WarCraft 1 and 2 Available Digitally for First Time on GOG

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2019 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: warcraft, orcs & humans, tides of darkness, battle.net, GOG, blizzard

It has finally happened: the original WarCraft and WarCraft II are legitimately available digitally for the first time in a new WarCraft bundle on GOG, coming on the heels of GOG's understanding with Blizzard that saw the release of the original Diablo on March 7th. GOG seems to have seen the value in offering versions of the classic games which were foolishly dismissed as "just not that fun anymore" by none other than Blizzard a couple of years ago.

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Thankfully there are people who do think they are fun, and while WarCraft: Orcs & Humans does look quite a bit more dated than WarCraft II (this author's favorite of the series), they are most certainly worth replaying on modern systems - and for $15 you can do it legally (and without the hassle of configuring DOSBox, etc.). The included version of WarCraft II is the Battle.net Edition, and GOG's says it has been updated "with a number of fixes to provide full compatibility with modern machines as well as hi-resolution support and upscaling".

From GOG.com:

"In anticipation of the upcoming 25th anniversary of Warcraft, we brought you the real-time strategy classics that started it all Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and Warcraft II Battle.net Edition, including both the original Tides of Darkness and the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion. Starting today, players can once again explore these universe-defining games as they become available digitally and DRM-free for the first time ever! 

Warcraft: Orcs & Humans takes players back to the original battle for Azeroth, challenging players to pick a side and raise an army of human or orcs capable of bringing ruin to their enemies. Warcraft IIand its expansion take the battle to the high seas with a host of naval units, and introduces more of the races that make up the Alliance and the Horde, bolstering the human and orc forces with elves, trolls, dwarves, and more. 

The first part of the legendary series plays and feels just like the original from 1994, it’s just updated to run flawlessly on modern operating systems. Warcraft II Battle.net Edition, similarly to the release of first Diablo on GOG.COM, comes in two versions, which players will choose from the launcher. The classic one allows for the authentic experience and a fully functional multiplayer with Blizzard’s Battle.net online gaming service. The updated version comes with a number of fixes to provide full compatibility with modern machines as well as hi-resolution support and upscaling."

Source: GOG

Uh... WoW... World of Warcraft DirectX 12 on Windows 7

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 12, 2019 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, wow, blizzard, microsoft, DirectX 12, dx12

Microsoft has just announced that they ported the DirectX 12 runtime to Windows 7 for World of Warcraft and other, unannounced games. This allows those games to run the new graphics API with its more-efficient framework of queuing work on GPUs, with support from Microsoft. I should note that the benchmarks for DirectX 12 in WoW are hit or miss, so I’m not sure whether it’s better to select DX11 or DX12 for any given PC, but you are free to try.

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This does not port other graphics features, like the updated driver model, which leads to this excerpt from the DirectX blog post:

How are DirectX 12 games different between Windows 10 and Windows 7?
Windows 10 has critical OS improvements which make modern low-level graphics APIs (including DirectX 12) run more efficiently. If you enjoy your favorite games running with DirectX 12 on Windows 7, you should check how those games run even better on Windows 10!

Just make sure you don’t install KB4482887? Trollolololol. Such unfortunate timing.

Of course, Vulkan also exists, and has supported Windows 7 since its creation. Further, both DirectX 12 and Vulkan have forked away from Mantle, which, of course, supported Windows 7. (AMD’s Mantle API pre-dates Windows 10.) The biggest surprise is that Microsoft released such a big API onto Windows 7 even though it is in extended support. I am curious what lead to this exception, such as cyber cafés or other international trends, because I really have no idea.

As for graphics drivers? I am guessing that we will see it pop up in new releases. The latest GeForce release notes claim that DirectX 12 is only available on Windows 10, although undocumented features are not exactly uncommon in the software and hardware industry. Speaking of undocumented features, World of Warcraft 8.1.5 is required for DirectX 12 on Windows 7, although this is not listed anywhere in the release notes on their blog.

Source: Microsoft

StarCraft II Going Free-to-play on November 14th

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2017 - 07:13 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, starcraft 2, pc gaming

Over the last few years, Blizzard has been progressively opening up StarCraft II for non-paying customers. These initiatives ranged from allowing whole parties to share the highest expansion level of any one member, unlocking Terran for unranked games, opening up mods to the Starter edition, and so forth.

Starting on November 14th, after a handful of months of the original StarCraft going free-to-play, Blizzard will allow free access to multiplayer (including the ranked ladder), a handful of co-op commanders, and the Wings of Liberty campaign. If you already own Wings of Liberty, then you will get Heart of the Swarm for free (if you claim it between November 8th and December 8th).

If you already own both, then… well, life as usual for you.

In terms of making money, Blizzard is hoping to sell the remaining two-or-three campaigns, Heart of the Swarm, Legacy of the Void, and Nova Covert Ops, as well as the other up-sells, like announcers, co-op commanders, and so forth. If you’re in it for the vanilla (or Arcade) multiplayer, though, then you can jump in on November 14th without paying a dime.

Source: Blizzard

StarCraft Remastered Trailer, Release Date, and Pre-order

Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2017 - 09:34 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, blizzard

We first reported on StarCraft Remastered when it was announced, which was alongside the GSL 2017 Season 1 finals on March 26th. This was accompanied by a patch that brought the base game up to modern standards, which conveniently allows it to be multiplayer-compatible with Remastered, although skill-based matchmaking is exclusive to Remastered.

It has now been given a trailer, above, and a release date: August 14th, 2017.

As for the price? Pre-orders for StarCraft Remastered are available at $14.99 USD, although it’s unclear whether this price will stick after the pre-order period. I should note that the page states that StarCraft Remastered requires “StarCraft Anthology”. The way its worded makes it look like you need to buy something else, but StarCraft Anthology was made free with the aforementioned 1.18a patch. Basically, it looks like Blizzard is treating StarCraft Remastered as a paid booster to StarCraft Anthology, but, again, the latter is free so it probably only matters in terms of the install process. At least, that’s how it looks to me.

Source: Blizzard

Blizzard Announces StarCraft Remastered and a Patch

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2017 - 02:55 AM |
Tagged: starcraft, pc gaming, blizzard

On the night of the GSL Season 1 finals, and the week of StarCraft’s 19th birthday, Blizzard made a couple of announcements associated with the game. First, the game will receive a patch (1.18a) with an official observer mode, improved support for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10, support for the UTF-8 character set, and a couple of bug fixes.

It will also be made free. Anyone can download and play it.

But... if you want a graphical upgrade, Blizzard also announced the (not free) StarCraft Remastered edition. This will arrive in the summer, and it will include new audio and artwork, bringing the early-Windows 9x graphics up to 4K (with 1080p cutscenes). The gameplay will be the same, to the point of even being cross-play compatible with the original game’s multiplayer. The addition of Battle.net skill-based matchmaking will apparently be exclusive to owners of the Remastered edition, though.

The 1.18a patch will arrive in a couple of days, making the original (non-Remastered) game free. The Remastered edition will arrive in the summer, but no word on price yet.

Source: Blizzard

Blizzard Cutting Support for Windows XP and Vista

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2017 - 05:07 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, blizzard, windows, EoL

Most companies have already abandoned Windows XP and Vista, including Microsoft once Vista leaves extended support in April, but Blizzard is known for long-term support. This is the company that is still selling Diablo 2, even producing retail disks for it last I checked, almost seventeen years after it was released (including a patch last year).

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Later this year, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm will no longer support Windows XP or Vista. This will not all happen at once, even though it would actually make less sense if they did. I mean, why would they coordinate several teams to release a patch at the same time and maximize annoyance to the affected users who cannot schedule or afford an upgrade at that specific time?

Although, if that’s you, then you should probably get around to it sooner than later.

Source: Blizzard

Diablo 3 Will Get a Diablo-style Campaign for Free

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2016 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, pc gaming, diablo, diablo iii

Starting in the Public Test Realm next week, Diablo 3 will receive a campaign that is based on the original game, which turns 20 years old on New Year's Eve. Like the original game, you will fight down the levels of a dungeon into Hell where you fight and kill Diablo. Pardon the spoilers.

blizzard-2016-diablologo.png

The patch, called The Darkening of Tristram, seems to be taken light-heartedly by the company. They announce that it will add a low-quality rendering mode to pay homage to graphical limitations of 1996. More functionality, they also force the character to move in eight directions, which I'm not sure it's tongue-in-cheek or actually implemented for gameplay reasons.

Either way, you can check it out next week by joining the beta realm.

Source: Blizzard

Alphabet Inc.'s DeepMind Working on StarCraft II AI

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2016 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, google, ai, deep learning, Starcraft II

Blizzard and DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014 and is now a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., have just announced opening up StarCraft II for AI research. DeepMind was the company that made AlphaGo, which beat Lee Sedol, a grandmaster of Go, in a best-of-five showmatch with a score of four to one. They hinted at possibly having a BlizzCon champion, some year, do a showmatch as well, which would be entertaining.

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StarCraft II is different from Go in three important ways. First, any given player knows what they scout, which they apparently will constrain these AI to honor. Second, there are three possible match-ups for any choice of race, except random, which has nine. Third, it's real-time, which can be good for AI, because they're not constrained by human input limitations, but also difficult from a performance standpoint.

From Blizzard's perspective, better AI can be useful, because humans need to be challenged to learn. Novices won't be embarrassed to lose to a computer over and over, so they can have a human-like opponent to experiment with. Likewise, grandmasters will want to have someone better than them to keep advancing, especially if it allows them to keep new strategies hidden. From DeepMind's perspective, this is another step in AI research, which could be applied to science, medicine, and so forth in the coming years and decades.

Unfortunately, this is an early announcement. We don't know any more details, although they will have a Blizzcon panel on Saturday at 1pm EDT (10am PDT).

Source: Blizzard

Blizzard Announces Live Streaming

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2016 - 10:19 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, facebook, OBS

So I was greeted with an interesting pop-up when I updated my Battle.net launcher today. Turns out Blizzard is pushing Blizzard Streaming to “the Americas, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand”. Currently, Facebook is the only platform that you can stream to, and Blizzard hasn't announced bringing it to others, but the settings area is clearly a vertical list of horizontal widgets, so that suggests they intend to add more than one at some point.

As for the application, itself, this could be useful (especially if other services are added) for users who only stream Blizzard titles, and who want something designed a bit more mainstream than OBS. That said, Raptr and GeForce Experience both fall under this category. Moreover, Blizzard doesn't clarify whether or not the stream will make use of NVIDIA's NVENC, Intel's Quick Sync, or AMD's VCE, all three of which are supported on OBS Studio. Granted, Blizzard titles tend to be easy to compute, but it is hard to beat encoding on an idle, integrated GPU, if you should have one.

That said, choices are good, and you now have another.

StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops Arrives March 29th

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2016 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, starcraft, Starcraft II

Blizzard is adding three new mini-campaigns to StarCraft II, with three missions each, to give more content for fans of single-player. The first one, StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops, puts players in the shoes of Nova, who was created as the main character of the canceled third-person shooter, StarCraft: Ghost. Blizzard announced that this three-mission pack would be available on or before June 19th.

March 29th is, indeed, before June 19th.

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Before I end, I should probably mention the price. If you pre-purchase, the three packs (nine missions total) bundled together will cost $14.99 USD; that price will raise to $22.47 USD after launch. This is about $5 per DLC, which is reasonable. On the other hand, three-mission story arcs can be... light... for strategy titles. I'm not really the type to value art based on the time it takes up of my life. There is intrinsic value other than how big of a tiny fraction between birth and death this content fills, but that is a legitimate concern for some of our readers. It's likely a fine price, but it feels weird in the context of the free co-op maps, free Whispers of Oblivion, and relatively cheap expansion launch prices.

Whether you take it from the standpoint of cost-value or intrinsic art, though, it all depends on the missions. Three levels isn't a lot of time for an engaging story arc, and Whispers of Oblivion and Into the Void weren't exactly must-have life experiences. That said, I'm not going to underestimate what Blizzard can pull off. We'll see, and we'll see soon.

Unfortunately, you'll only find out after the 33%-off promotion.

Source: Blizzard