The Day In Review, 05/26/2015: It’s a digital distribution fiesta!

The Day In Review

The Day In Review is a daily summary of notable gaming news from the past 24 hours.

GOG tells Telltale Games to tell tales with them

GOG has announced today that they have signed a deal with Telltale Games, the independent developer and publisher of several series of massively successful episodic graphic adventure games, to distribute the studio’s products DRM-free through GOG. Already available is their Game of Thrones series, and it’s on sale for 40% off to celebrate both the addition of the games to GOG and the brand new release of the fourth of six episodes in the series. The announcement says that Tales from the Borderlands, The Walking Dead, and The Wolf Among Us will soon also be available through GOG.

Every Telltale game released on GOG will be upgraded with full support for the platform’s Galaxy client, which has recently become popular with the launch and overwhelmingly positive commerical and critical receptions of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. GOG Galaxy is in open beta and offers one-click install, DRM-free installer downloads, optional auto-updates, and plans to add save and game rollback options are in the works.

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The Day In Review, 05/25/2015: Reliving painful memories of the Atari Jaguar

The Day In Review

The Day In Review is a daily summary of notable gaming news from the past 24 hours.

Cartridge-based retro gaming console is so hipster it defies analogy

The OUYA was a good idea in theory, but in execution, it flopped. An inexpensive console mostly for emulation, letting you run various retro games from a USB drive or SD card, as well as an open software development kit for indie developers to build games for the platform. Unfortunately, it wasn’t popular enough to take off, and so OUYA put itself up for sale less than two years after it launched to try and pull a last bit of funding out of the aether.

Now imagine that idea, shoved into a slightly modified Atari Jaguar (“wait”, I hear some of you say, “what the hell is that?”) case, and taking proprietary cartridges (also using Jaguar cartridge shells), all being designed for indie retro revival games such as “16-bit fan favorite sequels” and retro style mobile game ports. The project is headed up by the guy who successfully funded not one but two Kickstarters for the creation of Retro Magazine, Mike Kennedy, and he wants to fund its construction on Kickstarter. Apparently he has already purchased the moulds for the Atari Jaguar (not from Atari, but from a medical imaging company that Atari sold the Jaguar moulds to after the Jaguar’s commercial flop to try and regain money).

There doesn’t seem to be any waves of developers signing up to develop for it, unlike the OUYA. This could be lack of press information, or maybe it’s because no one wants to manufacture cartridges in 2015, thirteen years since the last non-portable console game was manufactured on a cartridge. We have no proof this thing is actually being designed, or what it will actually run, or what it will even run on — all we know is that Mr. Kennedy intends to develop a retro-focused, cartridge-based video game console, and he intends to do it with custom hardware and the shape of one of the biggest commercial failures in video gaming of the 1990s, just for the sake of being able to play some (probably crap) retro-inspired indie games on physical cartridges.

After he blows the dust out of them first.

Left: The Atari Jaguar. Right: A computer-generated mockup of the Retro VGS. Look familiar?

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The Day In Review, 05/22/2015: What do SWAT and 4chan have in common?

The Day In Review

The Day In Review is a daily summary of notable gaming news from the past 24 hours.

They’re both not your personal army. (Read the full Day In Review for an explanation.)

Frostbite engine technical director tweets image of upcoming Radeon card, VideoCardz.net leaks GTX 980 Ti

Hold on to your wallets, folks, because the 490X isn’t out yet. But it could be soon. Johan Andersson, EA’s technical director on the Frostbite engine in Stockholm, tweeted this morning a picture of an upcoming high-end Radeon card from the Pirate Islands (Radeon 4xx) series of GPUs, calling it “seriously impressive” and thanking AMD for sending it (and possibly others) to EA/DICE.

We don’t know what card it is exactly, or any specifications, just that it’s real, it exists, and it is a functioning product. And, apparently, a workhorse — something AMD needs to release to compete with the GTX 980 and Titan X (and the GTX 980Ti, rumours of which are flying around, including pictures first showed off to the world by VideoCardz.net here). To top it all off, AMD’s Radeon team replied to Andersson’s tweet with a snarky “Huh. Who said AMD doesn’t support game developers? Weird :D”.

This latest AMD/Nvidia war is getting good; time to make some popcorn and start saving up for an upgrade. I wonder what the resale on a slightly-overclocked R9 290 is…

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The Day In Review, 05/21/2015: EA’s making it really hard for me to not want to give them money

The Day In Review

The Day In Review is a daily summary of notable gaming news from the past 24 hours.

Need for Speed teaser browns shorts, trailer set for June 15

Holy <deity>, I need a change of clothes, because the Need for Speed teaser that EA posted on YouTube this morning looks fantastic. I legitimately thought it was professionally shot film footage until the end said “all footage captured in-game” and “game engine footage representative of all platforms.” This is some seriously impressive game engine footage, especially if they plan on pumping this out on current-gen consoles at this grade of graphical fidelity.

While anything like this does need the disclaimer that actual gameplay might not look this spectacular, and that this could just be representative of cutscene quality, even pushing something like this is an impressive task. Hopefully it’ll run at 60fps on consoles, though to make that work with this kind of flashiness either EA would need to find a way to supercharge the PlayStation 4 or the game would need an option on consoles to switch between lower quality/higher framerate and higher quality/30fps lock.

I wonder if the “representative of all platforms” line is in response to the fallout from Ubisoft repeatedly nerfing graphical quality to ensure one console doesn’t perform worse in a game than the other… And between this and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront reboot, I think someone replaced EA’s board of directors with people who actually like video games.

The upcoming Need for Speed game will be available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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The Day In Review, 05/20/2015: I don’t even know who to believe anymore

The Day In Review

The Day In Review is a daily summary of notable gaming news from the past 24 hours.

AMD claims Nvidia “completely sabotaged” Radeon performance in Witcher 3

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out recently, as most gamers into hack-and-slash know, and every review of it seems to agree with the others: it’s a fantastic game. I haven’t played it, nor have I played the previous two games in the series (or read the books — did you know The Witcher was originally a series of Polish novels?) but between the praise it’s gotten, the number of people on my Steam friends list playing it at any given point in time, and how absolutely beautiful it looks, I am really considering skipping out on food for a week or so to buy it.

AMD wouldn’t want me to, though, and not because they’re concerned about my health. Like Project CARS’ developers Slightly Mad Studios (see previous fiasco posted about on Cordilon Gaming), Witcher 3′s CD Projekt Red collaborated with Nvidia’s GameWorks project to add features like the HairWorks hair simulation system to the game. AMD’s chief gaming scientist (a title I may have to steal for myself) stated in an interview with Ars Technica’s Mark Walton that they believe Nvidia has “completely sabotaged [their] performance” with the exclusivity behind the scenes of adding GameWorks to games like Witcher 3 and Project CARS and that it is causing “contrived damage to AMD”.

Nvidia HairWorks allows characters in the game to have realistic hair (and for your fuzzy companions, fur) affected by wind and motion that interacts with the environment and lighting. At max settings, however, HairWorks doesn’t always run well on AMD cards, usually due to the amount of tessellation used in making the hair look like, well, hair. AMD GPUs that use the GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture are much less efficient at tessellation than Nvidia’s GPUs are, so in situations where characters displayed prominently on screen use HairWorks, framerates take a nose dive. The solution at present is to use Catalyst Control Center’s game profiles feature to lower the maximum tessellation level in Witcher 3. We recommend not going below 4x, as hair quality degrades very rapidly — start at 16x and lower it until you reach a desired framerate.

I don’t even know where to go with this. Three of my last seven articles have had the tag “sigh” attached to them (four of eight including this one). AMD’s spokesperson is trying to sell the end times, and on Reddit, users are claiming that Nvidia has sabotaged their own previous-generation cards in Witcher 3 through a driver update that makes the last-gen 3 GB powerhouse GTX 780 unable to hold a candle to the technically unimpressive 2 GB GTX 960.

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The Day In Review, 05/19/2015: I don’t like slow news days

The Day In Review

The Day In Review is a daily summary of notable gaming news from the past 24 hours.

Cities: Skylines content patch 1.1.0, adds tunnels and European architecture

I love European architecture, so this is really cool to me and I think I’m going to need to pick up Cities: Skylines soon. Paradox dropped this new free content patch for their SimCity 2013 killer, adding “over 50 European style buildings” such as wall-to-wall row houses, three new starter maps, and the ability to build tunnels (something I personally loved doing in SimCity 4 but wished they were more flexible in construction). Also in this patch are additions to the asset editor including the ability to create and import vehicle models into the game’s traffic simulation and allowing modders to create functional custom airport lots, and a whole bunch of bug fixes.

In addition, Paradox’s brand manager has confirmed that while there will be paid expansions for Cities: Skylines, there will also be plenty of free content updates for all players such as this one. Also confirmed was the development team’s continued intent to work on improved modding tools. The whole changelog for the patch and screenshots of the new European map style and buildings can be seen on Paradox Plaza here.

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The Day In Review, 05/18/2015: Holograms and oceans and demons, oh my!

The Day In Review

The Day In Review is a daily summary of notable gaming news from the past 24 hours.

Mass Effect’s Casey Hudson joins Microsoft Studios as creative director

The man behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the Mass Effect trilogy has joined Microsoft Studios as their Creative Director. According to his interview with Xbox Wire, his primary focus will be Microsoft HoloLens, an in-development augmented reality headset/visor and associated software technologies that will allow people to gesture at computing objects projected onto their field of view. He will also be working in the Xbox and Windows gaming divisions as a creative advisor.

We don’t know if HoloLens actually is viable yet outside of mockups of what various products would look like using the system and various views of the headset and its components (and Hudson talking about sipping coffee on Mars in his interview, but maybe they just give you some really good drugs at Microsoft Studios as a signing bonus). But if they’re putting “the Mass Effect guy” into creative direction for it, they must have something big planned.

Maybe sometime before the end of the decade they’ll announce full brain-computer interface virtual reality, and I’ll be going out to buy myself a copy of Sword Art Online…

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Opinion (and math): On Project CARS, PhysX, floating-point calculations, and AMD

PhysX

Disclaimer: Opinions ahead, after the break.

I recently (as in about an hour ago) posted a PSA about how Project CARS doesn’t run well on AMD cards. To summarize, Project CARS is pretty much built around Nvidia’s PhysX middleware (I went over what that means and what it does in the PSA), which can be processed on Nvidia GPUs but can’t be processed on AMD GPUs and therefore has to be handled entirely on the CPU. This causes some serious performance issues because your CPU becomes the primary bottleneck as it has to be constantly doing physics calculations, which are all floating-point (what humans call decimal or scientific calculations, where there’s a decimal point somewhere in between two numbers that shows where the whole number ends and the fractional point begins).

CPUs are not designed to do highly precise floating-point calculations. They have floating-point units that can do these precise calculations (most less-precise “float” calculations are 32-bit, and most “double” precision calculations are 64-bit) but that’s not what they’re designed to do. They’re designed to do integer arithmetic and general purpose work interfacing between all the different devices on your system.

GPUs, however, are designed to do floating point calculations. They’re designed to do a whole bunch of them over and over (in the case of the AMD R9 290X, for example, almost five trillion 32-bit floating point operations per second or about seven hundred billion 64-bit floating point operations per second, and the numbers for the GTX 980 are similar for 32-bit floating point operations), since mapping 3D ideas onto a 2D space (your screen) is all floating point math.

Where’s the opinion? Read on and find out.

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PSA: Project CARS runs poorly on AMD GPUs, and it can’t be fixed

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Edit: It appears I (and others on the internet) have jumped the gun and made some assumptions that were incorrect. I apologize to readers and to the developers of Project CARS for being accusatory. The following PSA may not entirely be accurate.

People who bought Project CARS, the greatly anticipated racing simulator that came out earlier this month, have noticed some serious performance issues on AMD GPUs, with their cards running the game at a much lower performance than Nvidia owners found themselves playing at. Benchmarks run by Techspot show the Radeon R9 290X — a power-hungry card from Q4 2013 that in many games rivals the recent (late Q3 2014) GTX 970 — barely hitting the performance levels of the Q1 2012 vintage GTX 680, a card that it generally blows cleanly out of the water and off most benchmarking charts.

And while at first many gamers attributed this to either AMD being lazy on driver updates or lack of communication between the AMD driver team and Slightly Mad Studios, the developers of Project CARS, and some diehard AMD fans going so far as to accuse Nvidia of intentionally putting barriers in between AMD and Slightly Mad Studios, it seems in fact to simply be a consequence of Project CARS being heavily reliant on Nvidia’s PhysX middleware for all of the game’s many physics calculations. To quote Slightly Mad spokesperson Ian Bell:

The software render person says that AMD drivers create too much of a load on the CPU. The PhysX runs on the CPU in this game for AMD users. The PhysX makes 600 calculations per second on the CPU. Basically the AMD drivers + PhysX running at 600 calculations per second is killing performance in the game.

(source: private Slightly Mad Studios forum, via HardOCP forum user cageymaru)

For those who aren’t aware of what exactly PhysX is, it is a piece of “middleware” — software designed to plug into an engine and provide features — that acts as a full physics calculation engine. It can be worked with by developers to offload the physics calculations to Nvidia GPUs, freeing the CPU to do other work. For users with AMD GPUs, however, the CPU must do all the physics calculations, and in a agame such as Project CARS where everything runs through PhysX, this engages a massive performance penalty that is simply unavoidable.

That’s just the way it goes, folks. Prepare to have to buy another video card if you want decent performance in Project CARS on an AMD GPU. Or wait it out and see what happens. Maybe some cooperation between AMD and Slightly Mad Studios can help lessen the impact of PhysX. Maybe.

There’s no news, have some words about this site

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There’s no news because it’s a Saturday — I don’t think we’re going to do Day in Reviews on the weekends unless there’s something mindblowingly important to share, so have some words about this site.

We’re looking for a few good devs

Since there’s nothing newsworthy today I might as well put the call out: Cordilon Gaming is looking for indie devs who would like their games to be featured. Admittedly, our reader base is small, but exposure is exposure and it helps to spread the word about both your game and our site.

The best thing you can do to get a hold of us is to email us at team AT this website's domain name with the words “Dev Request” and the name of your game (and preferably your studio name if you have one) in the subject line. We’re not asking for Steam keys or Desura keys or DRM-free downloads (though that would be really cool) or something like that, just a description of your game, maybe a couple screenshots, what it’s about, what kind of game it is, and a link to it so we can play it. We want to support and help indie developers grow, and the best way we can do that is by playing your games and writing or making videos about them.

Another great thing you can do is tweet us @CordilonGaming (especially after you send an email) since we’ll get a notification about that just about instantly. You can also tweet me (Troy, @Kazinsal) or Jake (@Thexare) directly.

Much ado about advertisements

We here at Cordilon Gaming are more than aware that ads are annoying as all hell. Most people rock Adblock or something to make ads go away, myself included. We’ve all seen sites that have Adblock countermeasures that ask you nicely to please turn off the adblock so the site can stay alive. We don’t want to be that site that hammers you to turn the adblock off, but we don’t want to disappear into a hole of financial failure. So here’s the deal: we’re not going to do ads on the site for as long as we possibly can, and we’re committed to not using YouTube monetization. If we ever get to the point where either of those would be a thing to come up, we’ll figure something out and we’ll do it with the input of and feedback from readers and viewers alike.

Cordilon Gaming is a media source for people who enjoy video games by people who enjoy writing about video games. We’re not here to make money, and we’re not here to push opinions. We’re just here to be involved with gaming communities, indie games, retro games, and the people who create and support them.