there is more to worry about than catastrophic failure.  A post over at Hack a Day illustrates the consequences of heating a Lithium based battery with 1% or less charge, the complete and permanent death of the batteries ability to hold a charge.  There are some uses for these batteries in designs which can trap heat near to the battery and not properly transfer it out and it is apparently very important to keep those batteries at least moderately charged.  If you are making something which might expose the batteries to excess heat ensure you monitor the charge to prevent having to replace the batteries.  The complete discharge of a Lithium cell is never a good practice and this illustrates another reason to keep those batteries charged.

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"There’s a million ways to kill a battery, and lithium batteries are known not to like being completely discharged, but it looks like the combination of deep discharge and heat is entirely deadly. Now you know."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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