Introduction, Hardware Vendors
This year's South by Southwest (SXSW) Trade Show brought together many small and global companies with computer hardware and information technology backgrounds as well as creative industries that produce art, music, and movies. SXSW interactive badge holders and showcased artists got an inside look at the newest innovations in mobile social media platforms and applications, open source web content management systems, professional audio/video technologies, and other multimedia products.
Since I write for PC Perspective, I narrowed the focus of my trade show coverage to companies creating innovative computer hardware, PC and Mac peripherals, and other gadgets that may interest our readers. I also scoured the rest of the trade show for the best booth babes handing out swag and watching other fun, promotional events to get expo visitors to engage with companies to find out more about their products.
See our video coverage of the SXSW Trade Show!
Introduction, LAN Fest, Game Demos, Future of Gaming panel
Check out our video coverage of the SXSW Screenburn Arcade!
The 19th Annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival kicked off on Mar. 9 and wraps up Mar. 12 in Austin, Texas. While most of the event featured interactive workshops and panels of experts from within the web development and social media communities, I focused most of my efforts covering the SXSW Screenburn Arcade at the Palmer Event Center. This is where most of the PC and console gaming enthusiasts attending SXSW converged to watch pro gamers from the IGN Pro League battle in League of Legends, Starcraft II, and check out several game demos like Lollipop Chainsaw for the XBox 360 and Quantum Conundrum and FireFall for the PC.
Intel LAN Fest
I also had the opportunity to visit the Intel-sponsored, non-profit LANFest where event visitors could jump on one of their Alienware systems and play a variety of PC games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Team Fortress 2, MineCraft, Half Life 2 Death Match, WArsaw, Alien Swarm, Portal, World of Tanks, and Left 4 Dead 2 . LAN participants paid a $5 donation to play, which helped raise funds that will be sent to the city of Bastrop, Texas that lost more than 400 homes because of wildfires last September. They also raffled off a new ASUS Ultrabook to raise money for the United Way non-profit organization.
Subject: Editorial, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2012 - 04:45 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: GDC 12, GDC
The Game Developers Conference (GDC) has a long history of being underappreciated by the general public. GDC has become more mainstream than it once was. Five years ago, a panel called “Programmer’s Challenge” -- Jeopardy for videogame programmers -- was in its fifth iteration and submitted to Google Video. Check out what GDC once was.
Take a bunch of programmers and ask them what happens when you XOR Frosted Flakes and Frosted Cheerios
I'm not kidding.
Questions from the Programmer’s Challenge are very entertaining and well worth the 45 minutes it takes to watch. It is exactly what you should expect from a Jeopardy game with “Blizzard Sues Everyone” as an example category title.
You are a high level EA executive. You have 327,600 man hours of game development to complete in the 12 weeks before Christmas. If you have 300 employees working 40 hours a week, how many hours of unpaid overtime per week should you force each employee to do before laying them off in January?
Part of the fun is keeping up with the logic puzzles which get quite difficult. The game rounds out near the end with binary algebra of breakfast cereals. Put a little smile in your Tuesday.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2012 - 03:41 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, GDC, GDC 12
Valve and Razer formally agree to support Razer Hydra motion controller in Valve’s four most popular titles and two upcoming ones.
A little over two years ago, Valve and Razer announced a partnership for their Sixense high-precision motion controllers. During CES 2010, attendees were able to experiment with a prototype motion controller from Sixense to control Left 4 Dead 2. Sixense TrueMotion controllers were later released by Razer last June as the Razer Hydra.
Now you're thinking with controllers.
This Game Developers Conference (GDC) fast forwards us to almost a year after the launch of the Razer Hydra. The price for the controller has dropped $40 to $99.99 at some point between then and now. Valve has also announced that support would be extended from Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 to include Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and upcoming Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
The fishiest part of this whole announcement involves the Steam Box rumor from a few days ago. Valve appears to be very focused on the best portions of console gaming for the PC all of a sudden. I could easily see motion controls be used to support The Steam Box or whatever it might be called -- especially if it were used for more than just gaming and by more than just gamers.
So what do you all think?
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 3, 2012 - 09:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: GDC 12, GDC, crytek
Crytek unveils their large presence at Game Developers’ Conference (GDC 2012) occurring next week: what projects will be on the show floor and what projects will be discussed privately by appointment.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) tends to be where most gamers get their overdose of gaming news. Much fewer gamers know of the Game Developers’ Conference which occurs about three months earlier. Especially over recent years, GDC coverage sometimes ends up more exciting than E3 with announcements being more technical and oriented to developers.
A call out to interested developers.
Crytek published a press release on their website outlining their products. The release is quite cryptic in its wording, but more information should be available soon.
GFACE, our recently announced social entertainment service, and its business development team is on the lookout for fun third-party social, casual, core free2play games that can complement our launch line up. Everyone interested in becoming part of GFACE should contact us at email@example.com to set up an appointment to learn more about the GFACE Social Media Publishing Platform to “Play.Together.Live.”
Crytek’s first freemium PC Online FPS Game Service Warface invites players to check out our PVE and PVP gameplay.
GDC attendees can participate in CryENGINE presentations every full hour. Topics that will be covered are next-generation DX 11 graphics and tools upgrades, Cinebox, creating characters for CryENGINE, AI Systems, UI Actions and Flow Graph and After Action feature set for Serious Games.
CryENGINE®3 Cinebox™ will also be on the showfloor and we’d love to show you more about it. For more information, please visit mycryengine.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Real Time Immersive, Inc. (RTI) is a simulation and serious games studio established to support CryENGINE® licensees in the serious game and simulation market space. The team will be present on the show floor and show their latest developments.
Crytek uses their own vocabulary to categories projects which use their engine. Your project is a “Game” if it is a typical videogame such as Crysis or Mechwarrior Online. Your project is a “Serious Game” if you use their game technology for professional applications such as Lockheed Martin developing or demonstrating aircraft technology. Your project is a “Visualization” if you use game technology to demonstrate architecture or produce TV, film, and similar content in the engine.
I am most interested to find out more details about Warface and specifically find out what they could possibly be describing as a FPS Game Service with PVE gameplay. How about you? Comment away.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | March 3, 2012 - 05:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, steam, GDC 12
It is rumored that Valve will announce a Steam hardware platform as early as GDC next week although that could be pushed back as late as E3 in June.
Steam has grown atop the PC platform and consists of over 40 million active user accounts. For perspective, the Xbox 360 has sold 65.8 million units to date and that includes units sold to users whose older Xbox 360s died and they did not go the cardboard coffin route. Of course the study does not account for the level of hardware performance each user can utilize although Valve does keep regular surveys of that.
A console with admined dedicated servers to kick the teabagging and griefing Steam punks.
Within the last couple of years, Valve has been popping in to news seemingly out of the blue. Allow me to draw your attention to three main events.
At the last GDC, Valve announced “The Big Picture” mode for their Steam software. The Big Picture is an interface for Steam which is friendly to users seated on a couch several feet away from a large screen TV. While “The Big Picture” has yet to be released it does set the stage for a great Home Theatre PC user interface for PC games as well as potentially other media.
I must admit, that controller does not look the most ergonomic... but it is just a patent filing.
Last year, Valve also filed a patent with the US Patent Office for a video game controller with user swappable control components. Their patent filings show a controller which looks quite similar to an Xbox 360 controller where the thumbsticks can be replaced with touch pads as well as a trackball and potentially other devices. Return of Missile Command anyone?
Also a little over two years ago, Valve announced a partnership with Razer for their Sixense high-precision motion controllers. It is possible that Valve was supporting this technology for this future all along. While motion controllers have not proven to be successful for gaming, they are accepted as a method to control a device. Perhaps The Big Picture will be optimized to support Sixense and compatible devices?
The Verge goes beyond their claims that Valve will announce The Steam Box and has included specifications for a closed-doors prototype of the system. The system was rumored to be used to present to partners at CES contained an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU.
You know if Microsoft had focused on Media Center for gaming rather than the Xbox...
It is very unclear whether Valve will attempt to take a loss on the platform in hopes to make it back up in Steam commissions. It is possible that Valve will just push the platform to OEM partners, but it is possible that they will release and market their own canon device.
I am interested to see how Valve will push the Home Theatre PC market. The main disadvantage that the PC platform has at the moment is simply marketing and development money. It is also possible that they wish to expand out and support other media through their Steam service as well.
At the very least, we should have a viable Home Theatre PC user interface as well as sharp lines between hardware profiles. A developer on the PC would love to know the exact number of potential users they should expect if they were to support a certain hardware configuration. Valve was always keen on supplying hardware profile statistics, and this is certainly a harsh evolution of that.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 28, 2012 - 07:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: MWC 12, Android 5.0, Android
Android Ice Cream Sandwich is currently getting rolled out to compatible devices at a leisurely pace. The OS itself is for the most part well appreciated by both developers and end-users. As the rollout progresses and minor maintenance patches are created: Google is looking forward to the next major version.
Just get Ice Cream Sandwich and they already talking about the future. U Jelly? : D
ComputerWorld went out to Barcelona to check out Mobile World Congress and of course could not resist reporting on Android. In an interview with Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google VP of Engineering for Mobile, we are treated to a few indirect statements about the next major version of Android.
The major release timeframe for Android is said to continue to be an annual endeavor. An annual release schedule would slate Android J (5.0) to an autumn timeframe. During the discussion, Lockheimer noted that there is flexibility with when developers wish to roll out updated. While that personally sounds like Google is allowing OEMs and carriers to take as long as they desire to implement the new Android releases it appears as if ComputerWorld has heard rumors of Android 5-power phones appearing as early as summer.
Despite ComputerWorld’s best effort, Google would not confirm the dessert associated with Android 5. Best guesses point to the name Jelly Bean, which are supported by a glass jar of Jelly Beans on the show floor.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 25, 2012 - 07:06 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: texas instruments, MWC 12, arm, A9, A15
Texas Instruments could not wait until Mobile World Congress to start throwing punches. Despite their recent financial problems resulting in the closure of two fabrication plants TI believes that their product should speak for itself. Texas Instruments recently released a video showing their dual-core OMAP5 processor based on the ARM Cortex-A15 besting a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 in rendering websites.
Chuck Norris joke.
Even with being at a two core disadvantage the 800 MHz OMAP5 processor was clocked 40 percent slower than the 1.3 GHz Cortex A9. The OMAP5 is said to be able to reach 2.5 GHz if necessary when released commercially.
Certain portions of the video did look a bit fishy however. Firstly, CNet actually loaded quicker on the A9 processor but it idled a bit before advancing to the second page. The A9 could have been stuck loading an object that the OMAP 5 did not have an issue with, but it does seem a bit weird.
About the fishiest part of the video is that the Quad-Core A9, which we assume to be a Tegra 3, is running on Honeycomb where the OMAP5 is running Ice Cream Sandwich. Ice Cream Sandwich has been much enhanced for performance over Honeycomb.
We have no doubt that the ARM Cortex-A15 will be much improved over the current A9. The issue here is that TI cannot successfully prove that with this demonstration.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 24, 2012 - 06:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, DirectTouch, MWC 12
As a part of their Tegra 3 product, NVIDIA embedded the ability to control some of the touchscreen processing onto the CPU. The offloading allows for increased power efficiency by reducing the number of powered components as well as increased touch responsivity. Atmel, Cypress, and Synaptics are three leading touch-controller companies who join N-Trig, Raydium, and Focaltech in supporting the DirectTouch architecture.
Touchy subject, I know -- but...
Advancements in touch technology are definitely welcome especially when the words power efficiency or responsiveness are involved. Both NVIDIA and Intel have been looking for ways to reduce the number of electronics behind your phone or tablet. The less required to do the most the better we are. It is great to see NVIDIA taking the lead in innovation when it is needed the most.
While I do not mean to rain upon NVIDIA’s bright blue skies -- I must make a note. Despite the precision brought by high sample rate, there does appear to be quite a bit of latency between where his finger is and where the touch is reported. I would be curious to see where that latency occurs.
Of course this issue probably has nothing to do with NVIDIA. Videogames, particularly on consoles, are known to have latencies floating up to 100ms as the input device does not influence the frames being rendered often enough. The latency could come in from the touch device itself, from the software, the operating system, and/or whatever else.
We do not know where the latency occurs, but I expect that whoever crushes it will have a throne awaiting them somewhere in Silicon Valley.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 24, 2012 - 04:29 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: MWC 12, mozilla, B2G, LG
Mozilla will show off their marketplace for web apps at Mobile World Congress 2012. Mozilla Marketplace will support the upcoming Boot to Gecko (B2G) operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It is rumored that they will announce LG as a partner to develop either a tablet or a phone for developers of the B2G platform.
I ~ <3 Paypal... I guess.
Paypal has been announced as the payment processor for the Mozilla Marketplace. Paypal is not universally adored although we can understand why Mozilla would need to use an existing package. Prices are locked to one of 30 tiers so pricing is not entirely flexible but does run the gamut from 99-cents to $50 as well as of course free.
Hopefully we will get more details about Boot to Gecko or the Mozilla-powered LG phone at MWC in the coming days.