Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity
While it’s not technically released yet, Unity has flipped the naming scheme of Unity 2017.2 to Unity 2017.2.0f1. The “f” stands for final, so we will probably see a blog post on it soon. This version has a handful of back-end changes, such as improved main-thread performance when issuing commands to graphics APIs, but the visible changes are mostly in two areas: XR (VR + AR) and baked lighting.
From the XR standpoint, a few additions stand out. First, this version now supports Google Tango and Windows Mixed Reality, the latter of which is tied to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so it makes sense that Unity would have support in the version before that gets released (October 17th). In terms of features, the editor now supports emulating a Vive headset, so you can test some VR elements without having a headset. I expect this will mostly be good for those who want to do a bit of development in places where they don’t have access to their headset, although that’s blind speculation from my standpoint.
The other area that got a boost is baked global illumination. Unity started introducing their new Progressive Lightmapping feature in Unity 5.6, and it bakes lighting into the scenes in the background as you work. This update allows you to turn shadows on and off on a per-object basis, and it supports double-sided materials. You cannot have independent lighting calculations for the front and back of a triangle... if you want that, then you will need to give some volume to your models. This is mostly for situations like the edge of a level, so you don’t need to create a second wall facing away from the playable area to block light coming in from outside the playable area.
I’m not sure when the official release is, but it looks like the final, supported build is out now.
Subject: General Tech | September 2, 2017 - 10:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, gdq
Sorry that I wasn’t able to put up a post when it started on Friday, but Games Done Quick set up a two-day marathon in support of the Houston Food Bank. Harvey Relief Done Quick is, as you would expect, intended to benefit those who are affected by Hurricane Harvey. They have currently raised almost $110,000 USD.
The current game, as I write this post, is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, all dungeons and Ganon -- they’re just wrapping it up. It will be be followed by a six-hour run of Chrono Trigger, 100% glitchless (all quests). Tomorrow night ends with a 100% map race of Super Metroid, and a three-and-a-half hour run, give or take, of Final Fantasy IV. As usual, they are streaming around the clock until then.
The next scheduled Games Done Quick is Awesome Games Done Quick 2018 in January.
Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2017 - 09:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, vive, htc vive, valve, htc, price cut
While it looked like HTC and Valve wouldn’t budge on their launch price, the Vive has just been reduced $200 USD, from $799 down to $599. This is still significantly above the $399 USD price tag during their competitor’s summer sale, but it might be close enough for those who prefer the Vive for one reason or another.
I should note that their website still has payment plans through PayPal, which breaks up the $599 price tag into, they say, twelve chunks.
For me? This price cut came just a week and a bit late. I already picked up the Oculus. For us Canadians, it looks like the Vive sale price is $800 CDN on Amazon, versus the $550 mark for the Rift with Touch and two sensors. That said, if I didn’t jump on the Oculus... would I consider the Vive? At this price, I’m still not sure. I’m wary of a hardware refresh, now that these devices are hitting the one-and-a-half year mark. The Oculus, during its sale, is priced in the “Meh” territory. It would have served its purpose until it’s replaced. The extra couple hundred dollars on the Vive might just push it out of the “eh, if it’s replaced, so what” range.
On the other hand, the Vive can be upgraded with a wireless kit, and I do have issues with the Oculus sensors being obstructed. It’s an interesting move for sure.
Subject: General Tech | August 19, 2017 - 10:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, oxide, Oxide Games, vulkan
Oxide Games has been mentioned all throughout the development of the next-generation graphics APIs, DirectX 12, Mantle, and Vulkan. Their Star Swarm “stress test” was one of the first practical examples of a game that desperately needs to make a lot of draw calls. Also, their rendering algorithm is very different from the other popular game engines, where lighting is performed on the object rather than the screen, which the new APIs help out with.
Currently, Ashes of the Singularity supports DirectX 11 and DirectX 12, but Vulkan will be added soon. Oxide will be pushing the new graphics api in the 2.4 update, bringing increased CPU performance to all OSes but especially Windows 7 and 8 (neither of which support DirectX 12), and a free DLC pack that contains nine co-op maps. They also plan to continue optimizing Ashes of the Singularity for Vulkan in the future.
All of this will be available on Thursday, August 24th.
Subject: General Tech | August 13, 2017 - 03:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, Oculus
The Oculus Summer Sale finally gave me the courage to pick up a VR system. In Canada, where the Oculus, with touch and two sensors (something that their website doesn’t highlight very well), is currently $550 CDN and the Vive is $1100 to $1200 CDN, it feels like the former dropped into impulse buy territory, especially as a game development tool. More on that in the coming days or weeks (I hope).
I played around with it over the weekend, mostly Robo Recall, Lucky’s Tale, and Valve’s The Lab. I was a bit surprised at how virtual objects (like GLaDOS and the Robo Recall robots) getting into your personal space feels slightly intimidating. More accurately, I am a bit surprised how effective the “layer of glass” effect that a traditional computer game, on a computer monitor, isolates you from what’s going on. I know this was a hot topic a couple years ago, but I didn’t experience it at the time. Now I did. It could be very useful for expressing ideas...
From a technical side, it’s a bit annoying setting up the sensors. They were a bit picky until I figured out what they were trying to do, and I would probably want a third sensor at some point for when I turn around. Setting up the back end of the play area perimeter is annoying when you’re trying to move your body around to not block the sensor.
Also, the extra USB devices pushes my system to about the limit, showing me a few notifications of my USB hard drive dropping and reconnecting at times. I’ve heard that many people install add-in cards for extra USB ports (if they don’t have a high-end processor platform). That could be useful.
Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2017 - 10:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, pc gaming
During their The International tournament for Dota 2, Valve announced a whole new game and a whole new reason for Blizzard to be annoyed at them: Artifact. While the teaser doesn’t really say much, they allowed Sean Plott, better known as Day, discuss his experiences playing it.
Apparently, it’s a card combat game that is based on the Dota 2 universe. Borrowing from the MOBA formula, there are actually three boards, which he called lanes at one point, that you will need to balance your efforts between. Some strategies can push a single board, while others can just safely lean on all three (although I’m not sure whether the metagame will heavily favor one or the other... in practice).
It’s unclear whether Valve will use their own engine, or license a third-party engine like Unity, which was used by Blizzard for Hearthstone and Valve, themselves, for some of their VR content.
Artifact is expected at some time in 2018.
Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2017 - 09:17 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, valve, DOTA 2
Valve’s biggest DOTA 2 tournament, The International, is set to begin on Monday. While the initial prize pool was set at $1.6 million USD, that has since increased to $23,748,880 (and still rising). The format will be double-elimination, upper and lower brackets. The top eight qualifiers are in the upper bracket, where, if they lose, they will drop to the lower bracket (except the team that makes it to the grand finals -- they don’t get two lifes against the lower bracket competitor). The bottom eight qualifiers start in the lower bracket, where, if they lose, they’re out. All pairings are best-of-three, except the grand finals, which are best-of-five.
Like last year, they are doing a “DOTA VR Theater” for those with SteamVR-compatible hardware. This can be used for both replays and live games, including the ability to see the map at human-scale. I’m not sure if it has been significantly updated since last year, but, if you found it entertaining (or you didn’t experience it last year) then it might be something to check out.
The first match, Team Liquid vs Invictus Gaming, is scheduled to begin at 10am PDT (1pm EDT) on Monday!
Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2017 - 11:41 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, epic games, unreal engine 4, ue4
Apart from a Fortnite clip that they snuck in, Epic Games has published a video to highlight the recent use of Unreal Engine 4 in the enterprise. The game engine is attractive to several industries, including architectural visualization, product demos, and even rendering video for TVs and movies. For instance, you can walk through a building (even in VR) that you’re intending to create and move walls around, or customize a car and see it in that state before you order it.
One that caught my eye was the Paris VR demo from The Chainsmokers and Sony Music. This was the first that I’ve heard of it, but I find kind-of abstract, music video demos interesting. It reminds me a little of the Ellie Goulding WebGL demo from back in 2011. It should be a cute little demo if you have a PSVR, although you can also watch a playthrough on YouTube.
Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2017 - 08:03 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, amazon
Amazon Web Services launched a new version of their Lumberyard game engine at SIGGRAPH. They advertise that the new version, Lumberyard Beta 1.10, is 50% original code from when they launched back in February 2016. The engine started as a fork of CryEngine, and I’ve watched it evolve rapidly since about November. They’re pushing the engine into sort-of an entity-component framework, similar to Unity, but with a focus on C++ and Lua. You create scripts that define some functionality, then place them on the relevant entities (versus making a hierarchy of strict subclasses like you would do in Unreal Engine 4’s C++ API).
Amazon’s visual scripting system, Script Canvas, was supposed to launch in 1.10 but I can’t see it mentioned so I’m guessing it slipped.
So what does the version have? Mostly a bunch of new rendering features. Lumberyard 1.10 adds temporal anti-aliasing and order-independent transparency. Lumberyard, because it is a deferred renderer, cannot use MSAA. The engine currently supports FXAA and SMAA, as well as supersampling of course, but 1.10 adds TAA, which blends parts of previous frames into the current one. Since the point of anti-aliasing is to know all the geometry that makes up a pixel, not just what is on top and dead center, sub-pixel variation should eventually average out to a clean image.
Order-independent transparency should be more interesting. I don’t think it’s currently available in Unreal Engine 4 or (stock) Unity 5, although I could be wrong on that, but it is noticeable for scenes with a lot of transparency. To drive the point home, NVIDIA Research made a demo in Lumberyard for GDC with glasses in a bar, embedded above. As the camera pans around the glasses, you can see the multiple reflections in the top-left side of the upside-down glass is much more stable on the left image, and where the two reflections meet in the center blends correctly.
Lumberyard 1.10 also includes a lot of editor UI tweaks, which isn’t appealing to write about but... honestly... that’s what you want in a professional content creation tool update. Their entity component tools seem to be growing nicely from the screenshots I’ve seen.
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2017 - 09:34 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, blizzard
We first reported on StarCraft Remastered when it was announced, which was alongside the GSL 2017 Season 1 finals on March 26th. This was accompanied by a patch that brought the base game up to modern standards, which conveniently allows it to be multiplayer-compatible with Remastered, although skill-based matchmaking is exclusive to Remastered.
It has now been given a trailer, above, and a release date: August 14th, 2017.
As for the price? Pre-orders for StarCraft Remastered are available at $14.99 USD, although it’s unclear whether this price will stick after the pre-order period. I should note that the page states that StarCraft Remastered requires “StarCraft Anthology”. The way its worded makes it look like you need to buy something else, but StarCraft Anthology was made free with the aforementioned 1.18a patch. Basically, it looks like Blizzard is treating StarCraft Remastered as a paid booster to StarCraft Anthology, but, again, the latter is free so it probably only matters in terms of the install process. At least, that’s how it looks to me.