Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 02:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: speedrun, pc gaming, gdq
About a day and a half ago, Games Done Quick finished up their AGDQ 2017 event with a pacifist run of the PC indie title, Undertale. Over the course of the previous week, the marathon brought in over 2.2 million dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. (As I write this, the current amount is $2,218,130.30 USD, which might still go up a little with late donations.)
This total smashed the previous record, set two years ago at AGDQ 2015, of 1.576 million USD. Moreover, this was the first Games Done Quick event to bring in more than a million dollars on the last day. Based on last year’s totals, it looked a bit like Games Done Quick was going to plateau at about 1.2 to 1.5 million per event, which is amazing, but this new record points to potential that I’m not even sure Games Done Quick knew existed.
I’d be interested to see what the organizers attribute the increase to. The schedule was intended to be a departure from typical with a few interesting decisions, such as shelving Super Mario 64, ending with Undertale instead of a classic JRPG, and making the blocks less obvious. At the same time, the partnership with Namco Bandai, particularly the huge prize pool on the last day, drew a lot of $125-and-up donations, leading to the comment tracker crashing in the setup block. (It crashed a few times on the last day.) Whatever the cause was, something worked, and we’ll need to see how SGDQ 2017 and AGDQ 2018 live up to these new expectations.
Speaking of which, SGDQ 2017 will be in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 2nd through July 9th.
Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2017 - 07:17 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, pc gaming
A few weeks ago, Windows Insiders noticed GameMode.dll was added to the Windows 10 preview builds. It was speculated by Windows Central, based on their anonymous sources, that it would allow the user to increase performance for games. Now, in an Xbox blog post, Mike Ybarra of Microsoft confirmed the existence of this feature. It will arrive with the Creators Update and, yes, it is intended to “optimize your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming”.
That’s about all of the detail that is mentioned explicitly in the blog post. It does make a passing reference to “Windows Insiders will start seeing some of the visual elements for Game Mode this week, with the feature being fully operational in builds shortly thereafter”. While we don’t need to wait too long to actually find out, this snippet suggests that user involvement will be required. This might be a launcher or something else entirely.
On his Twitter, he also added that Game Mode will work for both Win32 and UWP games. Assuming this isn’t a mistake, and it’s stated quite bluntly albeit on Twitter, it looks likely that Game Mode’s UI won’t be an extension of Windows Store and it will work for any game. It will probably reside elsewhere, like an Xbox App or something, but we don’t really know yet.
The Windows 10 Creators Update arrives this spring. While its version number is 1703, rumors have it set for an April release date.
Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2017 - 04:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, just cause 3
While Just Cause isn’t really on my radar, the second one in the series had a relatively popular multiplayer mod that released a few years down the road. According to PC Gamer, there was another one in development, this time for Just Cause 3, but it was canceled as the developer was hired by Avalanche Studios.
At the same time, a second mod team, called nanos GbR, has released their own version of Just Cause 3 multiplayer. Why? Just ‘cause! Also, they are promoting their multiplayer framework, which includes plug-ins for Unreal Engine and CryEngine. It sounds like they want to be integrated into commercial projects, but, try as I might, I can’t seem to find anything concrete by them besides their mods to existing video games.
The Nanos Just Cause 3 Multiplayer mod is in public beta and available for download.
Subject: General Tech | January 7, 2017 - 02:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, gdq
We’re a day away from a whole week of around-the-clock video game speedruns for charity. This one, Awesome Games Done Quick 2017, begins with a pre-show tomorrow at 11:30 am (EST) and the first game, Ape Escape 2 Any%, starting at noon. This will be followed by Ocarina of Time 3D All Dungeons at about 1 pm.
This event will benefit Prevent Cancer Foundation. The last four main events pulled in between 1.2 to 1.5 million USD each, which is obviously a big chunk of change for research and public outreach against that terrible disease. As an added bonus, many donations are given alongside some of the worst puns in existence.
Awesome Games Done Quick starts tomorrow at 11:30 am EST.
Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2017 - 05:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mass effect, pc gaming, ea, origin
Just a few months out from Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA has put Mass Effect 2 into their “On the House” promotion. As usual, this is a temporary 100%-off sale; if you get it, then it’s yours. All you need to do is log in to the Origin store, browse the “On the House” sub-section of Free Games, and add it to your library. I’m sure EA would like you to install it and get hooked on the franchise as soon as possible, but you can just leave it there for a while if you’re busy at this point in life.
Mass Effect 2 is generally considered to be the best in the series, at least thus far, so it’s both nice and logical that EA would choose this one for the promotion. The first one had a few technical issues, and it was also the introduction to the series; the team could see what worked and what didn’t, and have the confidence to add new mechanics and so forth. Also, it was apparently designed to be welcoming to players who missed the first game.
Personally, I tried the first Mass Effect but had to reformat my PC before I got more than a couple hours into it, and I never really installed it again. This promotion might be a good excuse to get back into them if I can spare a little time, which, for Mass Effect, means quite a bit of actual time.
Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 10:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: VR, vive, pc gaming, htc
A little over a month ago, we reported on HTC’s announcement of the wireless upgrade kit for their Vive. It was created by TPCAST, which was a participant in HTC’s VR startup accelerator. The actual upgrade kits won’t ship until early 2017, but UploadVR was given some time with the wireless accessory. The video was shot in the UploadVR office, which makes this the first public usage outside of a controlled event as far as I am aware, but TPCAST was present.
Image Credit: UploadVR
It apparently works. The previewer didn’t have any real complaints about its performance versus wired, and they were satisfied with its tracking, despite doing flips and other maneuvers to try to break communication with the wireless bases. This is promising, as the 60 GHz signal, used by the wireless adapter, can be picky about anything except direct line-of-sight. That said, the video base station is designed to be placed on the ceiling, with a 160-degree FOV, so it shouldn’t be too obstructed in almost any scenario.
According to UploadVR, TPCAST claims that it adds less than 2ms of delay.
While we are on this topic, there have been rumors that HTC might announce (probably just announce) a replacement to the original VIVE unit. One possibility is that it is basically the same system, just with the wireless functionality built in, making this upgrade kit sufficient for first-generation adopters. That would probably be the only scenario, at least that I can think of, which doesn’t involve a bunch of angry 2016 buyers, though.
We’ll see when CES rolls around.
Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 06:54 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity, vulkan
One of the most popular video game engines, Unity, has released a beta for Unity 5.6, which will be the last version of Unity 5.x. This release pushes Vulkan into full support on both desktop and mobile, which actually beats Unreal Engine 4 on the desktop side of things. Specifically, Vulkan is available for the Android, Windows, Linux, and Tizen operating systems. Apple users should be happy that this version also updates Metal for iOS and macOS, but Apple is still preventing vendors from shipping Vulkan drivers so you really shouldn’t feel too happy.
At Unity’s Unity 2016 keynote, the company claimed about 30-60% better performance on the new API “out-of-the-box”. I do find this statement slightly odd, though, because Unity doesn’t really provide much access to “the box” without expensive source code up-sells. The most user involvement of the engine internals, for what I would assume is the majority of projects, is buying and activating a plug-in, and Vulkan would be kind-of crappy to hide behind a pay wall.
I mentioned that this will be the last Unity 5.x version. While the difference between a major and a minor version number tends to be just marketing these days, Unity is changing their major version to align with the year that it belongs to. Expect future versions, starting with a beta version in April, to be numbered 2017.x.
Unity 5.6 comes out of beta in March.
It's that time of year again where the holidays are upon us, it's freezing outside, and balancing work, school, and family events makes us all a bit crazy. If you are still procrastinating on your holiday shopping or are just not sure what to get the techie that seems to have everything already, PC Perspective has you covered! And if you dare not venture outside into the winter wasteland, there is still time to order online and have it arrive in time!
Following the same format as previous years, the first set of pages are picks that the staff has put together collectively and are recommendations for things like PC hardware components like CPUs, graphics cards, and coolers, mobile hardware (phones, tablets, etc.), and finally accessories and audio. Beyond that, the staff members are given a section to suggest picks of their own that may not fit into one of the main categories but are still thoughtful and useful gift ideas!
Good luck out there, and thank you for another wonderful year of your valued readership! May you have safe travels and memorable holidays!
Image courtesy maf04 via Flickr creative commons.
Intel Core i7-6700K Quad-Core Unlocked Processor - $344, Amazon
It's a bit of an interesting time for CPUs with Intel's Kaby Lake (e.g. 7700K) not out yet and AMD's Ryzen Zen-based (e.g. 8 core Summit Ridge) processors slated for release early next year. Last year the i7-6700K was our top pick, and due to timing of upcoming releases, it is still the pick for this year though it may be wise to look at other gift ideas this year unless they really want that gaming PC ASAP. On the plus side, it is a bit cheaper than last year! You can read our review of the Core i7 6700K here.
AMD Athlon X4 880K Unlocked Quad Core - $92, Amazon
On the AMD side of things, the Athlon X4 880K is a great processor to base a budget gaming build around. The pricing works out a bit cheaper than the old 860K as well as offering slightly faster clockspeeds and a better stock cooler.
Continue reading our holiday gift guide for our picks for graphics cards, storage, and more!
The NVIDIA GTX 1080 is the current consumer-grade performance king, and there are a number of brands to choose from. Whichever you go with, the Pascal-based graphics card is ready for 1440 and even 4k gaming along with VR (virtual reality) gaming. The EVGA FTW Hybrid is a beast of a card that can easily be overclocked with keeping temperatures in check.
If you are looking for something a bit cheaper, AMD's RX 480 is a great midrange graphics card that can easily do 1080p with the details cranked up. Sapphire has a good factory overclocked card with the RX 480 Nitro+ which can be found for $250. For reference, check out our reviews on the RX 480 (we also have a video of the Sapphire card specifically) and it's competitor the GTX 1060.
Samsung 960 Evo 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD - $480, Amazon
Samsung's recently released 960 Evo is not the fastest SSD available, but it's no slouch either. Using Samsung's TLC V-NAND flash, its Polaris controller, and 1GB of DDR3 cache, the drive packs 1TB of speedy storage into the M.2 form factor. The NVMe SSD is rated at 3,200 MB/s sequential reads, 1,900 MB/s sequential writes, 380,000 4k random reads and 360,000 4k random writes (IOPS ratings at QD32). It is rated at 1.5 million hours MTBF and while it does not have the lifetime or write speeds of the pro version (960 Pro), it is quite a bit cheaper! The gamer in your life will appreciate the super fast loading times too!
If you are looking for something a bit more down to earth, SATA SSDs continue to get cheaper and more capacious and there are even some good budget M.2 options these days!
MyDigitalSSD BPX 480GB NVMe M.2 SSD - $200, Amazon
MyDigitalSSD's BPX solid state drive pairs a Phison PS5007-E7 controller with up to 480GB of 2D MLC NAND. The drive is rated at a respectable 2,600 MB/s sequential reads, 1,300 MB/s sequential writes, and approximately 208,728 4k random read IOPS and 202,713 4k random write IOPS. Despite being from a less well known company, the budget drive puts up very nice numbers for the price and comes with a 5 year warranty, 2 million hours MTBF rating, and 1,400 TB total bytes written rating on the flash. Pricing is much more budget friendly at $200 for the 480GB model, $115 for the 240GB, and $70 for the 120GB drive.
SATA SSD Recommendations
SATA SSDs are still great options for a system build and/or HDD upgrade, and Allyn has a few picks later on in this guide.
The following pages are individual selections / gift ideas from each staff member!
Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2016 - 08:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, doom, Doom 4, id software, bethesda, zenimax, noclip
Danny O’Dwier and his company, Noclip, publishes behind-the-scenes documentaries of entities in the video game industry. Their first handful of videos, published piece-by-piece over a few weeks in October and November, were about Rocket League. The series is funded by fan donations on Patreon, which is currently at $20,547 USD per month.
This one is about id Software, and, specifically, the recently-released DOOM and the canceled DOOM 4. They were surprisingly open and honest about internal struggles and design issues regarding “Doom 4 1.0”. It even contains quite a bit of footage from the cut content, which is a step above and beyond just merely acknowledging and discussing these problems. Of course, they mentioned that Bethesda and Zenimax were supportive of the studio as it transitioned in multiple, simultaneous ways.
If you’re interested in DOOM, this will be a well-spent half hour.
Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, DRM, doom, bethesda
Well this is an interesting news post for a couple of reasons. Personally, I dislike DRM. A lot. It’s software that reduces end-user rights, as both consumers and potentially even as members of society after copyright expires (depending on how judges, and the Librarian of Congress, interpret whether fair use or expiration will override the DMCA’s felony clauses). It’s especially annoying when you see DRM on content that was pirated prior to the official launch, because ticking off your customers and screwing with archivists will really help you if you can’t even secure your own supply chain.
As for today’s story, id Software has officially removed the Denuvo DRM package from their game. On the one hand, it’s good that AAA developers sometimes remove copy-protection after some initial launch window, to limit long-term damage. It’s not DRM-free like you would see on GOG, though, so there is still the possibility that games could artificially die in 10, 40, 100, or 400 years, even if Windows and the other, technical platforms it requires are still around.
On the other hand, because the removal of DRM aligns with DOOM being cracked, that's all the dozens of tech news sites are now reporting. Personally, I hope that this coverage increases sales, especially since the Steam Winter Sale is rumored to start in about two weeks, and DOOM has already been discounted to 50%-off before (I believe during QuakeCon). Still, you can't help but gawk at the Streisand effect as it unfolds before you.
Anywho, Steam is currently in the middle of pushing a 12 GB patch for the title at the moment. While the sites reporting on the removal of Denuvo aren’t clear, and the release notes don’t say, I’m guessing that it was rolled in with Free Update 5.