Who's a pretty Dog? Watch what the graphics settings do to image quality

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: gaming, watch dogs 2

[H]ard|OCP have already gone through the highest quality video settings in Watch Dogs 2 which are still playable at a reasonable frame rate, now they are investigating how these settings actually effect the visual quality. The High Resolution Texture Pack does indeed make a difference to the world, much like it did in Skyrim but how do the two NVIDIA only  shadow options differ from the Ultra setting?   The Extra Details slider seems to be a renamed draw distance slider with the effect you would expect and there is a long look at the variety of AA options offered.  If you are curious which of these options most appeal to you, take a long look.

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"In Part 3 of our Watch Dog 2 series we focus on the image quality aspects of this game. We will compare high resolution textures, shadows, ambient occlusion, extra details slider and AA. If you are curious what those features look like, how they compare between quality levels, this article will give you an idea what to expect."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Roll out the gifts this season, mobility for all

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 05:31 PM |
Tagged: holiday gift guide

You want tablets and chromebooks and laptops and cellphones, Shields and Yogas and iPads and Pixels; but can you recall a shopping list which has them all?  Try out The Tech Report's gift guide, for it has many shiny things and if you want Google's Pixel you will even find it shows ...

Anyways, they have put together a list of dozens of their favourite mobile products from this year, all of which will be familiar but it is nice to have a compendium of the vast amount of products which were released in 2016; apart from that one hot item.

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"In this edition of The Tech Report's mobile staff picks, we dig ourselves out of the snow to bring you the latest and best in tablets, Chromebooks, laptops, and phones."

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Zalman's ZM-K900M mechanical keyboard can be taught to do more than change colours

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 07:53 PM |
Tagged: zalman, ZM-K900M, input, mechanical keyboard, Kailh Blue RGB

Not only does Zalman's ZM-K900M suffer from RGB disease underneath it's Kailh switches, it also has a split personality.  When you look at the closeups of the keys over at The Tech Report you will see odd symbols and messages under the usual lettering, things like ZM2 or Speed Meter.  Those are for programming macros, simply hitting Fn + ZM# starts the recording and it will capture every click, including buttons which emulate mouse buttons and stop once you press Fn + ZM# again.   These will play back exactly as recorded and the somewhat misspelled Speed Meter allows you to increase or decrease the speed which it plays back.  If you find this intriguing, pop by The Tech Report for a closer look.

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"Zalman's ZM-K900M keyboard hides a huge range of hardware-controlled backlight and macro modes underneath an unassuming exterior. We took it for a spin to see whether this RGB LED-backlit mechanical marvel stands out in an increasingly jam-packed keyboard market."

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"HTML5 by Default" Rolling in to Chrome Userbase

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome, Adobe, flash

Google is about to begin transitioning their users away from Flash, unless they explicitly enable it on a site-by-site basis. This is a step beyond click-to-activate, which refuses to activate the plug-in until the user permits it, that will not even acknowledge the plug-in’s existence unless the user requests it. The difference is that this tells sites to treat the browser as not having Flash, which, for PC Perspective as an example, should load our HTML5 article carousel instead of presenting a click-to-activate Flash one that has an expanding oval transition animation.

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Because changes like these could have side-effects, Google is dipping their toe before jumping in. About 1% of users on the current Chrome 55 (and ~50% of Chrome 56 pre-release users) will have this change flipped on any day now, which contains the outrage if it breaks something popular or, otherwise, causes user grief. If it all goes well, though, it will be enabled for everyone when Chrome 56 arrives for the general public in February.

Source: Google

Flash news: Demand up, supply down ... outcome obvious

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: 3d nand, price increase, nand

DRAMeXchange is predicting a price hike in NAND chips over the coming year thanks to a supply decline combined with an impressive rise in demand.  The supply decline is a direct result of the industry's switch in preference to 3D NAND, which requires manufacturers to retool their existing lines.  While retooling from the production of 2D to 3D NAND, the line can produce neither and as all available lines were currently at or near full volume production, we are seeing a decline in the amount of available flash chips.  Even once lines are retooled, only Samsung has seen an increase in their production volumes, a situation which will hopefully change in the coming year.  With demand on the rise as more and more users switch to SSDs and the amount of storage on cellphones increasing in each new model we can only expect to see prices rise.  DigiTimes reports a predicted 10% rise in average SSD prices in Q1 of 2017, with prices of eMMC and UFS storage jumping even more.

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"From the supply side, the industry-wide transition to 3D-NAND is now moving at full speed," said Sean Yang, research director of DRAMeXchange. "However, most suppliers with the exception of Samsung have not improve their yield rates for the technology as quickly as they would like."

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Source: DigiTimes

/Noclip Publishes Documentary on DOOM

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 01:26 AM |
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.

Source: /Noclip

NVIDIA GeForce GTX, HTC VIVE Bundle Deal at GeForce.com

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 12, 2016 - 06:31 PM |
Tagged: gaming, nvidia, geforce, htc vive, VR, game bundle

AMD's RX 480 and Fury X are capable of providing decent performance in VR applications and will save you some money for the VR headset, dongles and games.  However NVIDIA upped the ante today, giving away three games to anyone who purchases a GTX 1080, 1070 or 1060 and an HTC Vive. 

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The giveaway encompasses more than North America, as long as you can purchase the bundle from either Microsoft or NewEgg where you happen to live you should be able to get your three free games.  They are redeemable on Steam and should be available immediately, a peek at Sports Bar VR is below.

 

Source: NVIDIA

PCPer Live! AMD Radeon Crimson ReLive Discussion and RX 480 Giveaway!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 12, 2016 - 05:56 PM |
Tagged: video, relive, radeon software, radeon, live stream, live, giveaway, crimson, amd

UPDATE: If you missed the live stream today, don't worry! You can catch the reply right here:

Last year, AMD and its software team dispatched some representatives to our offices to talk about the major software release that was Radeon Software Crimson Edition. As most of you probably saw last week, AMD launched the Crimson ReLive driver and we are pleased to let you know that we will again be hosting a live stream with our friends at AMD! Come learn about the development of this new driver, how the new features work and insight on what might be coming in the future from AMD's software team.

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And what's a live stream without prizes? AMD has stepped up to the plate to offer up some awesome hardware for those of you that tune in to watch the live stream! 

  • 3 x AMD Radeon RX 480 Graphics Cards

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AMD Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Live Stream and Giveaway

10am PT / 1pm ET - December 13th

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

The event will take place Tuesday, December 13th at 10am PT / 1pm ET at https://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

I will be joined by Liam Gallagher, Radeon Software Marketing Manager and Jeff Engel, Radeon Software Lead QA Manager. In short, these are two people you want to hear from and have answer your questions! (Apparently Terry Makedon will be hiding in the background as well...)

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from AMD?

So join us! Set your calendar for Tuesday at 10am PT / 1pm ET and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Someday you might be able to squeeze a last bit of life out of your cellphone

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2016 - 05:49 PM |
Tagged: feng, ferroelectric nanogenerator

The research being described in this story over at The Inquirer is somewhat different than the inductive charging that Qi provides nor the thermoelectric power generation of the MATRIX PowerWatch.  Instead they are looking at what happens to the abiltiy of a sandwich of silver, polyomide, and polypropylene ferroelectret to store energy when they are folded on themselves. Their research shows that the magnitudes of the generated voltage and current signals are doubled each time the device is folded, allowing it to power 20 LEDs when pressed.  This is a long way from powering a cellphone but an interesting branch of research which may find itself incorporated into many low voltage appliances.

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"By adding in a nano-generator, or to give it its full title, a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator (but you can call it FENG), those swipes can be turned into tiny amounts of battery charging current instead."

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Source: The Inquirer

Get HITMAN for free with a Radeon RX 470 graphics card or eligible systems

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 9, 2016 - 11:11 PM |
Tagged: giveaway, hitman 2016, amd, rx 470

If you purchase a Radeon RX 470 or a system with said GPU and an FX 8370, 8350 or 6350 you can get a copy of the latest Hitman game for free.  If you purchased a card recently you should still be eligible, just pop over to the redemption page, sign in and redeem your code.

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You can pick up the 4GB model for as little as $170 but you would be wiser to invest a little more in the 8GB version.

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Source: AMD

Samsung will be disabling the charging ability of the Note 7

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 10:58 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy note 7, verizon, recall

If you are one of the 7% that like living dangerously and are not returning your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 you may find yourself unable to charge it.  Samsung are going to push out an update on December 19th which will disable the devices ability to charge.  The incendiary devices suffer from a design flaw which does not leave enough space for the battery to swell, which can lead to an electrical short in the battery which ends badly for both the device and the owner.  Verizon has decided to take an interesting stand and will be blocking this update, allowing those who wish to continue using this device to continue to do so.  Pop over to The Inquirer for more details.

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"THE REMAINING owners of the highly flammable Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will have their devices remotely killed from 19 December when an over-the-air update will prevent their devices from charging."

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Source: The Inquirer

DOOM Removes Denuvo DRM

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 12:01 PM |
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.

--deep exhale--

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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.

Source: TorrentFreak

X marks the spot; rumours of Broadwell-E's successor appear

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2016 - 06:22 PM |
Tagged: rumour, Intel, skylake-x, kaby lake x, LGA 2066

DigiTimes today published a possibly accurate post on the upcoming replacement for the ageing Broadwell-E platform, Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X.  These chips will feature a new socket and along with that a new chipset, bearing the predictable name of X299.   The quoted prices seem to fit with Intel's pricing scheme, from $468 to $1,780 but we did not hear of any core counts or frequency ranges, the expected release date is about a year away.  The new chips will of course support DDR4 and we might see a hint of them at Gamescom 2017 in Germany.  They also state you can expect to see Intel's 7xxx family of chips and the accompanying Z270 and H270 chipsets at CES this January; a reasonable expectation.

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"The new Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors will feature a new LGA 2066 socket and support DDR4 memory. The CPUs will pair with Intel's new X299 chipsets."

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Source: DigiTimes

Watch Dogs 2, in two parts

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amd, gaming, watch dogs 2, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, rx 480x, rx 470

[H]ard|OCP have spent a lot of with Watch Dogs 2 recently, enough to create three articles covering the game of which two are now published.  The first article focuses on performance at ultra settings and finding the highest playable settings that the GPUs they tested were capable of, without installing the high resolution texture pack.  As it turns out, the game is much more graphically demanding than many other recent releases, so much so that only the Titan X and GTX 1080 was able to perform at 4k resolutions, the GTX 1070 and 1060, as well as the RX 480 and 470 only feature at lower resolutions. 

The second article looks at performance with the texture pack installed, which did not have much effect on overall performance but significantly increased VRAM usage.  Even the mighty Titan X struggled with this game, we will need a new generation of GPUs to utilize all the available graphics features available in this game.  The last review will be up soon and will focus on what effect each of the graphical settings have on the visual appearance of the game.

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"Watch Dogs 2 has been released on the PC. We will have a three part evaluation of performance and image quality starting today with performance comparisons. We will also find the highest playable settings for each graphics card and the gameplay experience delivered. Finally, a graphically demanding game."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel just got some competition, Qualcomm's 10nm server chips will launch first

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 06:25 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, centriq, centriq 2400, server

The days when AMD and Intel were the two choices to build a server with are long gone.  The ARM architecture has been making serious inroads as various vendors have begun to offer various solutions utilizing ARM designs, up to and including AMD for that matter.  Today, Qualcomm have joined these ranks, announcing their first processor family designed to power a server.  The Centriq 2400 series is based on a 10nm process node, with up to 48 cores.  As The Inquirer points out, this is a rather impressive shot across Intel's bow as Qualcomm will ship a 10nm FinFET before Intel does.

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"The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series, the first in the Centriq product family that Qualcomm has been working on for four years, has up to 48 ARMv8-compliant cores targeting compute-intensive data centre applications that require power efficiency and is built on the 10nm FinFET manufacturing processor."

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Source: The Inquirer

Fishing for performance improvements? A shallow dive into Intel's desktop Kaby Lake

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2016 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, kaby lake, Intel, 7th generation core

Ryan recently offered a sneak peek at Kaby Lake, which powered two HP Spectre laptops recently sent to PC Perspective for review.  [H]ard|OCP managed to acquire a desktop version of the i7-7700K along with a mysterious unreleased motherboard which supports both Skylake and Kaby Lake architectures.  When testing the two chips in Passmark there was no meaningful performance difference, a pattern repeated in 3D Mark and Sandra.  The performance per clock is not the whole story with this chip, there are new features and possible overclocking improvements but at the moment it does not look like there is a compelling reason to upgrade if you are already on Skylake.  The same is not true if you are using a previous generation.

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"If you are wondering what Intel's new Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake processor's performance will look like when it is launched next month at CES, we have a quick preview for you here today. Just some quick and dirty synthetic benchmark numbers to whet your appetite at 4.5GHz with comparison to the i7-6700K at matched clocks."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Are your Puma powered packets ponderous? A router update should be coming to fix your latency

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 06:50 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Puma, latency, lag

Intel's Puma 6 system on a chip is a popular choice in modem provided by ISPs across the western world and if you have recently upgraded your broadband modem you may have noticed an undesirable side effect.  There is an issue with the chip which is causing bursts of high latency, ruining video streaming and gaming for those affected by the issue.  There is good news, The Register confirmed with Intel that a fix is forthcoming and you should expect your ISP to push out a firmware update soon, hopefully not while you are in the middle of something important.

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"Intel's Puma 6 chipset, used in gigabit broadband modems around the world, suffers from latency jitter so bad it ruins online gaming and other real-time connections."

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Source: The Register

HP Launches Ruggedized Apollo Lake Powered Convertible Tablet For Students

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 07:34 AM |
Tagged: x360, Intel, hp, convertible tablet, apollo lake, 2-in-1

HP recently introduced a new convertible tablet for students. Built to be a bit more ruggedized than the consumer Pavilion model, the new HP ProBook X360 11G Education Edition is an 11” 2-in-1 laptop weighing in at 3.19 pounds, 0.78 inches thick, and designed to pass the MIL-STD 810G specification test with a spill resistant keyboard, shock and minor drop tolerance, and keyboard keys that are difficult to rip off (heh).

HP’s new convertible uses the same 360-degree hinge design as the existing Pavilion x360 notebooks which allows the user to bend the display all the way back so that it can be used as a tablet with the keyboard on the underside. Unlike the older consumer versions though, it appears HP has slightly upgraded things.

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On the outside the notebook is dark gray with black around the display and has a more business aesthetic while keeping the curves of the consumer model. The display is an 11” SVA panel with LED backlighting that is protected by Gorilla Glass 4. There is a 720p front facing webcam above the display and a 1080p camera on the keyboard that can be used while in tablet or tent modes while using the display as a viewfinder. Further, HP managed to cram what looks like a decent sized keyboard sans numpad and a trackpad that supports multi touch gestures 

The display supports both multi touch and digitizer input using the optional Active Pen which is nice to see and a feature I had wanted to see on the Pavilion x360 when i was looking for a replacement for my old convertible (I'm still looking heh).

Along the edges HP has included HDMI 1.4b, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) Type A, one USB Type-C, one 3.5mm audio jack, and a Micro SDXC card slot for expansion.

Internally, the ProBook X360 11G EE is powered by one of two possible Apollo Lake SoCs: a dual core Celeron N3350 running at 1.1GHz and up to 2.4GHz boost and HD Graphics 500 or a quad core Pentium N4200 clocked at 1.1GHz base and up to 2.5GHz with an Intel HD 505 GPU. Regardless of the processor choice, the convertible also includes 8GB of DDR3L-1600 memory and a 64GB eMMC drive that can be upgraded to a 128GB ot 256GB M.2 SSD for better performance. Ditching the 500GB spinning rust drive of the consumer version is a good thing and is likely what helped HP get the ruggedized specifications.

Networking is handled by Intel dual band 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2, and Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet. HP claims up to 11 hours of battery life.

The ProBook X360 11G Education Edition comes with a 3 year warranty and starts at $329 with availability expected in January. Unfortunately, the convertible will initially only be available to educational institutions and HP partners though eventually you should be able to pick one up through a reseller. Another possible wrinkle is that the notebooks come preloaded with HP’s School Pack software which has software for students that lets a teacher do lesson planning, desktop sharing, and a student social network among other things. Of course if your school does not use this platform it is just more pre-installed software taking up resources. On the other hand, they do come with Windows 10 Pro rather than Home so that is something at least.

I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one to see how it feels as it sounds like it is more solidly built than the non education edition version.

 

Source: Tech Report

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Announced on Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 09:43 PM |
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.

LibRetro Vulkanizes PlayStation

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 07:42 PM |
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.

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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.