Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2018 - 04:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: DRM, pc gaming, uwp, arxan
TorrentFreak is reporting that the software piracy group, CODEX, has broken the MSStore, UWP, EAppX, XBLive, and Arxan copy protection mechanisms protecting Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection. Because this is the first and currently only case of an Arxan-protected title being cracked, TorrentFreak is cautious to claim that the copy protection is broken, just in case there’s a flaw in this specific title that allowed circumvention.
Image Credit: LadyOfHats via Wikipedia (Public Domain license)
That said, piracy groups are smart engineers, and DRM essentially amounts to saying, “I’m giving you all the pieces required to unlock this content, but I’m doing it in a way that you hopefully won’t figure out”. At least with most encryption, there are some components (keys and passwords) that are never public, and they are required to unlock the content. DRM doesn’t have that option, because otherwise no-one would be able to use the content it “protects”. (Then there’s also the whole “what are you spending and what are you hoping to gain by using DRM” argument that is often overlooked, because exerting control often correlates with a decline in sales, but that’s another discussion.)
Regardless, CODEX claims that this is the first time a UWP titles has been successfully pirated. It took about four months after its release, but it eventually happened.
Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2018 - 09:50 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, pc gaming, steam sale, steam
If you need more games that you purchased on sale but probably will never play, then Valve’s Lunar New Year sale is for you. Year of the Dog is the theme, and so most of the promoted games have dogs in them. Yes, Half Life 2’s robot counts – Valve’s 2004 classic is currently sitting at 90% off.
Personally, I just picked up Okami HD. I was interested in this game when it first came out, but I was purposely avoiding console titles, so I just kept waiting. I just found out that it was released on the PC back in December, and it’s now 30% off its regular price. Good enough for me!
It’s cute that Valve is going back to some sort of meaning in their sales. These sorts of things used to be conversation starters. I don’t know, but it felt like a lot of the Steam Sales lately became… sterile. It feels odd to describe a sale as an experience, but they kind-of were at times.
Or maybe I just like puppies. I dunno.
Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2018 - 11:59 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: speedrun, pc gaming, gdq, charity
This winter’s event set another new record for Games Done Quick. The current total, although they leave the donation form open a little while after the event for late entries, is $2,263,633.19 USD. This is the sum of 44471 donations from 32286 unique donors. The previous record was set a year ago at January’s AGDQ 2017: $2,222,791.52 USD. The current record set for a Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) event, typically held in July, is $1,792,342.37 USD.
AGDQ 2018, like the previous eight AGDQs, benefits the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
The premise of these events is simple – the organizers bring in enough video game speedrunners to run a 24-hour stream for almost a solid week. These segments can be several hours or just a handful of minutes, depending on how long it takes to accomplish the set goal. While most are typical speedruns for a well-known category, some of them are races, some of them are glitch expositions, and some of them even force the runner to play in a non-typical way, such as blind-folded or two different games on a single controller.
If you're interested in the runs, then check out their YouTube channel.
Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2018 - 01:42 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: gdq, pc gaming
If you’re looking for something to occupy the gaps between our CES posts, then how about watching video games being beaten quickly? Awesome Games Done Quick 2018 begins today at 11:30 AM EST with a pre-show discussion that is hosted by SpikeVegeta, Blechy, Protomagicalgirl, and JHobz. They typically go over what they expect will be the most interesting games and timeslots, and why, as well as hype up some of the donation perks and prizes.
The previous Awesome Games Done Quick, from January 2017, broke 2.2 million dollars in donations. Apart from a blip in January 2016, the amount raised has steadily increased each year. It will be interesting to see whether this year will reach a new high, and what peak we’ll eventually settle at, if one will ever exist.
This event, like the previous seven, will benefit the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Typically, it’s Prevent Cancer Foundation in January and Doctors Without Borders in July, but they have also done a few special events, like for the natural disasters that struck Japan (2011) and Houston, Texas (2017).
Probably the most interesting chunk for me will be on the last day, Saturday, January 13th. Starting at about 4pm, they will have Final Fantasy 4, Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Mario World back-to-back-to-back. Of the three, A Link to the Past is particularly special, because they will be using an item randomizer mod. The runners will not know which chest contains which item ahead of time, just that it is possible to complete the game with the order provided, and each runner will have the same randomized locations. This means that runners will need some luck, because they could take a shortcut hoping that they will stumble across a required item on the way there. If not? They then need to go hunting for it, wasting time.
It was quite something the last time I saw it. And yes, there are many PC games, too.
Subject: General Tech | December 10, 2017 - 07:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, Mechwarrior, mechwarrior 5
Last year, we covered the announcement of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries. We noted that, because the game takes place in 3015, it would have a fairly-reduced equipment set compared to what we have seen in MechWarrior 3 and 4. Apparently that’s not entirely accurate, as a new batch of info has dropped during Mech_Con 2017 in Vancouver.
According to reports, like this one from Engadget, the game starts in 3015, but lasts about 35 in-game years.
But the game won’t really have a linear story, as seen in the previous entries. Rather than having the player run a scripted narrative, the intent is to let them build their own mercenary squad and do contracts for the Great Houses on their own terms (and with four-player co-op, although AI companions can be used if desired). I… don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, it could be an interesting, unique experience. On the other hand, I kind-of want a new, linear story in the Battletech universe.
Also, they mentioned that it will support user-created mods. Given that it's based on Unreal Engine 4, that should be a fairly large level of mod support. This will apparently include new missions, environments, and so forth.
It was also re-announced that MW5 will launch in 2018 – now more specifically: December.
Subject: General Tech | December 3, 2017 - 04:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, origin, ea, popcap
Plants vs Zombies is now available “On the House” through Origin. This means that it’s free, forever, if you claim it onto your account while it’s still active. Think of it as a timed, 100%-off sale.
Plants vs Zombies is one of those games that was released more recently than I remembered. It apparently launched just before I went to teacher’s college. The game was re-released in 2015 as “Plants vs Zombies: Game of the Year Edition” with a little irony, being five years after the year that it would have been game of the year for.
The gameplay is simple, but cute. It’s a multi-lane tower defense where zombies try to eat you brains. You plant defenses to stop them. Each plant has its own power. The plot advances, and you get harder and harder zombies, different terrain, and so forth. Again, it’s a multi-lane tower defense game.
As an aside, am I the only one who thinks they missed an opportunity by not adding a daisy called “DayZee”?
Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2017 - 07:13 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2017 - 09:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, nvidia, graphics drivers
As we head into another batch of holiday releases, NVIDIA has published another GeForce driver: 388.13. While they don’t explicitly call this out in the release notes, the CustHelp page for 388.10, which was released late last week, suggests that 388.13 will help Kepler users have a more stable experience in Wolfenstein II. If you were having troubles, check these out. The release notes also claims that 388.13 fixes an issue with multiple monitors.
Otherwise, the driver is mostly game-specific optimizations. The headlining game for 388.13 is Call of Duty WWII. As usual, that franchise is quite popular, although not nearly as much as it was, say… eight-to-ten years ago. Still, there will be a lot of people buying it. The other two “Game Ready” titles for this driver are Need for Speed Payback and the formerly PS4-exclusive, Nioh: Complete Edition.
Oh… it is also the first driver to support the GeForce 1070 Ti.
If you don’t continuously check GeForce Experience, then be sure to open it and check for driver updates. Alternatively, you can just install them from the website.
Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2017 - 10:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: VR, Samsung, pc gaming, microsoft
The upcoming Fall Creators Update will be Microsoft’s launch into XR with headsets from a variety of vendors. You can now add Samsung to that list with their Odyssey VR headset and motion controllers, which is important for two reasons. First, Samsung has a lot experience in VR technology as they lead the charge (with their partner, Oculus) in the mobile space.
Second, and speaking of Oculus, the Samsung Odyssey actually has a higher resolution than both it and the HTC Vive (2880x1600 total for Samsung vs 2160 x 1200 total for the other two). This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s actually 77% more pixels, which might be significant for text and other fine details. The refresh rate is still 90 Hz, and the field of view is around 110 degrees, which is the same as the HTC Vive. Of course the screen technology, itself, is AMOLED, being that it’s from Samsung and deeper blacks are more important in an enclosed cavity than brightness. In fact, you probably want to reduce brightness in a VR headset so you don’t strain the eyes.
According to Peter Bright of Ars Technica, Microsoft is supporting SteamVR titles, which gives the platform a nice catalog to launch with. The Samsung Odyssey VR headset launched November 6th for $499 USD.
Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2017 - 05:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, lumberyard, amazon
As we mentioned last week, Amazon has been pushing their Lumberyard fork of CryEngine into their own direction. It turns out that much of their future roadmap was actually slated for last Friday, with the release of Lumberyard 1.11.
This version replaces Crytek’s Flow Graph with Amazon’s Script Canvas visual scripting system. (Think Blueprints from Unreal Engine 4.) This lets developers design logic in a flowchart-like interface and attach it to relevant objects... building them up like blocks. Visual scripting is one area that Unity hasn’t (by default) gotten into, as they favour written scripting languages, such as C#. (Lumberyard also allows components to be written in C++ and LUA, btw.)
It also replaces Crytek’s CryAnimation, Geppetto, and Mannequin with the EMotion FX animation system from Mystic Game Development. Interestingly, this middleware was flying under the radar recently. It was popular around the 2006-2009 timeframe with titles such as Gothic 3, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, and Risen. It was also intergrated into 2010’s The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest, and that’s about it as far as we know -- a few racing games, too. I’m curious to see how development advanced over the last ten-or-so years, unless its use is more widespread than they’re allowed to announce. Regardless, they are now in Lumberyard 1.11 as their primary animation system, so people can get their hands on it and see for themselves.
If you’re interested in developing a game in Amazon Lumberyard, this release has basically all of their forward-looking systems in place. Even though a lot of features are still experimental, and the engine is still in beta, I don’t think you have to worry about being forced to develop in a system that will be deprecated at this point.
Lumberyard is free to develop on, as long as you use Amazon Web Services for online services (or you run your own servers).