Subject: General Tech | October 25, 2016 - 11:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming
January's Awesome Games Done Quick is coming up, and the organization has published the schedule. As usual, most of the week is grouped together into blocks that will keep a slice of their overall viewership watching for multiple titles in a row. For a PC Gaming-friendly instance, one of the Tuesday blocks ties Doom (2016), System Shock 2, Daikatana, Half-Life: Blue Shift, and others into an FPS segment. It runs 24 hours a day for a week, and it is quite family friendly (within the limits of any given game).
For some added commentary, SpikeVegeta has posted his opinion on the whole schedule, form beginning to end. He is one of the regular announcers at various speedrun events, especially the Games Done Quick line, and he knows about all the different niches within the hobby.
Subject: General Tech | October 8, 2016 - 11:33 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ubisoft, pc gaming, free games, free
This has apparently been going on since June, but I just found out that Ubisoft was giving away some of their older titles for free. Like EA's “On the House” promotion, you can keep the title, but only if you add it to your UPlay account before the cut off date. We're just before the change in months, so, for the next few days, you can add The Crew. Then, starting on October 12th, you can pick up the original Beyond Good and Evil for free.
As expected, you will need to have a UPlay account for this to work. Still, it's an otherwise free game, and a cult classic at that. While this promotion is officially for Ubisoft's 30th anniversary, and two games will go free after Beyond Good and Evil, Ubisoft took the opportunity to announce that a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil is being developed. I guess this means that we'll only have a couple more E3s where journalists write top ten “I want to see announced” lists containing Beyond Good and Evil 2. Yet another thing that will probably be released before Half-Life 2: Episode 3.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 20, 2016 - 07:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, xbox one, pc gaming, nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070
NVIDIA has just announced that specially marked, 10-series GPUs will be eligible for a Gears of War 4 download code. This bundle applies to GeForce GTX 1080 and GeForce GTX 1070 desktop GPUs, as well as laptops which integrate either of those two GPUs. As always, if you plan on purchasing a GPU due to this bundle, make sure that the product page for your retailer mentions the bundle.
Also, through the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, NVIDIA claims that this code can be used to play the game on Xbox One as well. Xbox Play Anywhere allows users to purchase a game on either of Microsoft's software stores, Xbox Store or Windows Store, and it will automatically count as a purchase for the cross-platform equivalent. It also has implications for cloud saves, but that's a story for another day.
The bundle begins today, September 20th. Gears of War 4 launches on October 11th.
Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2016 - 09:39 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, battlefield 4, dlc
If you claim them before September 19th, you can now get all five expansion packs for Battlefield 4 for free. This comes a month before Battlefield 1 launches, and it hopes to get people hooked further into the gameplay style, wanting more in a month's time. They have occasionally been through the “On the House” promotion in the past, on an individual basis, but this is the first time that they're all free, together.
It seems to be...
This will probably upset some Battlefield 4 Premium owners, but, even though I'm one of them, I don't think it's that big of a deal. It's fine for EA to give away their own content whenever they like, and, even still, paying customers bought access to it for over three years before it was given away.
I should note that you need to own the game, itself, though. It currently costs $19.99, although it's recently been available for $5, so hopefully you picked it up by then.
Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2016 - 01:56 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming
A few days ago, Valve changed how user reviews work on Steam. Now, user reviews on the search page and at the top of the product page will only reflect customers who purchased the game from Steam. Other user reviews will still be collected, but only from the product's reviews panel with a more broad filter applied, which must be done manually.
This change was made because Valve detected some titles where review scores varied greatly between Steam user and outside keys. If the vast majority of reviewers who purchased the content on Steam and the vast majority of reviewers who acquired the game outside of Steam are the same, then random error converges quickly. An average of 1000 reviews should be within 3% of the average opinion of 1,000,000 random customers, for 95% of titles. 99% of titles would be within 4% of the average opinion, given 1000 reviews for a million customers.
Of course, the differences are not always truly random. Keys which were given to crowd-funding backers could be abnormally good, if it well-served the niche audience that helped it get made, or abnormally bad, if it slighted that audience.
In the worst case, developers could be giving away keys to services that flood fraudulent reviews.
As such, Valve took the position that
it will (Update: Yeah, I kind-of messed up the grammar on this sentence when I restructured it in editing... read it without the strikethrough, and this update of course) only reviews from their direct customers would be promoted. This upset many developers, although some games received a bump in score, if you trust Steam Spy. Again, if their title was a hit on Kickstarter, Patreon, or other services, then it subtracts their most evangelical users.
On the other hand, from Valve's perspective, they want to promote the opinion that best applies to someone browsing on Steam. This makes sense, since a review should be intended to guide someone who doesn't already have an opinion of the title one way or the other. Again, reviews are designed to be the general consensus of a random group of people -- the expected value of an average user -- but constrainted to a certain set of properties.
Of course, it would be beneficial to Valve to run further experiments to make sure that an average Steam reviewer reflects an average Steam customer for each, specific title. Basically, it's a good hypothesis, but testing isn't done. It could change greatly as it evolves through the Scientific Method.
Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 05:34 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, fallout 4, bethesda
I don't usually post individual deals, but this is a fairly big drop in price for a very popular game. The physical copy of Fallout 4, for PC of course, is currently a little over $18. Since, digitally, it is still a $60 game, this is about 70% less than the price on Steam.
I'm guessing that this deal is to clear out stock for an upcoming Game of the Year edition. This is something to keep in mind. The last DLC has just been released two weeks ago, and, if history serves, that means it won't be too long before they release the game with the DLC bundled in. Probably, if you waited this long, you should wait until that gets released (and goes on sale) to pick it up. I doubt that it would arrive before 2017, though, so it's up to you.
Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 11:09 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, Kalypso, humble bundle
Update: Annnnnnnnnnnd it's over. Sorry everyone who just noticed the post. Original below.
If you have heard about the On The House promotion from EA's Origin service, then this will sound familiar. For the next eighteen hours, the Humble Store is giving away Tropico 4 from Kalypso Media Digital. It does not include any of the expansions or DLC, but it normally retails for $17 CDN and you're getting it for free if you redeem it before it expires. Also, according to the Steam page, the game requires that users register a (free) account with Kalypso to login.
Again, you're getting it for free, though, and I know of a few people that love it. Tropico is a city-building game of sorts, except that, instead of playing as an omnificent being that benevolently rules over a region, you play as an actual dictator. I haven't played it myself, but I just added it to my Steam account, so I'll hopefully get around to it soon.
Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 07:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: doom, pc gaming, bethesda
Adrian Courrèges is a software developer who, from time to time, does a break down on rendering techniques for major gaming titles. His latest one is on DOOM, and it explains, in remarkably simple (given the subject matter) terms, how the game draws a frame at a point early in the game. Most of the information was gathered from using debug tools, but a bit was pulled from Tiago Sousa and Jean Geffroy's slide deck at last month's SIGGRAPH conference.
I obviously cannot really summarize what the article says in this post. You kind-of need to read it for yourself. The post goes into how Vulkan is used for updating Mega-Textures, but it doesn't go into anything like asynchronous compute, though. Most of the figures are animated too, usually by a slideshow of images, but a few WebGL demonstrations are included, too.
Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2016 - 04:47 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, piracy
There's a lot of ways to gather information about a topic. Surveys allow a lot of responses quickly and easily, but they have many limitations.
PC Gamer ran a survey for a couple of weeks, polling their audience about whether they pirate computer games, and why. It attempts to correlate this act by age, income, country of residence, and reason. It also asks about how this practice changed over time. They acknowledge that this system could easily be gamed, whether by multiple votes or deliberate misinformation, but noted that it's an interesting study none-the-less. They even highlight a few areas of concern, like non-zero income for people who claim to be under 10 years old (of which some are probably guessing their parents salaries, but still).
The survey is interesting, though, and you should check it out.
It's important to know a bit more about how surveys work, though. Simply put, people often report information that is much different from what would have been measured, especially in hypothetical or long-term situations. Someone who records what they ate during the day, through a survey that occurs multiple times per day, is likely to be fairly accurate.
However, asking someone if advertising works on them is hilariously bad. When I've seen surveys on this, they are overwhelmingly “no” or “it informs me of products or services I would have otherwise not been aware of”. Hate to break it to you, but that's crap. It works. It works on everyone. There is an industry that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, in the US alone, that testifies to it working.
While you would typically expect a survey about piracy to be skewed in a way that makes the respondents self-identify better, even that is not necessarily the case. About a decade ago, Paulo Ceolho was pirating his own book, leading to an increase in sales. The same happened for a comic book artist, named Steve Lieber, whose sales peaked about ~20x higher than being reviewed on Boing Boing; this peak lasted longer, too.
These sorts of effects, as well as many others, will probably not come up in a survey. In the latter case, there is an emotional reaction to an author who treats you with respect, even though you pirate their work. You actually need to test for these effects with concrete experiments.
In short, read the data with a few grains of salt. This is not an effective acquisition method for what they are attempting to learn, but it's well done for what it is.
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 31, 2016 - 11:50 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, gameworks, fallout 4, pc gaming
Vault 1080, which is a terrible pun by the way, is a free mod of Fallout 4 that is developed by NVIDIA Lightspeed Studios. It is designed to show off GameWorks technologies, such as volumetric lighting and HBAO+, more heavily than Bethesda did with the base game. They claim that the content lasts more than an hour, which is pretty decent for a free expansion.
It will launch on the first day of PAX West: September 2nd.
If you're wondering why NVIDIA has a game development studio, they are mostly responsible for bringing content from the PC to their Shield devices, such as Half-Life 2 and Portal. They also created NVIDIA's VR Funhouse demo, which was also release for free to show off GameWorks (such as NVIDIA Flow and VRWorks Audio) for the HTC Vive. Basically, they develop games (and now game content) to make NVIDIA's hardware more appealing.