A win for the rebels against EA's Empire

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2017 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: gaming, ea, Star Wars Battlefront 2

Loot boxes may look good on paper as a way to generate extra revenue from a game but in reality they are incredibly unpopular with those who buy games.  Originally EA had set the price of unlocking your first playable hero at 60,000 in game credits.  According to the math done in the article Slashdot linked to, that would entail around 40 hours of gameplay assuming you never used any for the various other unlocks EA charges credits for.  As EA limits the amount of credits you can earn at one time in arcade mode, most of those hours would need to be spent in multiplayer games as opposed to enjoying the game in peace and quiet.  Of course, you could always pay money for them, $450 or so would unlock a hero.

In this case EA actually listened to their prospective customers, dropping the credit requirements for heroes by 75%; the loot boxes remain of course.

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"Most importantly, Electronic Arts today announced that they are reducing the number of credits needed to unlock top characters in the game by 75 percent. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader will now cost 15,000 credits. Emperor Palatine, Chewbacca and Leia Organa will now cost 10,000 and Iden will cost 5,000."

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Source: Slashdot
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Iceberg Interactive

A quiet facade

Iceberg Interactive, whom you may know from games like Killing Floor or the Stardrive series have released a new strategy game called Oriental Empires, and happened to send me a copy to try out.

On initial inspection it resembles recent Civilization games but with a more focused design as you take on a tribe in ancient China and attempt to become Emperor, or at least make your neighbours sorry that they ever met you.  Until you have been through 120 turns of the Grand Campaign you cannot access many of the tribes; not a bad thing as that first game is your tutorial.  Apart from an advisor popping up during turns or events, the game does not hold your hand and instead lets you figure out the game on your own.

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That minimalist ideal is featured throughout the entire game, offering one of the cleanest interfaces I've seen in a game.  All of the information you need to maintain and grow your empire is contained in a tiny percentage of the screen or in a handful of in game menus.  This plays well as the terrain and look of the campaign map is quite striking and varies noticeably with the season.

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Spring features cherry blossom trees as well as the occasional flooding.

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Summer is a busy season for your workers and perhaps your armies.

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Fall colours indicate the coming of winter and snow.

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Which also shrouds the peaks in fog.  The atmosphere thus created is quite relaxing, somewhat at odds with many 4X games and perhaps the most interesting thing about this game.

In these screenshots you can see the entire GUI that gives you the information you need to play.  The upper right shows your turn, income and occaisonally a helpful advsor offering suggestions.  Below that you will find a banner that toggles between displaying three lists.  The first is of your cites and their current build queues and population information, the second lists your armies compositions and if they currently have any orders while the last displays any events which effect your burgeoning empire.  The bottom shows your leader and his authority which, among other things, indicates the number of cities you can support without expecting quickly increasing unrest. 

The right hand side lets you bring up the only other five menus which you use in this game.  From top to bottom they offer you diplomacy, technology, Imperial edicts you can or have applied to your Empire, player statistics to let you know how you are faring and the last offering detailed statistics of your empire and those competing tribes you have met.

Next, a bit about the gameplay mechanics.

Speed Metal on the Desktop

Subject: General Tech | November 13, 2017 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: 3d printing, metal, Desktop Metal

Desktop Metal's new printer follows the same design process as current 3D metal printing, layers of metal powder, wax and a plastic binding agent are sprayed out by an inkjet-like device.  Upon completion of the print, the item is submerged in a debinding fluid which disolves the wax and then spends some time in a furnace to burn off the binding agent and set the powder leaving the final product between 96 and 99.8% metal.  This process is currently handled much more quickly via traditional tool and die, however Desktop Metal told The Register their new printer operates at 100 times the speed of the competition and at a very competitive price to either tool and die or 3D printing.  It will be interesting to see if this applies to a wide enough variety of prints and provides high enough quality to unseat the incumbent processes.

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"Desktop Metal, based in Boston, USA, has opened up pre-orders for its Studio System which uses inkjet-like technology, rather than laser-based techniques, to produce precision metal parts."

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Source: The Register
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: YouTube

YouTube TV for NVIDIA SHIELD

When YouTube TV first launched earlier this year, it had one huge factor in its favor compared to competing subscription streaming services: local channels. The service wasn't available everywhere, but in the markets where it was available, users were able to receive all of their major local networks. This factor, combined with its relatively low subscription price of $35 per month, immediately made YouTube TV one of the best streaming options, but it also had a downside: device support.

At launch YouTube TV was only available via the Chrome browser, iOS and Android, and newer Chromecast devices. There were no native apps for popular media devices like the Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV. But perhaps the most surprising omission was support for Android TV via devices like the NVIDIA SHIELD. Most of the PC Perspective staff personally use the SHIELD due to its raw power and capabilities, and the lack of YouTube TV support on Google's own media platform was disappointing.

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Thankfully, Google recently addressed this omission and has finally brought a native YouTube TV app to the SHIELD with the SHIELD TV 6.1 Update.

Check out our overview of the YouTube TV on SHIELD experience.

Podcast #475 - Intel with AMD graphics, Raja's move to Intel, and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2017 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: video, titan xp, teleport, starcraft 2, raja koduri, radeon, qualcomm, podcast, nvidia, Intel, centriq, amplifi, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #475 - 11/09/17

Join us for discussion on Intel with AMD graphics, Raja's move to Intel, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Jim Tanous

Program length: 1:29:42

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:35:30 CASPER
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. 1:13:40 Allyn: Relatively cheap Samsung 82” (!!!) 4K TV
    2. 1:23:45 Josh: 1800X for $399!!!!!
    3. 1:24:50 Ken: The Void Wallet
  5. Closing/outro

Source:

Rumor: Hades Canyon NUC with AMD Graphics Spotted

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 9, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: Skull Canyon, nuc, kaby lake-g, Intel, Hades Canyon VR, Hades Canyon, EMIL, amd

Hot on the heels of Intel's announcement of new mobile-focused CPUs integrating AMD Radeon graphics, we have our first glimpse at a real-world design using this new chip.

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Posted on the infamous Chinese tech forum, Chiphell earlier today, this photo appears to be a small form factor PC design integrating the new Kaby Lake-G CPU and GPU solution.

Looking at the standard size components on the board like the Samsung M.2 SSD and the DDR4 SODIMM memory modules, we can start to get a better idea of the actual size of the Kaby Lake-G module.

Additionally, we get our first look at the type of power delivery infrastructure that devices with Kaby Lake-G are going to require. It's impressive how small the motherboard is taking into account all of the power phases needed to feed the CPU, GPU, and HBM 2 memory. 

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Looking back at the leaked NUC roadmap from September, the picture starts to become more clear. While the "Hades Canyon" NUCs on this roadmap threw us for a loop when we first saw it months ago, it's now clear that they are referencing the new Kaby Lake-G line of products. The plethora of IO options from the roadmap, including dual Gigabit Ethernet and 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports also seem to match closely with the leaked NUC photo above.

Using this information we also now have a better idea of the thermal and power requirements for Kaby Lake-G. The base "Hades Canyon" NUC is listed with a 65W processor, while the "Hades Canyon VR" is listed with as a 100W part. This means that devices retain the same levels of CPU performance from the existing Kaby Lake-H Quad Core mobile CPUs which clock in at 35W, plus roughly 30 or 65W of graphics performance.

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These leaked 3DMark scores might give us an idea of the performance of the Hades Canyon VR NUC.

One thing is clear; Hades Canyon will be the highest power NUC Intel has ever produced, surpassing the 45W Skull Canyon. Considering the already unusual for a NUC footprint of Skull Canyon, I'm interested to see the final form of Hades Canyon as well as the performance it brings! 

With what looks to be a first half  2018 release date on the roadmap, it seems likely that we could see this NUC or other similar devices being shown off at CES in January. Stay tuned for more continuing coverage of Intel's Kaby Lake-G and upcoming devices featuring it!

Source: Chiphell

A walrus on virtual rollerskates

Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2017 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: hyneman, roller skates, VR, Vortrex Shoes

Jamie Hyneman is pitching a project to build prototype VR roller skates; not as a game but as a way to save your shins while using a VR headset.  The design places motorized wheels under your heel and a track under the ball of your foot which will move your foot back to its starting position if you walk forward.  If all goes as planned this should allow you to walk around in virtual worlds without running into walls, chairs or spectators and perhaps allow games to abandon the point and teleport currently in vogue.  There are a lot of challenges as previous projects have discovered but perhaps a Mythbuster can help out.  You can watch his pitch video over at The Register.

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"Hyneman's pitch video points out that when one straps on goggles and gloves to enter virtual reality, your eyes are occupied and you therefore run the risk of bumping into stuff if you try to walk in meatspa ce while simulating walking in a virtual world. And bumping into stuff is dangerous."

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Source: The Register

What is the best GPU to beat Nazis with?

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2017 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Wolfenstein 2, the new colossus, nvidia, amd, vulkan

Wolfenstein II The New Colossus uses the Vulkan API which could favour AMD's offerings however NVIDIA have vastly improved their support so a win is not guaranteed.  The Guru of 3D tested the three resolutions which most people are interested in, 1080p, 1440p and 4K on 20 different GPUs in total.  They also took a look at the impact of 4-core versus 8-core CPUs, testing the i7-4790K, i7-5960K as well as the Ryzen 7 1800X and even explored the amount of VRAM the game uses.  Drop by to see all their results as well as hints on dealing with the current bugs.

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"We'll have a peek at the PC release of Wolfenstein II The New Colossus for Windows relative towards graphics card performance. The game is 100% driven by the Vulkan API. in this test twenty graphics cards are being tested and benchmarked."

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Source: Guru of 3D

A disHarmonious sound has arisen from Logitech's customers

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2017 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: logitech, iot, harmony link

If you own a Logitech Harmony Link and registered it then you already know, but for those who did not receive the email you should know your device will become unusable in March.  According to the information Ars Technica acquired, Logitech have decided not to renew a so called "technology certificate license" which will mean the Link will no longer work.  It is not clear what this certificate is nor why the lack of it will brick the Link but that is what will happen.  Apparently if you have a Harmony Link which is still under warranty you can get a free upgrade to a Harmony Hub; if your Link is out of warranty then you can get a 35% discount.  Why exactly one would want to purchase another one of these devices which can be remotely destroyed is an interesting question, especially as there was no monthly contract or service agreement suggesting this was a possibility when customers originally purchased their device.

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"Customers received an e-mail explaining that Logitech will "discontinue service and support" for the Harmony Link as of March 16, 2018, adding that Harmony Link devices "will no longer function after this date."

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Source: Ars Technica

Sir, place the turtle on the ground and back away slowly

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2017 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: machine learning, ai

Not to be out done by the research conducted by Japan's Kyushu University which led to the frog is not truck portion of lasts weeks podcast, MIT researchers have also been tormenting image recognition software.  Their findings were a little more worrisome, as a 3D printed turtle was identified as a rifle which could lead to some very bad situations in airports or other secure locations.  In this case, instead of adding a few pixels to the image, they introduced different angles and lighting conditions which created enough noise to completely fool Google's image recognition AI, Inception.  The printed turtle was misidentified because of a the texture which they chose, showing that this issue extends beyond photos to include physical objects.  Pop by The Register for more details as well as an ingredient you never want to see on your toast.

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"Students at MIT in the US claim they have developed an algorithm for creating 3D objects and pictures that trick image-recognition systems into severely misidentifying them. Think toy turtles labeled rifles, and baseballs as cups of coffee."

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Source: The Register