Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 11:54 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 13, 2016 - 01:26 AM | 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 - 12:01 PM | 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.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 6, 2016 - 12:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, nvidia, graphics drivers, giveaways, giveaway
Alongside the release of the Oculus Touch controllers from Oculus VR, and the fifty-or-so games that launched with it, NVIDIA has published another graphics driver. The GeForce Game Ready 376.19 WHQL drivers also resolve one of two SLI issues in No Man’s Sky (the other bug, which involves temporal anti-aliasing, is still being worked on) and also fixes two issues with G-Sync for laptops.
Since it affects a few of our readers: the Folding@Home bug is not yet fixed, but it’s now classified as a top-priority bug, though. Personally, I’m guessing that it will be fixed soon, now that there’s a little down-time before and after the holidays, after and before the game release rushes. Otherwise, it seems pretty stable and smooth for me. One user is complaining about Windows 10 UI freezes and crashes, starting with 376.09, but it’s otherwise relatively quiet.
As for the contests
NVIDIA is hosting two giveaways: one on their social media sites (Twitter and Facebook) and the other on GeForce Experience. The first contest runs from Tuesday to Friday, where they are giving away a GTX 1080, game codes, and one grand prize of a custom PC, accessorized with an Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch. The other contest runs until December 30th, where NVIDIA will give away a bundle of Oculus Rift, Oculus Touch Controllers, and a GTX 1070 to ten people, at random, who log in to GeForce Experience.
Check out their blog post for details on how to enter, as well as get the new driver (if GeForce Experience hasn’t already started begging).
Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 09:43 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, mechwarrior 5, Mechwarrior
Piranha Games, known for the free-to-play MechWarrior Online, has just announced MechWarrior 5: Merceneries. The first thing I noticed is that they revived the Merceneries subtitle, used twice before with expansion packs to MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 4. The second thing I noticed is that it now runs on Unreal Engine 4, despite MechWarrior Online being based on CryEngine.
The third thing I noticed is that, while it’s a bit of a meme to start MechWarrior things with the mech powering up, the video actually begins with the pilot on foot, walking through the hangar. I’m wondering whether this will be expanded upon in the gameplay or narrative. I don’t really see how it could work, but it seems like a fair amount of effort for no real intent. Yes, I’ve played MechAssault 2, but it seems highly unlikely that anything like that will happen.
MechWarrior 5 takes place in 3015, which means that it will have a very small subset of the weapons and equipment that you would see in, say, MechWarrior 3 (~3060) and MechWarrior 4 (~3063). There probably will not be ER weapons, pulse lasers, gauss rifles, ECM, LBX autocannons, or anything like that. I would be surprised to see anything more than standard lasers, PPCs, short-range missiles, long-range missiles, machine guns, and standard autocannons. It will be an interesting change of pace.
MechWarrior 5 also might be single-player only. The teaser site seems to suggest that MechWarrior Online will continue to be updated, which I interpret to mean that it will be its multiplayer companion.
It is expected for release in 2018.
Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 07:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, vulkan, libretro
About half of a year ago, LibRetro added Vulkan support to their Nintendo 64 renderer. This allowed them to do things like emulate the console’s hardware rasterization in software, and do so as an asynchronous shader, circumventing limitations in their OpenGL path trying to emulate the console’s offbeat GPU.
Image Credit: Universal Interactive via Wikipedia
They have now turned their sights (“for the lulz”) to the original PlayStation, creating a Vulkan back-end for emulators like Beetle PSX.
The fairly long blog post discusses how the PlayStation is designed in detail, making it an interesting read for anyone curious. One point that I found particularly interesting is how the video memory is configured as a single, 1MB, 2D array (1024x512x16-bit). At this time, texture resolution was quite small, and frame buffers were between 256x224 and 640x480, so that’s a lot of room to make a collage out of your frame and all textures in the scene, but it’s still odd to think about a console imposing such restrictions now that we’re spoiled by modern GPUs.
In terms of performance, the developer claims that modern GPUs can handle 8k resolutions with relative ease, and four-digit FPS at lower resolutions.
Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2016 - 11:49 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, ubisoft, ea, bethesda
The Ubisoft store is offering the standard edition of either The Division, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Rainbow Six: Siege, or Far Cry Primal when you purchase (or pre-order) another, participating title. These other games aren’t just from Ubisoft, though. They also include new releases from EA, Bethesda, and SquareEnix, such as Battlefield 1 (which still requires Origin) and Skyrim: Special Edition.
This is interesting for two reasons. First, and most obvious, if you really want one of the four titles and one of the applicable ones, then it might be cheaper than buying them individually (although you should check for sales elsewhere first).
The second point regards how the various publishers are handling Steam’s dominance in the PC space. EA is now even participating their titles, which are not available on Valve’s service, in promotions from stores owned by other competitors. Meanwhile, it seems like Bethesda is happy putting their stock wherever, and they will even discount games by a third or a half if it aligns with a big Steam Sale. Then we get Ubisoft, who has their own store, but also lists on Steam and does fairly good sales there, too.
Anyway, the sale is running until the 27th. As I said earlier, though, be sure that any combination of game that interests you is actually cheaper than their respective sale price at competing stores before buying.
Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2016 - 01:51 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, VR, osvr, razer, sensics
There’s a few competing VR standards at the moment. Obviously, mobile has a bunch of them; Google technically has two of their own. On the PC, the top two are Oculus and SteamVR. A third one, Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR), was co-founded by Razer and Sensics.
Valve has now added their platform to Steam, including the tools that users will need to filter compatible content for that headset.
OSVR is an interesting initiative. For instance, when they released their second developer’s kit, HDK2, they also released an upgrade kit for the original. Currently priced at $220, it upgrades the screen to 2160x1200. They also have a Leap Motion upgrade, although that’s currently listed as “coming soon”. It has also been added to Unreal Engine 4 for the last few versions, so engine developers are considering it worthy of first-party support.
Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 09:17 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming, black friday
Okay, I admit it: I’m a little late on this one. Sorry, all! Sometimes you need to shelf a post because it’s taking forever to write, but you only realize it after days of researching and editing have gone by. In the mean time, simple posts, like this one, begin to collect dust in the queue. You just need to know when to let go, even if it’s temporarily. This time I didn’t.
Oh well. So Valve decided to host their Autumn Sale from now until 1pm (EST) on Tuesday. To me, a sale that starts just before American Thanksgiving and ends hours after Cyber Monday... seems like a Black Friday sale. They even acknowledge it as such in their announcement, so I guess I’m not alone.
There really isn’t much to say, though. Gabe Newell will get your money via big discounts on new and bundled back catalog games... oh wait, there is. Remember how Steam was pushing “Discovery” with their new store aesthetic? How it was supposed to help users find relevant content within their store? They just decided to create “The Steam Awards”, which are user-nominated through the store listing.
This is quite interesting. From Steam’s perspective, it allows a handful of games to get promoted to a wider audience, which could allow some games break out of their niche. On the other hand, since it is user-selected, it would need a niche to have a chance at that exposure. Whether it helps good games find an audience that would otherwise die off? Not sure. I am interested to see, if this really is a phase in the Discovery initiative, what else will be introduced. Time will tell...