GDC 12: The bigger big picture, Steam Box to be announced?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | March 3, 2012 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, steam, GDC 12

It is rumored that Valve will announce a Steam hardware platform as early as GDC next week although that could be pushed back as late as E3 in June.

Steam has grown atop the PC platform and consists of over 40 million active user accounts. For perspective, the Xbox 360 has sold 65.8 million units to date and that includes units sold to users whose older Xbox 360s died and they did not go the cardboard coffin route. Of course the study does not account for the level of hardware performance each user can utilize although Valve does keep regular surveys of that.

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A console with admined dedicated servers to kick the teabagging and griefing Steam punks.

Within the last couple of years, Valve has been popping in to news seemingly out of the blue. Allow me to draw your attention to three main events.

At the last GDC, Valve announced “The Big Picture” mode for their Steam software. The Big Picture is an interface for Steam which is friendly to users seated on a couch several feet away from a large screen TV. While “The Big Picture” has yet to be released it does set the stage for a great Home Theatre PC user interface for PC games as well as potentially other media.

SteamController.png

I must admit, that controller does not look the most ergonomic... but it is just a patent filing.

Last year, Valve also filed a patent with the US Patent Office for a video game controller with user swappable control components. Their patent filings show a controller which looks quite similar to an Xbox 360 controller where the thumbsticks can be replaced with touch pads as well as a trackball and potentially other devices. Return of Missile Command anyone?

Also a little over two years ago, Valve announced a partnership with Razer for their Sixense high-precision motion controllers. It is possible that Valve was supporting this technology for this future all along. While motion controllers have not proven to be successful for gaming, they are accepted as a method to control a device. Perhaps The Big Picture will be optimized to support Sixense and compatible devices?

The Verge goes beyond their claims that Valve will announce The Steam Box and has included specifications for a closed-doors prototype of the system. The system was rumored to be used to present to partners at CES contained an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU.

SteamHW.png

You know if Microsoft had focused on Media Center for gaming rather than the Xbox...

It is very unclear whether Valve will attempt to take a loss on the platform in hopes to make it back up in Steam commissions. It is possible that Valve will just push the platform to OEM partners, but it is possible that they will release and market their own canon device.

I am interested to see how Valve will push the Home Theatre PC market. The main disadvantage that the PC platform has at the moment is simply marketing and development money. It is also possible that they wish to expand out and support other media through their Steam service as well.

At the very least, we should have a viable Home Theatre PC user interface as well as sharp lines between hardware profiles. A developer on the PC would love to know the exact number of potential users they should expect if they were to support a certain hardware configuration. Valve was always keen on supplying hardware profile statistics, and this is certainly a harsh evolution of that.

Source: The Verge

Another win for AMD and their non-standard product marketing

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2012 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: amd, playstation 4

AMD, NVIDIA and Intel have all been going after business that you might never have associated with them in the past.   Cellphones, high powered computing and system on a chip are all areas in which they are developing products and doing so successfully.  AMD has a double win to announce this morning as they are not only going to be providing the silicon for the graphics on the PS4 but will also be providing the GPU.  SemiAccurate goes into the details of what this chip ... or chips ... might be like as Sony has a history of designing very unique systems but have definitely soured on the Cell architecture.

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"Yes, you heard that right, multiple sources have been telling SemiAccurate for some time that AMD won not just the GPU as many are suggesting, but the CPU as well. Sony will almost assuredly use an x86 CPU for the PS4, and after Cell in the PS3, can you really blame them? While this may point to a very Fusion/Llano-like architecture we hear that is only the beginning."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Battle of the Mechses: Hawken vs. Mechwarrior Online?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 2, 2012 - 02:26 AM |
Tagged: Mechwarrior, Hawken, free to play

The mech combat genre has been mostly forgotten if you exclude the arcade-style and completely not-the-same-niche Mechassault or Gundam titles. While the occasional title does exist, the itch has not been scratched for fans of Mechwarrior. You could check out Mechwarrior: Living Legends because the PC platform is awesome -- but there is also a commercial war a brewing out of the blue between Hawken and Mechwarrior Online.

Hawken is an Unreal Engine 3-powered Free-to-Play mech combat title. From its promotional material it appears to be paced slightly quicker than a Mechwarrior game. The universe is not based on a preexisting franchise. Closed beta signups are occurring now and the full game should be released on December 12th.

Mechwarrior Online is another Free-to-Play mech combat title based on CryEngine 3. When the game is launched sometime this year, the universe will launch as that date in 3049. The game calendar will then be synchronized to our calendar for its lifespan. Speculation claims that the voice-over artist for the mech startup sequence is Carole Ruggier known for voice of Athena in the God of War franchise -- oh and she played the voice of the mech startup sequence in Mechwarrior 2 back in 1995. I have not been able to confirm these rumors but if they are true: they certainly nod to the fans.

Which are you most excited for? Hawken? Mechwarrior Online? Or are you going to stick with the perpetually free Mechwarrior Living Legends? Discuss away.

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Microsoft

Introduction

Microsoft's juggernaut Windows operating system powers on with the company preparing Windows 7's successor in Windows 8. The new operating system (OS) was first released for public consumption during the last BUILD conference in the form of a "Developer Preview." This release was mainly intended for software developers to start to get a feel for the OS and its new features, but many consumers and technology enthusiasts also took a peek at the OS to get an idea of where MS was going with its next OS.

Coinciding with Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012, Microsoft released the next iteration of the in progress OS, and this time it is aimed at getting consumer feedback. The aptly named Consumer Preview build is now available for download by anyone interested.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Desktop

The question many consumers and enthusiasts are likely asking; however, is what to do with the MS provided ISO, and what the safest and easiest method for testing the beta operating system is. One appropriate answer, and the method covered in this guide, is to use a virtual machine program to test the Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a VM without needing to muck with or worry about effecting your existing system or settings. Installing to bare hardware will always be faster, but if you upgrade to Windows 8 CP from Windows 7, you will not be able to go back once the beta period is over. By installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a virtual machine will allow you to test out the operating system in a secure environment, and if you have a recent machine with at least 4 GB of RAM, performance of the OS should be sufficient to get an idea of the new OS and whether you want to pursue a bare hardware full install.

I expect that many users are going to be curious about the new build as the Windows 8 OS has ignited several heated debates among enthusiasts concerning the direction Microsoft is going. The new Metro interface, removal of Start Menu, and the overhauled Windows logo are three of the major concerns users have raised, for example.

The specific program in question that we will be using is Oracle's VirtualBox software, which is a free VM host that is very easy to setup and use. Another alternative is VMWare, and the setup process will be very similar (though the exact steps and settings will differ slightly). This guide will show you how to go from the Windows 8 ISO to a fully functional installation inside a VirtualBox virtual machine. If you are familiar with setting up a new VirtualBox VM, you can safely skip those steps. I felt it prudent to go through the entire process; however, for those new to VirtualBox that wish to try out the new Microsoft OS.

Let's begin.

Continue reading our guide on installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a Virtual Machine!!

Ubisoft announces dropping DRM from Rayman Origins PC

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 1, 2012 - 08:10 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, piracy, DRM

Ubisoft has been known to aggravate their fan base on the PC. Several off-hand comments have been made which claim that most PC users of their titles do so without paying. Ubisoft attempted to mitigate this alleged problem by aggravating their legitimate customers with progressively more annoying DRM and embargoing the PC platform.

Ubisoft’s sales have suffered massively as a result of these initiatives including a drop of 90 percent with the decline attributed to their in-house DRM. Despite their claims that their DRM was a success, Ubisoft is dropping DRM from their Rayman Origins PC release later this month.

drmsucks.jpg

DRM Sucks.

The Steam product page originally made no claims about 3rd Party DRM earlier this week which led to questions about whether Rayman Origins would be free of DRM outside of Steamworks. Those questions were answered when the product page was updated to directly state No 3rd Party DRM. The typical convention is that no mention of 3rd Party DRM implies that there exists no 3rd party DRM on the title. Whoever updated the product page, however, probably believes that some clarity is necessary with Ubisoft’s track record.

While I give credit to Ubisoft for trusting in their customers, Rayman Origins has been quite delayed from its counterparts on other platforms. I hope that sales of Rayman Origins for the PC are quite good and show Ubisoft that their customers are always right whether they believe they are paying or not.

Source: Steam Store

SeaMicro spurns Atom and cleaves to AMD

Subject: General Tech | March 1, 2012 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: amd, seamicro, interconnect, purchase, HPC

There is more movement in the low power server market as AMD purchased SeaMicro for $334 million, an investment that may help them keep their share of the server market.  You might have thought that a company that arrived on the scene with a server based on 512 single core Atoms would either stick with Intel or even consider ARM but instead it was AMD which grabbed them.   It is an important move for AMD to retain competitiveness against Intel considering Intel's purchase of QLogic and its InfiniBand interconnect technology which could lead to entirely new server architecture.  Using SeaMicro's experience of connecting a large amount of individually weak processors into a powerful server AMD will be able to develop the SoC business that they have been pursuing for quite a while now.   Check out the full story at The Inquirer.

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"AMD's new CEO Rory Read was fired up about executing better in the server racket at the company's analyst day earlier this month and has wasted little time in stirring things up with the acquisition of low-power server start-up SeaMicro for $334m."

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Source: The Register

Blizzard Letting 600 Employees Go

Subject: General Tech | February 29, 2012 - 09:53 PM |
Tagged: gaming, business, blizzard

Blizzard recently announced that they analyzed their current business needs and have decided to perform a global reduction of their workforce to streamline operations. The bad news upfront is that this reduction in workforce entails the company letting go approximately 600 employees worldwide. They have stated that the majority of departments being cut are not related to the game development divisions

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More specifically, they stated that 90% of the employee reductions will be from departments not related to game development. Also, they noted that the World of Warcraft (WoW) development team "will not be impacted." Blizzard believes that the cuts were a necessary part of decisions relating to a company with changing needs in an ever evolving industry. CEO and co-founder Mike Morhaime, stated that they are proud of the contributions those effected by the announcement have made for Blizzard and they "wish them well as they move forward."

Job cuts are never an easy decision, especially for the employees. I wish them all the best of luck in continuing their careers and other future endeavors.

Source: VG24/7

Podcast #191 - ASUS AMD GPU Roundup, IMFT Flash, and tons of news from MWC!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 29, 2012 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: vengeance, tegra, podcast, nvidia, MWC, Intel, corsair, asus, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #191 - 02/29/2012

Join us this week as we talk about our ASUS AMD GPU Roundup, IMFT Flash, and tons of news from MWC!

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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malvantano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:05:06

Program Schedule: 

  1. 0:00:32 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:38 Contest Reminder - http://pcper.com/contest
  6. 0:03:35 SilverStone TJ08-E Micro-ATX Tower Enclosure Review
  7. 0:05:00 Asus DirectCU and DirectCU II for AMD: 6850, 6870, 6950, and 6970 Boards Under the Microscope
  8. 0:16:15 AMD Updates the FX Line: Some Thoughts on Future Moves for AMD
  9. 0:22:55 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  10. 0:23:45 Intel Ivy Bridge delay is confirmed essentially
  11. 0:27:30 GPU sales look a little down in the month
  12. 0:31:13 Could this new research lead to light speed RAM?
  13. 0:33:45 Just Delivered: Corsair Vengeance K90, K60, M90, M60 Keyboards and Mice
  14. 0:36:30 Intel / Micron Flash Technology Venture Expands, Micron Assumes Two Plants
  15. 0:40:30 Qualcomm Shipped Most Smartphone and Tablet GPUs in 2011
  16. 0:42:20 MWC 12: Samsung to compete with Tegra on quad-core CPU
  17. 0:45:20 MWC 12: Huawei enters the mobile SoC world with quad-core K3V2
  18. 0:47:00 Nokia World's Largest Windows Phone OS Smartphone Vendor in Q4 2011
  19. 0:49:00 MWC 12: Intel branded, Atom-powered smartphone to be sold by Orange
  20. 0:51:30 MWC 12: ASUS Unveils Infinity Tablets, Dockable Smartphone
  21. 0:55:00 MWC 12: Lots of industry support for NVIDIA DirectTouch
  22. 0:56:55 MWC 12: NVIDIA Roadmap Outlines Tegra's Future Including 4G and Die Shrink
  23. Contest Reminder - http://pcper.com/contest
  24. 1:00:00 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: A phone that shows pictures of hotels
    2. Jeremy: Audio steganography
    1. Josh: If you do wanna go AMD... cheaply
    2. Allyn: CircuitLab
  25. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  26. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  27. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  28. Closing

Source:

No you can't be a Syndicate on your own, you need partners

Subject: General Tech | February 29, 2012 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: ea, gaming, syndicate, co-op

If Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN makes allusions to a My Little Pony game being more like Syndicate than the new FPS version recently released then you know there is a problem.  The single player has changed from a top down view of a living city in which you go about nefariously manipulating circumstances to put your Syndicate at the top of the pile you are now a grunt running and gunning and fighting boss battles.  The review was not entirely negative once they tried the co-op mode which allows up to four friends to take on the AI on maps which are won by fulfilling mission objectives as well as slaughtering your opponents.  Bonus points for basing these maps on themes recognizable from the original versions of the game.  

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"They’re not entirely wrong, though it depends on the My Little Pony game. If it was squad-based game set in large, civilian-packed environments and documented a turf war between Ponies (presumably fought by throwing berries at each other or offering stern lessons on treating people nicely), it would certainly be a lot more like Syndicate than a first-person shooter with gigantic guns, infuriating boss fights, an underbaked psychic-hacking mechanic and a plot cobbled unegagingly together from over-familiar bits of The Bourne Identity, The Matrix, Robocop and Half-Life 2."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Grab the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 while it's still hot

Subject: General Tech | February 29, 2012 - 11:59 AM |
Tagged: win8, Metro

[H]ard|OCP has a direct link to the shiny new Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which weighs in at 3.3GB for the 64-bit and 2.5GB for the 32-bit.  From testing that their forum members have been doing we know that VMWare is not fond of this release either, just like the developer preview.  The Start button is indeed gone and the war it will trigger has just begun.   ExtremeTech noticed that you can upgrade the Developer to the Consumer and preserve your settings and files however if you do an update from Win7 be advised that there is no going back.  See their preview here.

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Last chance to see?

"Windows 8 Consumer Preview is prerelease software that may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here. Some product features and functionality may require additional hardware or software."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: [H]ard|OCP