Valve Announces First Greenlight Approved Games

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2012 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming, greenlight, gaming

Valve announced today that ten of the games submitted to its Greenlight service have been approved. Each of the titles are in various states of development, and will be released on Steam once they are complete. While Valve encountered a minor hiccup when it instituted a $100 (one time per developer) submission fee that goes to the Child’s Play charity to combat an increasing number of joke/spam submissions, it has been overall a very successful program for the company. A number of developers have submitted their games and the community has taken to service and deciding which games are interesting enough to be sold on the Steam Store.

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The first titles to successfully be green-lit are listed below.

Personally, I'm most excited about Black Mesa and Project Zomboid coming to Steam. In the news post on Steam website, Anna Sweet stated that “the Steam community rallied around these titles and made them the clear choice for the first set of titles to launch out of Greenlight.” I am now now eagerly awaiting the Black Mesa download in particular. What about you, did any of the games you voted for make the cut this time around?

Source: Valve

Frictional Games Doesn't Have Too Much Friction over Piracy

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | September 11, 2012 - 02:54 PM |
Tagged: Amnesia, piracy, DRM

Frictional Games, the developers behind the Penumbra and Amnesia franchises, commented on the two years since the release of The Dark Descent through their company blog. Frictional has finally released the development budget for Amnesia which rings in at just $360,000 USD which is less than a tenth of their revenue. They also have not even thought about piracy in over a year: they are paid in sales not piracy figures – and paid they have been.

It is so nice when common sense prevails.

As I have discussed in my “Video Games Do Not Want to Be Art?” column, there are some developer-publishers who find their content intrinsically valuable and aim for long-term steady sales. Frictional Games appears to be one of those companies. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is possibly the most terrifying game in existence without compromising on their highly engaging story.

They also have not even thought about – let alone get frightened of – piracy in over a year.

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Or maybe after making Amnesia these Swedes are not scared by anything lurking in shadows.

There is room for both blockbuster titles as well as enduring content with intrinsic value. Over the course of the last two years Amnesia has sold just shy of 1.4 million units. Amnesia currently – 2 years after its release – sees a steady 10,000 units sold each month excluding bumps in sales due to discounts. This revenue is over ten-fold larger than the $360,000 development budget.

The developer kept the topic of piracy brief with a simple statement:

It has been over a year since we even thought about piracy. With sales as good as above we cannot really see this as an issue worth more than two lines in this post, so screw it.

That is literally all that has been written about piracy.

Whenever I discuss piracy I feel the need to preface my statements with, “The solution is not to condone piracy.” I do not condone piracy nor has Frictional Games. If you wish to acquire a game – pay for it. If you do not wish to acquire a game – ignore it. Still, from the developer or publisher’s point of view, do not concern yourselves with piracy figures. Piracy figures are horrifically inaccurate and – most importantly – not a measurement that pays you one way or the other.

Worry about what will increase your sales – such as adding mod tools or design to sell your product indefinitely – because that will be what puts the roof over your head.

If you lose customers because of your paranoia – companies like Frictional will be there. Good on them.

SeaMicro's new servers might have Intel Inside but the rest is all AMD

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2012 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: seamicro, amd, Intel, xeon, piledriver, smug

To think that only 3 years ago we finally saw the end of the legal battle between Intel and AMD over the x86 patent makes today's news bring a smile to those with a certain sense of humour.  Some of SeaMicro's new servers will be powered by Intel's Xeon line of processors, meaning that an AMD owned company will be offering Intel Inside.  As AMD purchased SeaMicro for their "Freedom" 3D mesh/torus interconnect technology as opposed to an attempt to push Intel out of that particular make of server, this move makes perfect sense as AMD's bottom line will benefit from every sale of an Intel based SeaMicro server.  It also opens up the choices available to the market as you will be able to purchase Piledriver based SeaMicro servers using the same interconnect technology.

From The Register we get more information on the Piledriver processors we will see in these servers, they will have eight cores and would come in three speeds; 2GHz, 2.3GHz, and 2.8GHz.  They also infer that with this design you could have 512 cores and 4TB of memory in a 10U chassis which is enough to make any SETI@Home or Folding@Home team member drool with jealousy.  On the Intel side they will use the 2.5GHz quad core Xeon E3-1265L v2  which means you would only have a mere 256 cores in a similar 10U chassis.  DigiTimes also picked up on this story with more details on the insides of the servers, both Intel and AMD.

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"SeaMicro is not longer an independent company, but you would not have guessed that if you were dropped in from outer space to attend the launch of the new SM15000 microserver in San Francisco on Monday afternoon. Advanced Micro Devices may own SeaMicro, but the company went out of its way to support the latest "Ivy Bridge" Xeon E3-1200 v2 processor from rival Intel as well as its own forthcoming "Piledriver" Opteron processor as new compute nodes in a new SeaMicro chassis."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Live Blog: Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2012 Keynotes

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Processors | September 11, 2012 - 11:52 AM |
Tagged: Intel, idf, idf 2012, keynote

The Intel Developer Forum is one of the best places in the world to get information and insight on the future of technology directly from those that creat it.  Join me as I live blog (Wi-Fi connection dependent as always!) the keynotes from all three days at http://pcper.com/live!!

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Be sure to stop by our PC Perspective Live page at 9am PT on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday!!

CiiNow Engineering Open Cloud Gaming Platform With AMD Radeon Graphics Hardware

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2012 - 10:41 AM |
Tagged: virtualization, radeon, onlive, gaming, cloud gaming, ciinow, amd

In the wake of OnLive going bankrupt and selling itself to new investors, a new cloud gaming company has emerged called CiiNOW. The company was founded in 2010 and now has 24 employees. It has managed to raise more than $13 million USD, but with a new investment from new chip designer AMD CiiNow is ready to go public with its software. Interestingly, instead of starting its own cloud gaming service, CiiNow is positioning itself as a Middleware company by selling its virtualization and gaming software to other companies. Those business customers would then use CiiNow’s software to start their own cloud gaming services.

Ciinow website.jpg

In the deal with AMD, CiiNOW will recommend AMD Radeon graphics cards to customers as well as supporting them on its software platform. According to CiiNow, its virtualized platform is able to run on any data center or cloud computing platform’s hardware. While OnLive generally required specialized servers where the graphics card was dedicated to providing games to one (or a small number of) user(s), CiiNow claims to be able to provide up to eight 720p HD streams per server blade, and up to 272 HD streams per traditional server rack. On the user side of things, CiiNow has stated that gamers would need at least a Mbps internet connection in order to play the streamed games effectively. Company CEO Ron Haberman was quoted by Venture Beat in stating the following:

“One of the big issues with cloud gaming is that no one likes to talk about costs, we are more economical because we virtualize any hardware that fits underneath our software.”

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While the company has not gone into details about how the virtualization software works on off-the-shelf servers, they claim that it is an extremely scalable solution that can support rapidly growing numbers of end users without dramatically increasing hardware costs. It's impossible to say how well cloud gaming services based on this technology will work without more details or a hands on, but it is nice to see someone else take up the mantle from OnLive – especially with competitor Gaikai being bought out by Sony. CiiNow wants its technology to be used to deliver AAA titles to gamers over the Internet, so I'm interested in how they are going to pull that off using varying hardware with CiiNow's software layer running on top (specifically, the performance they will be able to get out of the hardware and how it will be sliced up between clients/gamers).

The company has said that games will not need to be ported to the virtualized software to work, only a DRM free copy from the publisher needs to be provided to load it onto the platform. Further, the cloud gaming provider using CiiNow's software will be able to support game pads and other controllers to interact with the streamed games. CiiNow does not list specific latency numbers on its site, but claims that it is using a low latency H.264 video stream to send the gameplay down to users. It remains to be seen whether or not it will be able to match or exceed NVIDIA's GRID technology in that respect, however.

There are still a lot of questions about how CiiNOW's software will work, and whether it will advance cloud gaming in general. Fortunately, you should be able to get some answers soon as the company's software is now available to the public, and we should start to see some new cloud gaming providers popping up based on the virtualization technology. Reportedly, the company has completed several trial runs in Europe and has potential customers in the US, Korea, and Australia. CiiNow claims that it could take around two months from when a customer orders equipment before its cloud gaming service can go live, so the first fruits of CiiNow's labor might emerge by the end of this year.

There is a preview of a cloud gaming service up on CiiNOW's website, but no partners with plans to launch gaming services have been publicly announced yet. 

In the video below, CiiNOW CEO Ron Haberman introduces the company's new cloud gaming platform.

Continue reading for my speculation and brief thoughts on cloud gaming. Feel free to join the comment discussion (no registration required).

Source: Venture Beat

Valve Releases Big Picture Mode Beta for Steam

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2012 - 09:48 AM |
Tagged: valve, steambox, steam, big picture mode

Valve's popular Steam client has been a PC platform since its inception, but the company is slowing moving to the living room. The first step in that transition is a living room TV-friendly user interface because, as Ryan noted in a recent editorial, the traditional Steam client (especially the text) is not optimized for viewing from far away or on high resolution displays.

Enter the long-rumored and awaited Big Picture Mode. The new user interface is designed to be comfortably used from the couch in the living room, and controllable by keyboard/mouse or a game controller. It has been a long time coming, but is finally official, and available to the public as part of a beta Steam update.

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Still very much a beta product, the Big Picture Mode allows you to do just about everything you can with the "normal" Steam client from your couch (or PC even, if you are into full screen apps). You have access to the Store, your games Library, friends list, downloads, settings, and the Steam browser among other features.

The Store is just what you would expect, a way for you to browse and purchase new games. The interface is sort-of like the Xbox UI in that you scroll through items horizontally rather than vertically like the PS3's cross media bar. The same games that are featured in the slider on the main page are displayed by default on the main Big Picture Mode's Store page.

Steam Big Picture Mode_Store Page.jpg

From there you can also access the New Releases, Special Offers, Genres, and other categories to drill down to the games you want. As an example, if you move down from the featured games and select Genres you get the following screen that allows you see all the games in a specific genre.

Steam Big Picture Mode_Genres.jpg

Once you drill down to an individual game, you are presented with the details page that takes some of the elements from the traditional client and makes them easier to read from further away.

Steam Big Picture Mode_Game Details.jpg

There does not appear to be an option to purchase titles from within Big Picture Mode yet, but I would not be surprised to see it by the time the feature comes out of beta status.

Beyond the store, you can access your own game library, including a list of recently played games and your entire library on a separate page.

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Recently played Steam games. Saints Row: The Third is always fun.

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Your entire games library, most of which I have yet to play...

From there, you can start up your games and get to playing! Alternatively, you can monitor downloads, access your friends list, and browse the web. The friends list shows images of your friends with text underneath with their Steam usernames. You scroll left to right to highlight them, and can interact just as you normally would.

Steam Big Picture Mode_Friends List.jpg

Speaking of friends lists, be sure to join our PC Perspective Steam Group!

The downloads section can be accessed by navigating to the top left corner and selecting the icon to the right of your name. In the downloads screen, you can resume and pause ongoing downloads just like the normal steam client. For some reason, Witcher is stuck in a ever-paused update no matter how many times I hit resume (in the normal client). And Big Picture Mode seems to suffer from the same issue...

Steam Big Picture Mode_Downloads.jpg

The web browser is an improvement over the one in the normal Steam client's overlay in speed and the large mouse cursor should help you navigate around with a controller as easily as possible. I don't foresee web browsing being painless as most sites simply are not designed to work from far away and with controller input, but it seems serviceable for the few times you would need to check something on the web without leaving the Steam client on your living room PC.

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Continue reading to see more Big Picture Mode screenshots!

Source: Valve

Firefox OS Interface as of September 6, 2012

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 09:02 PM |
Tagged: firefox, Firefox OS

Mozilla has released a demonstration of their mobile operating system, Firefox OS. As much as I like Mozilla and their influence on the PC industry I cannot see much reason for this operating system to exist as it stands right now.

We have reported earlier in the year on Mozilla’s push into the mobile and app store market.

Just last week as of the time of this writing we have been given a video walkthrough of current builds for Firefox OS. This is obviously a very early build of the operating system and we have no idea what the developers have planned for the platform in the future. The only position I can speak from is what I can see right now – and that is what I will do.

There’s also the whole issue of tablets…

The operating system as it currently stands looks like it could very well be a custom skin of Android. It is clear that Mozilla has put a substantial amount of work into the backend just because of how complex a mobile operating system fundamentally is. The interface could be little more than placeholder used to develop the fundamentals.

If not then it is somewhat disappointing to me. Mozilla has always had innovative hooks such as tabs or extensions to disrupt incumbent products. Apart from its legally open nature I do not really see anything yet that would differentiate the platform from its peers. Simply put, it looks like Android – and not even the most recent Android.

Hopefully we will begin to see some of the disruptive force Mozilla is known for as this operating system begins to mature. There just has to be a hook somewhere for it to gain any ground especially when it is this late to the game.

Source: Youtube

It's not a tempest in a teacup; it is a Storm in your earcup

Subject: General Tech | September 10, 2012 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: audio, coolermaster, CM Storm, gaming headset, CoolerMaster Storm Sirus, Storm Ceres, Storm Sonuz

Cooler Master's Storm series of headsets have only been around for a few short years but in that time they have greatly expanded their product lineup.  Hi Tech Legion is talking a look at at few of the current models, including the $40 Ceres 400, the $70 Storm Sonuz and the $88 Storm Sirus 5.1.  Each headset has its own characteristics, with different sized drivers, impedance and sensitivities in each of the models which is good for those who know what they are looking for, from the surround of the Sirius to the large bass loving drivers of the Sonuz. See which one took top spot in HTL's ears here.

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"The CM Storm Ceres 400 is a stereo gaming headset carrying an MSRP of $39.99. The Ceres 400 is equipped with 40mm drivers for competitive performance and an integrated noise-canceling microphone for clear chat communication over heavy online firefights. The CM Storm Sonuz on the other hand has a pair of massive 53mm drivers for pulse pounding, bass heavy action and a detachable microphone for ergonomic flexibility retailing for $69.99. Representing the top tier in CM Storm's lineup is the Sirus headset which features true 5.1 surround capability through four independent drivers for the front, center, rear and sub as well as a bundled USB external audio processor which Cooler Master dubs the tactical mixing console, processing independent channels and provides desktop control functions at users' disposal mid-game. All three CM Storm headsets come with a two year warranty and are available worldwide."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Western Digital Hybrid Hard Drives: 5mm 500GB Sampling

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | September 10, 2012 - 05:50 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd caching, ssd, Hard Drive

Western Digital has been sampling 5mm-thin 2.5” hard drives designed for Ultrabooks. They have currently announced partnerships with Acer and ASUS to include these drives in future ultrathin laptops. Western Digital has currently only listed capacities of 500GB for the spindle portion of the drive but no word how much MLC flash will be included to cache most used files. The product will be discussed during the company’s investor day on the 13th of this month.

At this stage SSDs are pretty much the missing link to a fast and responsive computer.

Prices have dropped to under one dollar per gigabyte ($1/GB) a few months ago with some models reaching 70c/GB – and those are the good ones too. The massive drop in price is still about an order of magnitude more expensive than spindle hard drives and consumers are using whatever space they can get. Several solutions exist to balance the speed of SSDs with the storage effectiveness of HDDs.

One solution is to include both in a single drive and keep the most used data in the SSD cache. Western Digital has just released samples of 5mm-thin hybrid hard drives for OEMs to put in extremely thin laptops.

I wonder if they're feeling chip-er...

Users who purchase laptops often have the mistaken assumption that a faster processor directly leads to increased response. That is certainly the case when comparing an Intel Atom to an i5 – but an i3 will probably spend just as much time idle and awaiting instructions from the hard drive as an i5 would.

Western Digital has not broken the SSD market despite their long success with spindle storage. It makes sense that Western Digital will push into the market with the starting point from which they are most comfortable. Western Digital has been shipping SSDs for over two-and-a-half years at this point but never really gained any traction.

It looks like Western Digital is realizing that they need to mix SSDs with what they know best and do something innovative to get a unique hook in the market – buying just a little more time.

The drive which has been announced today will contain a storage capacity of 500GB with an undisclosed amount of MLC NAND flash memory caching the most used data. The hook to differentiate themselves from other hybrid hard drives is its size: 5mm compared to the more common 9.5mm.

The Ultrabook market could be a lucrative wave to ride for the time being and give them even more capital to invest future SSDs. Hopefully they will not wait for solid state storage to creep up on them twice. Fool you once…

Western Digital is expected to discuss and showcase this product more at their Western Digital Investor Day on this Thursday, September 13th, 2012.

You won't be able to blame TSMC or GF for any shortage of Win8 devices

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: surface, win8, winRT, touch screen

DigiTimes foresees supply problems with Windows 8 mobile devices but for once it is not the fault of the CPU/GPU manufacturers.  Instead it is the feature which makes Win8 on mobile devices so much more attractive that previous versions of Microsoft's mobile OS, the Achilles heel could be the touchscreen manufacturers.  Shipping millions of new touchscreen laptops and tablets could lead to availability problems with the industry already spread among so many current touchscreen products.  Even if the supply holds up there are also concerns about demand as a touchscreen device will cost more than an equivalent laptop without a touchscreen, something that DigiTimes' sources are concerned about.

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"Windows 8-based notebook shipments are expected to start increasing in September as the launch date of the operating system approaches, but because most orders are scheduled for shipping in September and October, sources from the upstream supply chain are concerned that related supply chain players will face great challenges in terms of capacity management and production smoothness."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: DigiTimes