Discord Nitro Dips Toes into Game Sale and Distribution

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2018 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, discord, Rust, mozilla, steam, GOG

Starting with a slowly-ramping group of ~50,000 Canadians, Discord has begun distributing PC games. Specifically, there will be two services for paying members of the Discord Nitro beta program: a store, where games can be purchased as normal, and a library of other games that are available with the (aforementioned) Discord Nitro subscription.

“It’s kinda like Netflix for games.”

discord-2018-gamestore.png

When talking about subscription services for video games, I am typically hesitant. That said, the previous examples were, like, OnLive, where they planned on making games that ran exclusively on that platform. The concern is that, when those games disappear from the service, they could be gone from our society as a whole work of art. (Consoles and DRM also play into this topic.)

In this case, however, it looks like they are just getting into curated, off-the-shelf PC games. While GoG holds its own, it will be nice to see another contender to Steam in the Win32 (maybe Linux?) games market. (I say Win32 because of the developer certification requirements for Windows Store / UWP.)

Dead horse rant aside, Discord is doing games… including a subscription service. Yay.

One more aspect to this story!

Over the last five-or-so years, Mozilla has been talking about upgrading their browser to use a more safe, multi-theaded, functional, job system, via their home-grown programming language, Rust. Turns out: Discord used this language for a lot of the store (and surrounding SDKs). Specifically, the native code for the store, the game SDK (with C, C++, and C# bindings), and the multiplayer network layer are all in Rust. This should make it fast and secure, which were the two design goals for Rust in the first place.

It was intended for web browsers after all...

Source: Discord

DOOM Eternal Gameplay at QuakeCon 2018

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2018 - 10:16 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, doom, bethesda

Bethesda, as usual, held a keynote at their QuakeCon event in the Dallas / Fort Worth region of Texas. So far so good. They then revealed DOOM Eternal with over 15 minutes of gameplay spread across three brutal segments.

Even though the reboot had a lot more… airborne activity… than the original, the new “meat hook” ability allows the player to grapple toward enemies. (At least, I only saw them grapple enemies. Maybe other things too? Probably not, though.) While not exactly a new mechanic, it looks like it flows well with DOOM’s faster-paced gameplay.

DOOM Eternal is coming to the PC, PS4, Xbox One, and even the Nintendo Switch. No release date has been announced.

Filament Game Engine Open Sourced (Apache 2.0)

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2018 - 07:15 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, macos, Android, windows, linux, vulkan

Yet another video game engine has entered the market – this time by Google. Filament is written in C++, supports OpenGL 4.1-and-up, OpenGL ES 3.0-and-up, and Vulkan 1.0 on Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows.

It is also licensed under Apache 2.0, so it is completely open-source (with no copyleft).

google-2018-filament-anisotropy.png

On the plus side, it supports a lot of rendering features. The materials, like basically everyone else, use a PBR system, which abstracts lighting from material properties, allowing models to be shaded correctly in any lighting environment. Filament goes beyond that implementation, however, and claims to include things like anisotropic metals (think brushed steel) and clear coat effects. They even have a BRDF (the program that defines the outputs of your shader, where all your textures plug in to) for cloth rendering, including backward scattering.

On the negative side? Pages upon pages of documentation and I haven’t seen one screenshot of their editor, which doesn't telegraph the best message for their tools. I don’t have the toolchain set up on my computer to try it for myself, but I’m guessing that developer UX is lacking compared to the other engines. I do like that they chose to limit external dependencies, however. It just requires the standard library and a header-only library called “Robin-Map” for fast hash maps.

Google also tags a disclaimer at the bottom of their GitHub page: “This is not an officially supported Google product”. It’s free, though, so it might be worth checking out.

ESA Summer 2018 Speedrun Marathon Underway

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2018 - 02:41 PM |
Tagged: speedrun, pc gaming, esa, charity

The European Speedrun Assembly begun yesterday (July 21st) at 10am EDT with a two-player Dark Souls III All Bosses race. Like Games Done Quick, it is a week-long, 24-hour charity marathon on Twitch. They do not have GDQ levels of viewers and money raised, but they do have a sponsor that pledged to double donations up to $50,000 USD. Note that they have two streams, listed one after the other in the schedule, so be sure to look through both parts of the schedule (in case there’s a Stream 2 game that catches your eye).

Watch live video from esamarathon on www.twitch.tv
Stream 1

They are currently sitting at $11,686 USD, which, I believe, is pre-match, so it should double to $23,372 USD. ESA Summer 2018 benefits Save the Children, which helps children affected by conflicts and natural disasters.

Watch live video from esamarathon2 on www.twitch.tv
Stream 2

While this run has already ended, I was fascinated by the Co-Op GeoGuessr segment. One user is given a Google Streetview location from somewhere in the world, and the other has a Google Maps view of the world. The two then need to work together to find where in the world they are, by the one looking around Google Streetview and the other trying to piece the clues together.

Unreal Engine 4.20 Released. YOLO!

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2018 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, epic, ue4, swag

Okay so I only had one shot at that joke… and I’ma gonna take it.

Epic Games has just pushed their 21st release of Unreal Engine 4 since it launched to the public back in March 2014. A lot has changed since then… including one feature that has been lurking pretty much since the beginning: Niagara, the new visual effects editor, is finally available in Early Access!

When I say it is near the beginning – I mean it. Here’s a forum post from about four-and-a-half months after 4.0 launched where some users dug it up with some INI-file changes. The idea is that it will replace Cascade, which has been hanging around since Unreal Engine 3, as the default particle and effects editor. It’s a bit more than I can go into in a news post, but you will want to check out Epic’s GDC 2018 talk to see a ~45-minute demo of the new module. Basically, it’s a visual scripting system for the particle effects, but that doesn’t really explain it too well.

Another major upgrade is that Unreal Engine 4.20 finally uses the C++ compiler that is available in Visual Studio 2017. Previously, to use Visual Studio 2017, users would need to build with the 2015 toolchain. Support for C++ and its standard library is pretty good in Visual Studio 2015 but being able to use the latest features if you want to is always a plus.

Also, Epic is now pushing some of their development branches to GitHub. This allows you to keep up with a specific branch of features, especially if you are the type of studio that maintains their own engine fork and wants to cherry pick certain commits.

As always, Unreal Engine 4 is free to download and use. Royalties do apply for most works created with the engine, based on a small percentage of revenue, but the engine, itself, is free.

Source: Epic Games

Unity 2018.2 Released

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2018 - 10:35 PM |
Tagged: Unity, pc gaming

The second Unity update of 2018 has been published to their website today. This version continues their work on Scriptable Render Pipelines, including their own Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP) and High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) implementations. Both are still considered a preview, but the aim is to replace the standard shader with two optimized graphics pipelines, one tuned for performance (mobile, VR, and extra performance on higher-end devices) and one tuned for high-end effects (multiple aligned transparent objects, reflections, etc.).

unity-2018-2018.1_image31.jpg

This splits Unity’s customer base from “one-size-fits-all-sort-of” to two sizes, although developers can also create their own scriptable render pipeline. This will let them tune the graphics pipeline to whatever their game is, although it seems to mean that they will need to make a lot of their own graphics technologies if they do. (This seems clearly targeted at mid- to large-sized studios, but that’s just my opinion.) Of course, they can also continue to use the standard shader, but some Unity talks has already suggested that not all new features will come to the old pipeline.

2018.2 also continues development of the C# Job System, ECS design pattern, and their Burst compiler. A separate announcement was made about the Burst compiler – that it is now available as an official preview package.

Source: Unity

Summer Games Done Quick 2018 Wraps at $2.1 Million USD

Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2018 - 11:03 PM |
Tagged: speedrun, gdq, charity, pc gaming

While there are still a few late donations coming in, the Summer Games Done Quick 2018 event has ended with a seven-hour run of Final Fantasy VI… and $2.1 million USD. This donation amount ranks it as first place of all Summer Games Done Quick events by almost $400,000 dollars (and third place of all Games Done Quick events).

gdq-2016-sgdq logo.png

Its last day, however, did not break $1 million dollars, unlike what we’ve seen in Awesome Games Done Quick. I was expecting, assuming it would have a similar last day, that SGDQ 2018 to be the highest grossing of all events when I went to bed on Friday night / Saturday morning, but it didn’t. I don’t know why. The line-up seemed good, especially with the Super Mario Odyssey donation incentive being met, but it brought in just a little less by the end.

(It’s possible that they calculate their values slightly lower this year, because they kept saying that the donation total doesn’t include their sponsors at the end, but I don’t think that’s the case.)

Even though its last day was slightly low, relative to previous years, breaking $2 million USD is still amazing for Doctors Without Borders. I was out of town for much of the event, but, if I were to pick a highlight from what I’ve seen, it would probably be the TAS block at the end of the second-last day. The tool-assisted runs were interesting, and the creative segment involved taking over F-Zero GX to connect with a Gameboy Advance and play a 3D cutscene via zero-day exploits. It’s worth checking out when it comes out on their YouTube channel if you missed it live.

The next event will be Games Done Quick Express in October (during TwitchCon). Awesome Games Done Quick 2019 will follow on January 6th – 13th in Rockville, Maryland.

If you cannot wait that long, then you can check out ESA Summer, from the European Speedrunner Assembly, running from July 21st at 10am (North American EDT) through some time in the afternoon or evening (North American EDT) of July 28th. It's run by a different organization, but it's a similar blend of fast video games and charity donations.

Summer Games Done Quick 2018 Has Begun!

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2018 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: speedrun, pc gaming, gdq, charity

The twice-annual, week-long marathon of gaming speedruns has just begun. First up is a 30-minute pre-show at 12:30pm EDT with SpikeVegeta, feasel, Protomagicalgirl, darkman78, and JHobz. This is where they go over what they feel will be the highlights of the week, from the most interesting runs to the donation incentives and raffle prizes. Also, puns.

gdq-2016-sgdq logo.png

At 1pm EDT, the show will transition into the first two games, Banjo-Tooie and Spyro the Dragon, which are good examples of speed-run games because of their platforming / collecting mechanics. This will go round the clock until next Sunday at around 1:15am (plus or minus a bit) with Final Fantasy VI and a “thank you” speech. Unless this event is different than the previous, they will also slowly add the runs to YouTube in case you couldn’t check out your favorite game at 4am or something.

Watch live video from GamesDoneQuick on www.twitch.tv

Last year’s Summer Games Done Quick set a record for the summer event at $1.79 million USD. That said, they have been steadily increasing year over year, and the last two winter events have surpassed $2 million USD each. As usual, Summer Games Done Quick 2018 benefits Doctors Without Borders.

Is there any event that you’re looking forward to? Point it out in the comments!

Apply for Pre-CryEngine 5.5 Royalty Exemption until June 30th

Subject: General Tech | June 22, 2018 - 08:12 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, game engine, crytek, CRYENGINE

For a little over two years, Crytek decided to go with a royalty-free model for their engine. The model was “pay what you want” with some on-the-side purchasable things, such as content from their games for you to use in your games.

Crysis2.jpg

SHOW ME THE MONEY!

Those terms have changed, but you can still opt-in to the old ones until June 30th… and as long as you don’t upgrade to CryEngine 5.5 (or higher).

This new license structure places a 5% royalty after $5000 of revenue per year. If you make less than $5000 in a year, then no royalty is required, so you don’t need to waste your time giving Crytek its share of a couple of bucks from Steam ten years after launch because a group of friends saw their neighbor play your game over the weekend. The revenue is calculated at the source, however, so you cannot subtract Steam’s take, etc. (unless that third-party already pays Crytek’s portion of the license – they won’t double-dip).

With the new license change, I decided to make a little table of game engines and their license structure. Hopefully this will be helpful if you are thinking about creating a video game.

CryEngine 5.4
CryEngine 5.5+
Godot
Lumberyard
Source
Unigine
Unity
Unreal Engine 4
Source: Crytek

Steam Is Going Windows 7 and Up

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2018 - 08:08 PM |
Tagged: windows xp, windows vista, valve, steam, pc gaming

Valve has just announced that the Steam Client has deprecated Windows XP and Windows Vista. On January 1st, the Steam Client will stop playing video games unless you upgrade to at least Windows 7. They have also announced that new features, like the updated Steam Chat, currently in Beta, will not be brought to those platforms, because why would they bother when they’re going to obsolete in about six-and-a-half months? Don’t poke it if it works, and fix what doesn’t.

valve-2016-l4dlogo.jpg

The pun writes itself...

Linux and macOS are still fine of course.

In terms of market share numbers, 32-bit Windows XP is sitting at around 0.34%; Windows Vista is unlisted. I doubt this will affect many of our viewers unless they have a “retro PC hobby”. Still, to some extent, it sucks that DRM shuts down games that could otherwise run on the target environment. It’s not like they can just make the games DRM-free for the affected OSes, though, but it’s still something to think about.

And, yes, both OSes (XP SP3 and Vista SP2) are already deprecated by Microsoft.