IO Interactive (Hitman) Becomes Independent

Subject: General Tech | June 18, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, hitman

During the most recent SquareEnix financial earnings release (PDF) they announced that they would withdraw from IO Interactive, who makes the Hitman series of video games. Their most recent release, Hitman 2016, is one of our major benchmarks because it was one of the first titles to rework its engines for DirectX 12 (and it’s also a very pretty game). The previous game, Hitman: Absolution, was also featured on one of our live streams because it was an AMD Gaming Evolved / Never Settle title.

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IO Interactive has followed-up with their own announcement. As of last Friday, they are now an independent studio, and they were able to negotiate both their management and the Hitman IP. “We are now open to opportunities with future collaborators and partners to help strengthen us as a studio and ensure that we can produce the best games possible for our community.” In other words, they don’t seem to have any publisher lined up, but the Hitman franchise should be enticing for many AAA-level companies.

Just a couple weeks earlier, IO Interactive also announced that new purchases of Hitman would automatically buy all episodes from the first season. Steam will, however, detect existing episodes and only bill you for the ones you’ve missed. They say that “these changes will help us lay the foundations for our future plans for HITMAN” but it’s unclear what they mean at this point.

Original Xbox Games Potentially Emulated on Windows

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2017 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: xbox, pc gaming, microsoft

Before we begin, the source of this post is a PC Gamer interview with Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, who leads the Xbox team. The tone seems to be relaxed and conversational, so, for now, it should be taken as something that he, personally, wants to see, not what the division is actually planning, necessarily.

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Still, after it was announced that the Xbox One would get emulation for original Xbox titles at the Xbox E3 2017 Press Conference, PC Gamer asked whether that feature, like so many others lately, could make it to the PC.

His responses: “Yes.” and “I want people to be able to play games!”

He also talked about Xbox 360 emulation on PC, specifically how it would be difficult, but he wants games to run across console and PC. “I want developers to be able to build portable games, which is why we’ve been focusing on UWP for games and even apps that want to run on multiple devices.”

You might know my personal opinions about UWP by now, specifically how it limits artistic freedom going forward through signed apps and developers, which is a problem for civil rights groups that either need to remain anonymous or publish expressions that governments (etc.) don’t want to see public, but cross-device is indeed one of the two reasons that it’s seductive for Microsoft. Content written for it (unless it finds an unpatched exploit, like how Apple iOS jailbreaks work) cannot do malware-like things, and they should be abstract enough to easily hop platforms.

But you won’t see me talk ill about preserving old content, especially if it could be lost to time based on a platform decision they made fifteen years ago. I hope that we do see original Xbox games on the PC. I also hope that we develop art in a medium that doesn’t need awkward methods of preservation, though.

Source: PC Gamer

Dawn of War III Vulkan Support on Linux to Add Intel GPUs

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, linux, vulkan, Intel, mesa, feral interactive

According to Phoronix, Alex Smith of Feral Interactive has just published a few changes to the open source Intel graphics driver, which allows their upcoming Dawn of War III port for Linux to render correctly on Vulkan. This means that the open-source Intel driver should support the game on day one, although drawing correctly and drawing efficiently could be two very different things -- or maybe not, we’ll see.

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It’s interesting seeing things go in the other direction. Normally, graphics engineers parachute in to high-end developers and help them make the most of their software for each respective, proprietary graphics driver. In this case, we’re seeing the game studios pushing fixes to the graphics vendors, because that’s how open source rolls. It will be interesting to do a pros and cons comparison of each system one day, especially if cross-pollination results from it.

Source: Phoronix

GOG.com Summer Sale Has Just Begun

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 07:02 AM |
Tagged: sale, pc gaming, GOG

GOG.com, formerly Good Old Games, because good old names, is having their summer sale. Discounts are advertised at up to 90%, and a copy of Rebel Galaxy will be gifted immediately following your first purchase.

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For me, this was the moment that I jumped on The Witcher 3. I deliberately avoided it until the DLC were bundled and the whole package was on a significant discount, which is now the case. The Witcher 3 Game of the Year, albeit not the year that we’re in, is now 50% off. Another front-page deal is Dragon Age Origins Ultimate Edition for 80% off, as is the original Mirror’s Edge, although I already have both of them. If you haven’t played it yet, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is great, and it’s 85% off (under $2).

Source: GOG.com

Valve Ends Steam Greenlight Program

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2017 - 08:48 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming

As of today, June 6th, Valve has closed their Greenlight program. New submissions will not be accepted and voting has been disabled. Next week, starting on June 13th, Valve will open Steam Direct, which allows anyone to put their game on the platform for a deposit of $100 per title, which will be refunded once the title makes $1,000 in sales. Valve performs a light amount of testing on each game it receives, so it makes sense to have something that prevents you from drowning upon the opening of the flood gates, and it’s nice that they refund it when sales are high enough that their typical fees cover their expenses, rather than double-dipping.

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There is still some doubt floating around the net, though... especially regarding developers from impoverished nations. As a Canadian, it’s by no means unreasonable to spend around a hundred dollars, plus or minus the exchange rate of the year, to put a game, made up of years of work, onto a gigantic distribution platform. That doesn’t hold true everywhere. At the same time, Valve does have a measurable cost per submission, so, if they lower the barrier below that, it would be at their expense. It would also be the right thing to do in some cases. Either way, that’s just my unsolicited two cents.

Steam Direct opens on June 13th.

Dell Executive Projects Five-Year Growth in Gaming PCs

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2017 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, dell

DigiTimes published a couple of statements from Dell’s senior vice president of Consumer Product Marketing, Raymond Wah, regarding the company’s view on the PC gaming industry. We’ll start with the two quotes, below.

Electronic sports (e-sports) and VR (virtual reality) are main growth drivers for gaming PCs, Wah said, adding gaming is becoming e-sports and this is a global trend. Continual gaming content updates push hardware developers to upgrade the specifications of gaming PCs, Wah indicated. The number of e-sports fans will increases to 145 million in 2017.

In line with gaming PC marketing, Dell has sponsored e-sports events and cooperated with movie producers, Wah indicated. Dell has also begun to set up gaming PC retail outlets at Best Buy chain stores in the US and plans to set up 50 outlets in total.

The article also mentions that he expects that the demand for gaming PCs will continue for five years, unlike the rest of the PC market, which is projected to shrink. It goes on to add that the company is pushing gaming products under two brands now, both Alienware and their general public-focused Inspiron line.

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Many of our readers are probably comfortable assembling their own PCs, but getting OEMs involved adds the whole segment of users who would be comfortable sacrificing cost or performance to offload that hassle. That’s a positive note that I think is often lost on PC enthusiasts. Just because shaving out middle-people makes the transaction more efficient, doesn’t mean that there’s no valid reason to pay a big OEM, or even a small business, local computer store, to handle it.

If he’s right, the next five-plus years should be good for us, too.

Source: DigiTimes

Rocket League Free Weekend and Sale

Subject: General Tech | May 5, 2017 - 07:13 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming

Just a quick note for our readers: Rocket League is having a free weekend, accompanied by a 30%-off sale. If you haven’t played the game, Steam says that you currently have one day and twenty hours (and 45 minutes) left to download, install, and play the title.

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The 30%-off promotion applies equally to the base game, the four-pack, and the Game of the Year edition. Each of these deals outlives the free weekend by a day, so you can spend Sunday afternoon deciding whether rocket-powered car-soccer is worth your hard-earned cash.

The free weekend ends at 4PM EDT on Sunday, while the sale goes until 1PM EDT on Monday.

Source: Steam

Twitch Announces New Affiliate Program

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: twitch, pc gaming, amazon

While Twitch had quite a large lead as a streaming service, it had a fairly large gap between its regular creators and their “Twitch Partners”. If you weren’t a Twitch partner, you couldn’t directly monetize your stream, guarantee that your stream would be transcoded, and so forth.

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That isn’t changing, but they are introducing an easier to obtain, middle tier that will have some, but not all, of the Partner perks. “Twitch Affiliate” is this middle-ground, and, while it is invite-only, it is open to pretty much anyone who intends to stream on a regular basis. Specifically, the threshold is about 500 online minutes in a month, spread out over at least seven days, and an average of at least three viewers at the same time; you will also need at least 50 followers. If you stream a few times per week, this is not a very high bar, but it’s still not automatic.

I should note that Twitch will only consider the previous 30 days, rolling.

The goal of this new tier is to provide some support for streamers, as they try to find their on-ramp to being a Twitch partner. At first, only the (relatively controversial) “Bits” system will be available for monetization, but other revenue streams, like video ads, should follow. Also, while you’re not guaranteed to receive video transcodes, Affiliates get priority access to whatever is left over from the Partners.

Personally, I’d like a guarantee that transcodes would be available, because I don’t want to occasionally alienate some viewers by sending Twitch too high of a bitrate for the, let’s say even just 10% of the time, that lower-quality versions would be unavailable. It still puts pressure on me to lower the quality that I send Twitch, which will often result in worse VOD quality. (I realize that you can use multiple encodes… and I currently do… but certain things, like frame rate, need to be consistent – at least with the current version of OBS Studio.)

Twitch should begin to contact eligible streamers soon, and will continue rolling in new users as they become eligible. Even then. it's not an immediate, automatic thing, though.

Source: Twitch

Syberia II Is "On The House"

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2017 - 09:57 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, microids, ea

I’m apparently about a month late on this one, but it’s better than never for those who, like me, missed the news the first time around. Syberia II is a point-and-click adventure title from 2004 and it is currently “On The House” through EA’s Origin service. These promotions would be the same as if EA had a timed, 100%-off sale: claim it before it’s over and it’s yours for free, permanently.

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It might not be around for long, though. I’m guessing this deal is to promote the upcoming Syberia III, which was originally announced in 2009 and should launch in about a week or two (depending on your region). If this sort of game interests you in any way, and especially if you have an active Origin account, then it’s a good idea to add Syberia II to your games library, even if you don’t plan on installing it right away.

Source: EA (Origin)

UNIGINE Superposition GPU Stress Test Released

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2017 - 09:09 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, UNIGINE, unigine 2

There are quite a few game engines available these days. Unity stepped up its game and Epic Games, Crytek, Amazon, and others entered the market with various free-to-start licensing options. Back in the early DirectX 11 days, UNIGINE released their popular Heaven benchmark to promote their engine, which had a relatively affordable, up-front fee. (I don’t remember what it was at the time, but the engine currently starts at $1495 USD, albeit royalty-free.)

Available up to 8K60, because lol why not?

Today, they have released a new benchmark, called Superposition, which focuses on two things: VR and GPU stress testing. The setting is some old-timey physics lab, and it includes some minigames to keep you entertained after you determined that your overclock is stable and your performance is assigned some value. According to Phoronix, UNIGINE has been looking into Vulkan, but they haven’t added it to the engine yet. On Linux, you’ll be using OpenGL 4.5, but Windows has a choice between that and DirectX 11.

UNIGINE Superposition is available for Windows and Linux.

Source: UNIGINE