Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2016 - 07:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ubisoft, pc gaming, free games, free
Ubisoft has been giving away a game for free to all who claim it, once per month. If you do, then it is yours forever. If not, then you missed it. The most recent entry is FarCry 3: Blood Dragon, which is a standalone spin-off of the Einstein-quoting island shooter that parodies 80s action content. These games will be delivered by their UPlay digital distribution platform, and you require an Ubisoft account to claim it, but that's your choice to make for free content.
We're almost at the end of Ubisoft's 30th anniversary promotion, with just a single title left. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm guessing it has some significance to the company and, like the announcement of a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil, could be accompanied by larger news.
Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2016 - 06:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, VR, ue4, red alert, command and conquer
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 was a 2D real-time strategy game about a science-fiction alternate universe version of Cold War Allies vs Soviets. The base-building mechanic involved collecting funds from captured neutral structures and harvesting resources throughout the map. Ádám Horváth, a fan of the series, with 3D assets created by an artist who goes by the name Slye_Fox, created a VR implementation in Unreal Engine 4.
The interface implementation is quite interesting in particular. It looks almost like someone hovering over a board game, interfacing with the build menu via a virtual hand-held tablet. The game mechanics look quite complete, with even things like enemy AI and supply crates (although think the camera didn't catch when it was actually picked up) implemented. It definitely looks good, and looks like it could form the basis for a full real-time strategy interface for VR.
Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2016 - 09:07 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming
As we mentioned last week, Valve was working on a major refresh of the Steam homepage, with a heavy emphasis on letting users find products that interest them. This update is now live, and will be presented to you the
new next time you load (or reload) the store page. They also have a banner link, right near the top, that highlights changes, including a few they've already made over the course of 2016.
One glaring thing that I note is the “Recently Viewed” block. There doesn't seem to be a way to disable this or otherwise limit the amount of history that it stores. While this is only visible to your account, which should be fairly obvious, it could be a concern for someone who shares a PC or streams regularly. It's not a big issue, but it's one that you would expect to have been considered.
Otherwise, I'd have to say that the update looks better. The dark gray and blue color scheme seems a bit more consistent than it was, and I definitely prefer the new carousel design.
What do you all think?
Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2016 - 12:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: left 4 dead, pc gaming
The first Left 4 Dead was developed by Turtle Rock Studios during their brief time as a Valve subsidiary. At some point, they were working on a fifth campaign that was intended to bridge the gap between Dead Air and Blood Harvest. Players start at the landed plane and work their way toward a hydroelectric dam. One section, contrary to the game's theme, was apparently designed to encourage survivors to split up, some in a sniper tower and others running through a trench.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Turtle Rock Studios has apparently streamed gameplay at some point. Since then, they published the campaign as a Left 4 Dead mod. It's not finished, and apparently quite glitchy, although I haven't played it yet, but it's free.
Check out the post at their forums, which has a link to concept material and the mod itself.
Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2016 - 06:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: blizzard, pc gaming, diablo, diablo iii
Starting in the Public Test Realm next week, Diablo 3 will receive a campaign that is based on the original game, which turns 20 years old on New Year's Eve. Like the original game, you will fight down the levels of a dungeon into Hell where you fight and kill Diablo. Pardon the spoilers.
The patch, called The Darkening of Tristram, seems to be taken light-heartedly by the company. They announce that it will add a low-quality rendering mode to pay homage to graphical limitations of 1996. More functionality, they also force the character to move in eight directions, which I'm not sure it's tongue-in-cheek or actually implemented for gameplay reasons.
Either way, you can check it out next week by joining the beta realm.
Subject: Shows and Expos | November 4, 2016 - 02:35 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: VR, valve, steam, pc gaming
A little over three weeks ago, Valve hosted a fairly big developer conference, which excluded journalists so that attendees could network without feeling anxious. The goal was not to keep information from the public, however, and so they created high-quality recordings of the talks and the Steamworks Development YouTube channel, which I assume is owned by Valve but cannot verify this, made the videos public.
Again, each of these talks were aimed at various types of developers, and they were hosted by numerous companies. One video has Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games, discuss Physically-Based Rendering (PBR) and another has Na'Tosha Bard, the technical director at Unity, highlight points that a game developer should know if they intend to publish to Linux, including SteamOS.
In all, there are 25 videos, ranging from ten minutes to an hour and a half, with most clocking in around 45 minutes. It's a fairly large commitment if you want to watch it all, but the topics vary wildly, so it could easily be a “kill an hour learning something” sort of thing. Also, the talks from 2014 are available, too. (There wasn't a Steam Dev Days conference in 2015.)
Thanks Phoronix for finding these.
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2016 - 09:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox, steam, pc gaming, fail
In a few short hours, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered will unlock on Steam and Windows Store. If you're intending to get it for the multiplayer, though, then you need to choose your store carefully. According to Activision's support page, Steam users can only play with other Steam users, and Windows Store users can only play with other Windows Store users.
"We need to stick together! I wanted to pad my Gamerscore and you're the only one online!"
They do not elaborate on why this is the case. PC Gamer speculates that it could be an issue with Windows 7 versus Windows 10, but that makes basically no sense. The protocol between computers is just data, controlled by Activision, so the operating system that transfer it from network socket to game application is irrelevant.
I think I know what it is, though. According to the same support page, they note that a Microsoft Account is required to play online with Windows Store. I'm not sure if Activision voluntarily chose to use two different account systems, or if Microsoft pressured Activision to use Xbox accounts on Windows Store, but I'm guessing the incompatibility is due to Steamworks versus Xbox.
Again, I really don't know why Activision chose to, or was forced to, split their user base. We'll need to see if this becomes a trend going forward, though. If it is, I can see this hurting Microsoft more than Valve.
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2016 - 05:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: bethesda, pc gaming, skyrim
Despite the complaints that are seen across the internet, the launch of Skyrim Special Edition (on PC) has not been bad. If you received it for free, because you own the original Skyrim and all of its paid DLC, then it delivers a newer engine with more rendering features and the potential to handle much more modded content at the same time. It is a new game, though, and I think users were expecting to binge on it at launch, when it will take a bit of time to catch up to the original game.
Speaking of catching up, though, Bethesda has released a beta patch for the PC version. Skyrim Special Edition 1.1.51 will remove compression on “some” sound files, which was a major complaint that circled the web since release. They also fixed a few bugs with the save games, performance, and NPC behavior.
To access it, switch Skyrim Special Edition to the Beta channel on Steam by right clicking on the game in your library, clicking properties, and changing the drop-down in the betas tab.
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2016 - 03:58 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam, valve, pc gaming
According to leaked images of an announcement that Valve made to Steam developers, which PC Gamer claims to have confirmed with Valve, the digital distribution platform will undergo several changes in “a couple weeks”. The message calls this initiative “Discovery Update 2.0”. While I would guess that this is the final name, it could be a placeholder that tells developers to expect changes similar to 2014's Discovery Update, which introduced Steam Curators and the Discovery Queue to the front page.
A lot of the changes, like the original Discovery Update, affect how games can be found on the front page. There will be a focus on promoting whatever the user's Steam friends are consuming as well as elevating the visibility of the “Top Selling New Releases” screen. The will also be more picky about who to show ads for new games to, which Valve expects will lead to fewer impressions, but hopefully higher click-through.
Valve will also refresh the Steam Curator feature by allowing them to communicate about titles in a more nuanced way, possibly without even making a recommendation one way or the other at all. We'll need to wait a little while and see how it is actually implemented, along with all of the other changes, but they might nudge the platform away from the visibility issues that users and indie developers alike were complaining about. At the very least, you can expect Valve to carefully measure how sales are impacted by these alterations, and continue to experiment with why.
Then we get to the screenshot policy.
Two changes are planned, each addressing a wholly different issue. The first change regards mature content. Valve does not seem to be planning to discourage gory, lewd, or offensive content, but rather force developers to properly tag their content so the user can filter out what they aren't interest in (or disgusted by). Of course, censorship could creep in with the correct mix of misguided good intentions and complacency, but that doesn't seem to be the goal, which should mean that accidents will be fixed as they arise.
The other change alters the way they intend screenshots to be used. Previously, they were treated like promotional content, even by Valve. In fact, their one example picked apart the store page of their own game, DOTA 2. Valve seems to want to change it into a glimpse of the actual game, like a demo in still image form. Basically, the “screenshots” section is turning more literally into a section of screenshots, rather than, as they verbatim say, concept art, pre-rendered cinematic stills, or images that contain awards, marketing copy, or written product descriptions. “Please show customers what your game is actually like to play.”
This all seems like fairly routine changes to me, although we will need to wait until it's live (or another leak occurs) to truly know.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | November 1, 2016 - 05:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: msi, giveaway, giveaways, pc gaming
To celebrate their 30th anniversary, MSI is having a massive giveaway. Each day, from today (November 1st) to November 30th, you are able to answer a trivia question to be entered in that day's drawing. Being that it's MSI, they are also requiring that you capitalize every letter of your answer. I'm not joking; that really is in their How to Enter process. You also need to follow MSI and HyperX on Twitter to enter but, although the form is through Facebook, it looks like you do not need a Facebook account. I could be wrong about that last part, though.
Also, winning a prize does not exclude you from winning future prizes. Don't bother trying to game the system, like waiting to enter until the “good prizes” but not the “great prizes” that will get too many entries, etc. Try every day if you can, even if you already won previously.
The prize for today is the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GAMING 4G from MSI, but they vary wildly from day to day. Even though NVIDIA is a partner in this giveaway, along with HyperX and Intel, there are even some AMD cards scattered throughout the month. I mean, it makes sense: MSI sells AMD cards. Their contest page claims that the total prize pool is up to $14,000 USD.