Subject: Graphics Cards | October 5, 2018 - 08:06 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, pc gaming, graphics drivers
Another major version bump has occurred in NVIDIA’s Game Ready Drivers over the span of around two weeks. Typically, although there has been a couple of exceptions, NVIDIA has branches that contain major new features once every two-or-so major version numbers. They then push maintenance releases along the number line, which are probably cherry-picked into various branches. In this case, the 410-series branch, which was embodied in 411.63 and 411.60, brought in support for the RTX 20-series of cards.
This has been superseded by the 415-series branch with 416.16. (Oddly enough, the root branch has an odd version number. This is the first time I remember seeing that, although I have not been paying too much attention.)
What has changed? Even though it is a Game Ready driver, it is not associated with a game launch per se. Instead, it is for Windows 10 version 1809, which includes support for DirectX Raytracing (DXR). It also adds a handful of fixes, such as removing black-square glitches from Quake HD Remix mod and improving the performance of TXAA in Rainbow 6: Siege. So basically, the main advantage of this driver will be for those who are using the RTX 20-series cards when games such as Battlefield V launch, which should have been two weeks from now but has, instead, been pushed back to November 20th. (I don’t know if they said that raytracing would be supported at launch, though.)
As always, feel free to refresh GeForce Experience and update your drivers.
Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2018 - 04:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, GOG
So this is an interesting promotion. To honor their ten years of existing, GOG.com is planning to give away a free game. The twist is that the free game will be decided by public vote: Shadow Warrior 2, SUPERHOT, or Firewatch. Whichever one wins will be available to claim on October 4th.
The site also has a video and a brief timeline of their parent company, CD Projekt. The site doesn’t just start in 2008 when GOG launched, either. The timeline goes way back to 1994, when they localized games for companies like Interplay. The rest of the sub-pages are 2008-and-on, though.
Not much else to say. Happy Birthday GOG!
Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2018 - 06:17 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, telltale
This afternoon, Telltale Games announced that they have laid off all but 25 employees; those who remain are there to “fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners”. Various sites are reporting that this equates to the loss of about 90% of their jobs. That number would be even higher if you compared it from a year ago, however, where they had “between 350 and 400” employees, according to an interview that Eurogamer had with Job Stauffer at Gamescom 2017.
The signs were there; I just wasn’t paying attention.
The company has not fully outlined what will happen with their various titles yet. Rumors are that The Wolf Among Us: Season Two and their Stranger Things projects have been canceled. Basically, at least if the rumors are correct, the last 25 employees will wrap up The Walking Dead and that will be it. That said, you never know whether some publisher will swoop in and pick up some licenses. It’s a bit harder in Telltale’s case because their content is licensed from existing franchises (apart from Puzzle Agent and a few card games).
I do hope that someone will swoop in and pick up a bunch of employees, however. The industry, as commonly happens when these things occur, has created a venue to connect those who are affected with potential new employers. This time it is a Twitter hashtag, #TelltaleJobs. If you own a game studio, then you probably already know about this, but, just in case you haven’t, it’s a good place to let people know you’re hiring (if you are).
Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2018 - 03:54 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, sales
After summer comes back-to-school. What is the relevance for video games? Well, students will probably need to cut back on them, so might as well use it as an excuse for big sales.
The Back-to-School sale at GOG.com is actually pretty big this year. The gimmick, which is common for the site, new deals come and go. Specifically, it looks like one new deal occurs every hour, on the hour, and it lasts for six hours. These can go up to 90%-off. There is also another batch of sales that are not time limited. In total, over 500 games will be reduced for the event.
Two highlights that got me to click the buy button is Yooka-Laylee ($8.59 USD, 75%-off – Note: NOT Digital Deluxe Edition, although that’s all extras, such as a manual and an art book) and Homeworld: Remastered Collection ($5.29 USD, 85%-off). The former title was one that I was looking forward to during its Kickstarter, but never quite pulled the trigger on. I’ll give it a silly purple Canadian ten-dollar-bill, though.
Find a buried treasure? Let us know in the comments!
Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2018 - 10:45 PM | Scott Michaud
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.”
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...
Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2018 - 10:16 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2018 - 07:15 PM | Scott Michaud
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).
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.
Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2018 - 02:41 PM | Scott Michaud
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).
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2018 - 08:13 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2018 - 10:35 PM | Scott Michaud
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.).
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.