New NVIDIA SHIELD TV SKU: 16GB with Remote for $179

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 10:29 PM |
Tagged: SHIELD TV, pc gaming, nvidia

NVIDIA is adding a third SKU to their SHIELD TV line-up, shaving $20 off the price tag by including just a media remote, rather than the current low-end SKU’s media remote and a gamepad. This makes the line-up: SHIELD (16GB, Remote Only) for $179.00, SHIELD (16GB, Remote + Gamepad) for $199.99, and SHIELD PRO (500GB, Remote + Gamepad) for $299.99.

All SKUs come with MSI levels of uppercase brand names.

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This version is for those who are intending to use the device as a 4K media player. If you are not interested in gaming, then that’s $20 in your pocket instead of a controller that you will never use on your shelf. If, however, you want to game in the future, then the first-party SHIELD CONTROLLER is $59.99 USD, so buying the bundle with the gamepad now will save you about $30. That leaves a little bit to think about, but the choice can now be made.

The new bundle is now available for pre-order, and it ships on October 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview Published to Epic Launcher

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: ue4, epic games, pc gaming

Epic Games has released a preview build of Unreal Engine 4.18. This basically sets a bar for shipped features, giving them a bit of time to crush bugs before they recommend developers use it for active projects. This version has quite a few big changes, especially in terms of audio and video media.

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WebAssembly is now enabled by default for HTML5.

First, we’ll discuss platform support. As you would expect, iOS 11 and XCode 9 are now supported, and A10 processors can use the same forward renderer that was added to UE4 for desktop VR, as seen in Robo Recall. That’s cool and all, but only for Apple. For the rest of us, WebAssembler (WASM) is now enabled by default for HTML5 projects. WASM is LLVM bytecode that can be directly ingested by web browsers. In other words, you can program in C++ and have web browsers execute it, and do so without transpiling to some form of JavaScript. (Speaking of which, ASM.js is now removed from UE4.) The current implementation is still single-threaded, but browser vendors are working on adding multi-threading to WASM.

As for the cool features: Epic is putting a lot of effort in their media framework. This allows for a wider variety of audio and video types (sample rates, sample depths, and so forth) as well as, apparently, more control over timing and playback, including through Blueprints visual scripting (although you could have always made your own Blueprint node anyway). If you’re testing out Unreal Engine 4.18, Epic Games asks that you pay extra attention to this category, reporting any bugs that you find.

Epic has also improved their lighting engine, particularly when using the Skylight lighting object. They also say that Volumetric Lightmaps are also, now, enabled by default. This basically allows dynamic objects to move through a voxel-style grid of lighting values that are baked in the engine, which adds indirect lighting on them without a full run-time GI solution.

The last thing I’ll mention (although there’s a bunch of cool things, including updates to their audio engine and the ability to reference Actors in different levels) is their physics improvements. Their Physics Asset Editor has been reskinned, and the physics engine has been modified. For instance, APEX Destruction has been pulled out of the core engine into a plug-in, and the cloth simulation tools, in the skeletal mesh editor, are no longer experimental.

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview can be downloaded from the Epic Launcher, but existing projects should be actively developed in 4.17 for a little while longer.

Source: Epic Games

Crytek Releases CRYENGINE 5.4

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, crytek

The latest version of CRYENGINE, 5.4, makes several notable improvements. Starting with the most interesting one for our readers: Vulkan has been added at the beta support level. It’s always good to have yet another engine jump in with this graphics API so developers can target it without doing the heavy lifting on their own, and without otherwise limiting their choices.

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More interesting, at least from a developer standpoint, is that CRYENGINE is evolving into an Entity Component framework. Amazon is doing the same with their Lumberyard fork, but Crytek has now announced that they are doing something similar on their side, too. The idea is that you place relatively blank objects in your level and build them up by adding components, which attaches the data and logic that this object needs. This system proved to be popular with the success of Unity, and it can also be quite fast, too, depending on how the back-end handles it.

I also want to highlight their integration of Allegorithmic Substance. With game engines switching to a PBR-based rendering model, tools can make it easier to texture 3D objects by stenciling on materials from a library. That way, you don’t need to think how gold will behave, just that gold should be here, and rusty iron should be over there. All of the major engines are doing it, and Crytek, themselves, have been using Substance, but now there’s an actual, supported workflow.

CryEngine is essentially free, including royalty-free, to use. Their business model currently involves subscriptions for webinars and priority support.

Source: Crytek

Amazon Web Services Discuss Lumberyard Roadmap

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, amazon

Lumberyard has been out for a little over a year and a half, and it has been experiencing steady development since then. Just recently, they published a blog post highlighting where they want the game engine to go. Pretty much none of this information is new if you’ve been following them, but it’s still interesting none-the-less.

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From a high level, Amazon has been progressing their fork of CryEngine into more of a component-entity system. The concept is similar to Unity, in that you place objects in the level, then add components to them to give them the data and logic that you require. Currently, these components are mostly done in Lua and C++, but Amazon is working on a visual scripting system, like Blueprints from Unreal Engine 4, called Script Canvas. They technically inherited Flow Graph from Crytek, which I think is still technically in there, but they’ve been telling people to stop using it for a while now. I mean, this blog post explicitly states that they don’t intend to support migrating from Flow Graph to Script Canvas, so it’s a “don’t use it unless you need to ship real soon” sort of thing.

One of Lumberyard’s draws, however, is their license: free, but you can’t use this technology on any cloud hosting provider except AWS. So if you make an offline title, or you use your own servers, then you don’t need to pay Amazon a dime. That said, if you do something like leaderboards, persistent logins, or use cloud-hosted multiplayer, then you will need to do it through AWS, which, honestly, you were probably going to do anyway.

The current version is Lumberyard Beta 1.10. No release date has been set for 1.11, although they usually don’t say a word until it’s published.

Source: Amazon

Unity 2017.2.0f1 Released

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity

While it’s not technically released yet, Unity has flipped the naming scheme of Unity 2017.2 to Unity 2017.2.0f1. The “f” stands for final, so we will probably see a blog post on it soon. This version has a handful of back-end changes, such as improved main-thread performance when issuing commands to graphics APIs, but the visible changes are mostly in two areas: XR (VR + AR) and baked lighting.

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From the XR standpoint, a few additions stand out. First, this version now supports Google Tango and Windows Mixed Reality, the latter of which is tied to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so it makes sense that Unity would have support in the version before that gets released (October 17th). In terms of features, the editor now supports emulating a Vive headset, so you can test some VR elements without having a headset. I expect this will mostly be good for those who want to do a bit of development in places where they don’t have access to their headset, although that’s blind speculation from my standpoint.

The other area that got a boost is baked global illumination. Unity started introducing their new Progressive Lightmapping feature in Unity 5.6, and it bakes lighting into the scenes in the background as you work. This update allows you to turn shadows on and off on a per-object basis, and it supports double-sided materials. You cannot have independent lighting calculations for the front and back of a triangle... if you want that, then you will need to give some volume to your models. This is mostly for situations like the edge of a level, so you don’t need to create a second wall facing away from the playable area to block light coming in from outside the playable area.

I’m not sure when the official release is, but it looks like the final, supported build is out now.

Source: Unity

Still no good news on the DRAM front

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2017 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, Samsung, SK Hynix, micron

The change process technology continues to have a negative effect on DRAM supplies and according to the story posted on Electronics Weekly there is no good news in sight.  The three major vendors, Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron are all slowing production as a result of new fabs being built and existing production lines upgraded for new process technology such as EUV.  This will ensure that prices continue to slowly creep up over the remainder of this year and likely into 2018.  Drop by for more information on the challenges each are facing.

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"While overall DRAM demand will remain high in 2018, new fabs being planned will not be ready for mass production until 2019 at the earliest."

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Podcast #468 - AMD Raven Ridge rumors, Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2017 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: z270, windows 10, WD, video, toshiba, ShadowPlay, ryzen, podcast, nvidia, nuc, msi, max-q, Intel, gs63vr, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, gigabyte, EPYC, ansel, 2500U, 12TB

PC Perspective Podcast #468 - 09/21/17

Join us for discussion on AMD Raven Ridge rumors,  Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!

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: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Sebastion Peak, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:39:59

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Source:

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Technical Conference Releases

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 09:44 PM |
Tagged: GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, FD-SOI, 12nm, 14nm, 14nm+, 22FDX, 28FDX, 12FDX, amd, Vega, ryzen

The day after Intel had its Technology and Manufacturing expo in China, GLOBALFOUNDRIES kicks off their own version of the event and has made a significant number of announcements concerning upcoming and next generation process technologies. GF (GLOBALFOUNDRIES) had been the manufacturing arm of AMD until it was spun off as its own entity in 2009. Since then GF has been open to providing fabless semiconductor firms a viable alternative to TSMC and other foundries. Their current 14nm process is licensed from Samsung, as GF had some significant issues getting their own version of that technology into production. GF looks to be moving past their process hiccups in getting to FinFET technologies as well as offering other more unique process nodes that will serve upcoming mobile technologies very well.
 
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The big announcement today was the existence of the 12LP process. This is a "12 nm" process that looks to be based off of their previous 14nm work. It is a highly optimized variant that offers around 15% better density and 10% better performance than current 14/16nm processes from competing firms. Some time back GF announced that it would be skipping the 10nm node and going directly to 7nm, but it seems that market forces have pushed them to further optimize 14nm and offer another step.  Regular process improvement cadences are important to fabless partners as they lay out their roadmaps for future products.
 
12FP is also on track to be Automotive Grade 2 Certified by Q4 2017, which opens it up to a variety of automotive applications. Self-driving cars are the hot topic these days and it appears as though GF will be working with multiple manufacturers including Tesla. The process also has an RF component that can be utilized for those designs.
 
There had been some questions before this about what GF would do between 14nm and their expected 7nm offering. AMD had previously shown a roadmap with the first generation Zen being offered on 14nm and a rather nebulous sounding 14nm+ process. We now know that 12LP is going to be the process that AMD leverages for Zen and Vega refreshes next year. GF is opening up risk production in 1H 2018 for early adopters. This typically means that tuning is still going on with the process, and wafer agreements tend to not hinge on "per good die". Essentially, just as the wording suggest, the monetary risks of production fall more on the partner rather than the foundry. I would expect the Zen/Vega refreshes to start rolling out mid-Summer 2018 if all goes well with 12LP.
 
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RF is getting a lot of attention these days. In the past I had talked quite a bit about FD-SOI and the slow adoption of that technology. In the 5G world that we are heading to, RF is becoming far more important. Currently GF has their 28FDX and 22FDX processes which utilize FD-SOI (Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator). 22FDX is a dual purpose node that can handle both low-leakage ASICs as well as RF enabled products (think cell-phone modems). GF has also announced a new RF centric process node called 8SW SOI. This is a 300mm wafer based technology at Fab 10 located in East Fishkill, NY. This was once an IBM fab, but was eventually "given" to GF for a variety of reasons. The East Fishkill campus is also a center for testing and advanced process development.
 
22FDX is not limited to ASIC and RF production. GF is announcing that it is offering eMRAM (embedded magnetoresistive non-volatile memory) support. GF claims that ic an retain data through a 260C solder reflow while retaining data for more than 10 years at 125C. These products were developed through a partnership with Everspin Technologies. 1Gb DDR MRAM chips have been sampled and 256Mb DDR MRAM chips are currently available through Everspin. This technology is not limited to standalone chips and can be integrated into SOC designs utilizing eFlash and SRAM interface options.
 
GLOBALFOUNDRIES has had a rocky start since it was spun off from AMD. Due to aggressive financing from multiple sources it has acquired other pure play foundries and garnered loyal partners like AMD who have kept revenue flowing. If GF can execute on these new technologies they will be on a far more even standing with TSMC and attract new customers. GF has the fab space to handle a lot of wafers, but these above mentioned processes could be some of their first truly breakthrough products that differentiates itself from the competition.

NVIDIA news; Ansel and ShadowPlay walk into Mordor

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 20, 2017 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, ShadowPlayk, ansel, battlegrounds, shadow of mordor

Gamescom 2017 just wrapped up and NVIDIA made a few interesting announcements during the conference.  For those enjoying PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, they announced the game now fully supports ShadowPlay Highlights along with the newly released Lawbreakers.  That means you can capture all your gameplay in 4K 60 FPS, with either always-on or manual saving, and built-in uploading tools.

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In addition to video capture of gameplay, their Ansel screen capture tool for the artistically inclined has also been updated.  Ansel now works in 25 titles, from The Witcher 3 through Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to new genres like Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 so you can truly show that the 'injured' player lying on the turf truly did take a dive.  NVIDIA reports that you will be able to capture super-resolution, 360-degree, HDR, and stereo photographs in games developed in either the Unity Engine or the Unreal Engine as Ansel will now be provided as an add-in for those game engines.

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Last but not least is a giveaway.  NVIDIA will be giving away 50,000 Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor game codes to GeForce Experience community members!  You do have to sign up to win but once you are a member of GFE you are automagically entered to win.  They will message you in app on Sept 26th to let you know if you are a winner so you can still sign up if you are interested.  It will also support Ansel, if you run across a photogenic orc beheading you want to share.

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As a reminder, the offer for any who purchases of select GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or 1080 GPUs, as well as systems and laptops containing the same will get Destiny 2 on the PC launch date.

 

Source: NVIDIA

Divinity: Original Sin 2 arrives

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 02:13 PM |
Tagged: gaming, divinity original sin 2

The original game was the first RPG that offered you a chance to argue with yourself, with a unique method of dialogue between the two main characters you played.  It incorporated the environmental effects of spells in a much more effective way than the majority of RPGs, making it wise to dump water on an opponent before zapping them with a lightning bolt.  The quests were often quite unique and the sequel seems to keep that alive, one reviewer at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN describes how they "ate the meat from the shark’s mouth" as part of the solution to a quest.  If you are looking for a different type of fantasy RPG that will make you smile, cry and scratch your head, often simultaneously, then check out the review and see if you want to pick up the game that launched today.

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"Divinity: Original Sin 2 is out of Early Access and fully released. Adam and John have both spent many, many hours with the alpha, and are now beginning to chew their way through the full version."

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