Ubisoft Offers One Free New Game with Eligible Purchase

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2016 - 06:49 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ubisoft, ea, bethesda

The Ubisoft store is offering the standard edition of either The Division, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Rainbow Six: Siege, or Far Cry Primal when you purchase (or pre-order) another, participating title. These other games aren’t just from Ubisoft, though. They also include new releases from EA, Bethesda, and SquareEnix, such as Battlefield 1 (which still requires Origin) and Skyrim: Special Edition.

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This is interesting for two reasons. First, and most obvious, if you really want one of the four titles and one of the applicable ones, then it might be cheaper than buying them individually (although you should check for sales elsewhere first).

The second point regards how the various publishers are handling Steam’s dominance in the PC space. EA is now even participating their titles, which are not available on Valve’s service, in promotions from stores owned by other competitors. Meanwhile, it seems like Bethesda is happy putting their stock wherever, and they will even discount games by a third or a half if it aligns with a big Steam Sale. Then we get Ubisoft, who has their own store, but also lists on Steam and does fairly good sales there, too.

Anyway, the sale is running until the 27th. As I said earlier, though, be sure that any combination of game that interests you is actually cheaper than their respective sale price at competing stores before buying.

Source: Ubisoft

Dishonored 2 v1.2 Released with Performance Fixes

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 04:57 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, dishonored 2, bethesda

When Dishonored 2 came out, it apparently had quite a few performance issues. Users were complaining about stuttering and low performance, even with high-end graphics cards. One post on Reddit grew popular when an employee of Bethesda allegedly tweeted that a GTX 1070 should get ~60 FPS on Very Low at 1080p. The card is generally recommended for users looking for maxed out 1080p or 1440p for the next couple of years, so you might be able to see the expectation mismatch.

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The second patch, released yesterday, is primarily aimed at performance optimizations. First, NVIDIA users are recommended to upgrade to 375.95, which was pushed to GeForce Experience and their website late last week. Beyond adding an SLI Profile, Bethesda “strongly advise[s]” the driver to fix a performance bug.

On their side, they fixed an issue with AMD GPUs when cloth is simulated and they now allow those cards to use HBAO+. They also allow the user to limit frame rates all the way up to 120 FPS, although the physics engine cannot handle rates above that, so it’s hard-capped there. This sucks for users with 144Hz monitors, but 120 FPS is pretty generous of a cap if one must exist. Bethesda also addressed stuttering and they fixed the engine attempting to allocate more VRAM than the card has. I’m not sure whether this bug led to outright crashes, or just stuttering as the asset is pulled from system RAM or disk, but either way is quite bad.

If you had a problem playing Dishonored 2, then you might want to try again. If you are waiting to purchase, or have already refunded the game, then unfortunately I can’t say whether it’s all better; I haven’t played it, at least not yet.

Skyrim Special Edition Beta Patch Released

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2016 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: bethesda, pc gaming, skyrim

Despite the complaints that are seen across the internet, the launch of Skyrim Special Edition (on PC) has not been bad. If you received it for free, because you own the original Skyrim and all of its paid DLC, then it delivers a newer engine with more rendering features and the potential to handle much more modded content at the same time. It is a new game, though, and I think users were expecting to binge on it at launch, when it will take a bit of time to catch up to the original game.

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Speaking of catching up, though, Bethesda has released a beta patch for the PC version. Skyrim Special Edition 1.1.51 will remove compression on “some” sound files, which was a major complaint that circled the web since release. They also fixed a few bugs with the save games, performance, and NPC behavior.

To access it, switch Skyrim Special Edition to the Beta channel on Steam by right clicking on the game in your library, clicking properties, and changing the drop-down in the betas tab.

Source: Bethesda

Amazon Is Selling Fallout 4 for ~18$. Should You Get It?

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 01:34 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, fallout 4, bethesda

I don't usually post individual deals, but this is a fairly big drop in price for a very popular game. The physical copy of Fallout 4, for PC of course, is currently a little over $18. Since, digitally, it is still a $60 game, this is about 70% less than the price on Steam.

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I'm guessing that this deal is to clear out stock for an upcoming Game of the Year edition. This is something to keep in mind. The last DLC has just been released two weeks ago, and, if history serves, that means it won't be too long before they release the game with the DLC bundled in. Probably, if you waited this long, you should wait until that gets released (and goes on sale) to pick it up. I doubt that it would arrive before 2017, though, so it's up to you.

Source: Amazon

Adrian Courrèges Discusses DOOM Rendering Techniques

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: doom, pc gaming, bethesda

Adrian Courrèges is a software developer who, from time to time, does a break down on rendering techniques for major gaming titles. His latest one is on DOOM, and it explains, in remarkably simple (given the subject matter) terms, how the game draws a frame at a point early in the game. Most of the information was gathered from using debug tools, but a bit was pulled from Tiago Sousa and Jean Geffroy's slide deck at last month's SIGGRAPH conference.

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I obviously cannot really summarize what the article says in this post. You kind-of need to read it for yourself. The post goes into how Vulkan is used for updating Mega-Textures, but it doesn't go into anything like asynchronous compute, though. Most of the figures are animated too, usually by a slideshow of images, but a few WebGL demonstrations are included, too.

DOOM comes to Vulkan; or vice versa

Subject: General Tech | July 11, 2016 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, doom, bethesda

*** Update *** an asute reader spotted some quick and dirty benchmarks over at Guru of 3D.  It looks like the RX480 does indeed benefit from Vulkan, the GTX 1070 not so much.

While this does not mean that the new DOOM will run on Linux, today does see Vulkan support arriving for the new FPS.  As we have seen with titles such as BF4 this is not going to benefit users of high end GPUs in any great way, however gamers on a budget should see improvements.  Bethesda did not update their minimum specs but do anticipate older cards being able to maintain more respectable framerates; the current minimum specs are a GTX 670 or HD 7870.  Expect to see some bugs as this their first shot at the Vulkan API, but do check it out if you have a lower end card or are simply curious how well it works. Handy links for drivers and more info over at Bethesda.

"At id Software, we’ve always pushed technology. With DOOM we let the game drive the technology decisions from early on. This has continued even in post-release, with new updates and more. Today we’re excited to share another big technology push: Vulkan support is now live on PC."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Bethesda

Skyrim Special Edition Announced (now with 64 bits!)

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2016 - 10:01 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, bethesda

On Sunday, Bethesda had their E3 2016 press conference, where they announced a bunch of content that are relevant to PC gamers. One of them was Skyrim: Special Edition. It hasn't been added to their website yet, but it updates The Elder Scrolls V with new assets, shaders, and effects. On the PC, it will be free to anyone who has purchased the base game and all of its expansions.

Even better: it is also compiled as a 64-bit application.

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One of the original Skyrim's limits, specifically for modders, was that it could only address a little over 3GB of system memory before crashing. Worse: RAM usage was interconnected with GPU memory usage, which further limits the number of assets you can actually load. While there are probably still plenty of ways for Skyrim to crash, especially when third-party content is injected, Skyrim: Special Edition will move the solid, 3GB wall.

DigitalFoundry also claims that the engine itself is updated to a newer branch itself, like what was used for Fallout 4. This makes sense, because several effects would be difficult to do on DirectX 9 (like volumetric god rays). Despite the newer engine version, Pete Hines of Bethesda said “basically, yes” when asked whether existing Skyrim mods would be compatible. This suggests that the internal API would be the same for at least the majority of cases. Interesting!

Skyrim: Special Edition will be available on October 28th.

Source: PCGamer

Even Mods Have Pre-E3 Trailers -- Skywind

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2016 - 07:15 AM |
Tagged: skyrim, morrowind, elder scrolls, bethesda

TESRenewal Project is basically about taking earlier Elder Scrolls titles and bringing them to newer engines. Three mods are under the control at the moment: Skywind, which puts Morrowind into Skyrim; Skyblivion, which puts Oblivion into Skyrim; and Morroblivion, which puts Morrowind into Oblivion. Morroblivion is already out in the wild, with the latest release dating back to November, 2014, but the other two are being worked on behind closed doors.

They have now released a small update teaser video (above) -- less than two minutes long -- that shows off various environments (and the assets in them). Obviously, at this point, Skyrim is fairly old. It was released almost five years ago, and it still runs on DirectX 9. It is still very popular though, and what we can see from the trailer looks at least as good as Bethesda's default content.

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Skywind will be a non-commercial mod, although it will require both Skyrim, Morrowind, and their expansions (except Hearthfire) to play -- even though it doesn't use any Morrowind assets. This may or may not be a Bethesda requirement; they tend to be quite restrictive with their copyrights and trademarks. (The Mod Workshop payment issue, the Scrolls trademark issue, and the Fallout-posters fan site trademark issue all jump to mind.)

Either way, it will be free if you own both titles, and it looks like an interesting total conversion.

DOOM Will Receive Vulkan Patch "Shortly After Launch"

Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2016 - 06:17 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, doom, bethesda

Update: May 11th @ 6pm EDT

NVIDIA has released new footage, which is both higher quality and longer. It is still running on the Vulkan API, although the graphics card has been switched out to the Titan X. The game is running at 1080p, 120-degree FOV, with all settings at their maximum. The game was locked to 60 FPS, but that makes sense -- they wanted it to look good on video.

The video is embedded above. NVIDIA is also self-hosting their original capture (plus a blog post) if you want to see it without YouTube's recompression (or you don't want to stream from YouTube for other reasons).

Bethesda also has their own, new video, which is just above this.

We return to the original news post, below.

At the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 event, which aligns with DreamHack Austin, id Software showed off DOOM running on Vulkan API. It will not make launch, which is this upcoming Friday, May 13th, but the game will be patched to support it “really, really shortly after launch”. Ryan was not there, but PC Gamer took video of the presentation and posted it to their YouTube.

Video Credit: PC Gamer

We don't know how performance compares with OpenGL, but the Vulkan numbers (running on the GTX 1080) are pretty impressive. After they uncapped the engine, the listed frame rate stayed above 120 FPS except in the most intense battles, at which point it had momentary drops to about 100-120 FPS. According to PC Gamer, because I didn't hear it explicitly mentioned in the video, this is all at 1080p.

That's... good... to say the least.

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This also means a game that officially supports Vulkan will land at around the same time as DirectX 12. We have a few DirectX 12 titles but, while Ashes of the Singularity is a good example, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was plagued with performance problems, and so was Quantum Break. Tomb Raider and Hitman have DirectX 12 support, too, but it doesn't signal a commanding lead for DirectX 12. It still depends upon the engines, especially Unreal Engine, CryEngine, Frostbite, and Unity, but it's another sign that Vulkan arrived on time.

DOOM Launches on Friday the 13th.

Source: PC Gamer

Bethesda Blogs Fallout 4 Graphics Features

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 4, 2015 - 09:37 PM |
Tagged: fallout 4, bethesda

Fallout 4 is just a few days from release, and the hype train is roaring into the station. Bethesda titles are particularly interesting for PC hardware websites because they tend to find a way into our benchmarking suites. They're relatively demanding, open world titles that are built with a unique engine, and they are popular. They are very, very popular. Skyrim is still in our lineup even though it launched four whole years ago (although that is mostly because it's our last DirectX 9 representative).

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Being a demanding, open world title means that it has several interesting features. First, it has full time-of-day lighting and weather effects, which were updated in this release with enhanced post processing effects. A bright, daytime scene will have blue skies and a soft fog that scatters light. Materials are developed using a “Physically Based Shading” model, which is more of an artist feature, but it tends to simplify asset creation and make it much more consistent.

They also have “dynamic dismemberment using hardware tessellation”. In other words, GPUs will add detail to models as they are severed into smaller chunks. Need I say more?

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A lot of these features are seen in many other engines lately, like Unreal Engine 4, so it shouldn't be too surprising. Bokeh Depth of Field is a blurring technique to emulate how camera apertures influence out-of-focus elements. This is most obvious in small highlights, which ends up taking the shape of the camera's aperture. If a camera uses a six-blade aperture, then blurred point blooms will look like hexagons. This is very useful to emulate film. They also use “filmic tonemapping”, which is another post process effect to emulate film.

Fallout 4 seems to be making use of high-end DirectX 11-era features. While this means that it should be about the best-looking game out there, it also holds a lot of promise for mods.

As you're well aware, Fallout 4 ships on November 10th (and screenshots have already leaked).

Source: Bethesda