12
Apr
14

Who cares about DirectX 12?


So are you excited about DirectX 12?

Does the promise of better efficiency, reduced CPU load and new features make you want to run out and scoop up that new Nvidia Titan Black edition in anticipation of its release…someday.  You do know you’ll have to wait till holiday2015…maybe.   Microsoft is saying that 50% of current hardware will be able to take advantage of it.  They don’t mention which 50%, however…

Maybe AMD’s “Mantle” is more your speed which pretty much offers the same thing so long as you have the hardware to support it.   If you haven’t bought an AMD GPU in the past 2 years you’re pretty much out of luck.

Only AMD 7000 series or above built with their proprietary GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture need apply.

At least Mantle is available now while DirectX 12 is still vaporware.  Assuming you meet all the prerequisites you can try it out on Battlefield 4 and Thief.  Reviewers are claiming marked improvements using Mantle although they point out that it’s not consistent across all PC’s.

Performance claims don’t hold much water, however, as Battlefield 4′s continuing issues make any claimed benefit suspect.  Anyone who regularly plays it knows that keeping it running more than 5 minutes without crashing is an accomplishment at this point.  Don’t even get me started on the whole Netcode thing…

Here’s the rub…

I could honestly care less…

How many times in the past decade have we been forced to throw out perfectly good hardware because a highly anticipated game requires an API our hardware doesn’t support.  Worse, aside from efficiency improvements (hmm, sounds familiar) we never really saw much of an improvement in gaming.  The first time I got bit was the release of Battlefield 2.  That game required shader model 3.0 meaning my “old” card with shader model 2.0 was destined for the bin.

Did Battlefield 2 really look that much better than Battlefield 1942?  Let’s be honest, it didn’t but it marked the beginning of the upgrade treadmill for me and thousands of others.  Hundreds of dollars thrown to the wind for a piece of $40 software we’d tire of in a few months.  A practice repeated at least half a dozen times.

You have to remember that it wasn’t always this way.  Back in the 90′s, DirectX was just one of a handful of API’s used for gaming.  It was only the rise of Windows (specifically Windows 95) that pushed it to the forefront.

Veteran gamers remember the days of DOS when OpenGL and Dos4GW were the foundation of 3D gaming.  3DFx was the enthusiasts’ choice creating now commonplace features like SLI and a graphics API that allowed direct access (via Glide) to special hardware functionality.

While technically superior compared to the early days of DirectX and OpenGL the ability to program to an interface instead of proprietary hardware was a boon for game developers.  Soon GPU vendors found themselves entirely reliant on Microsoft’s DirectX specification. Even if they could do better they were hamstrung by what had become an industry standard.

So everything old is indeed new again.  One of the promises of both Mantle and DirectX 12 is closer if not direct access to GPU hardware.  It’s an old idea.  Get the middleman out of the way and performance will naturally increase.

Except..

We’re right back where we started with proprietary hardware.  It’s 3DFx all over again.  DirectX is currently a universal API that any GPU can use so long as it supports its basic feature set.  With DirectX 12
squarely aimed at countering Mantle (or perhaps AMD forcing Microsoft’s hand) we’re rapidly approaching the resurgence of proprietary hardware standards.  This time around, however, it’s Microsoft and to a lesser degree AMD calling the shots.

Even more interesting is how much really isn’t happening with all these purported “advancements.”

Early reviews of Mantle show that while some improvement is seen with enthusiast grade graphics hardware the real story is in the more pedestrian examples.  Both Mantle and the upcoming DirectX 12 are designed to take advantage of current generation graphics hardware.  That means getting more cozy with the graphics hardware and getting the rest of the system out of the equation as much as possible.  The result lightens the load on your system’s CPU thus freeing resources and eliminating possible CPU bottlenecking.

So is it really any surprise that cheap video cards benefit?  It isn’t about any great advance in API development.  It’s a page taken from the days of 3DFx when the best performance came from leveraging the hardware and
getting clutter out of the way.

Great but let’s not forget that Microsoft caused the problem in the first place.  They made development easier but stuck a layer of abstraction between the game and the hardware.  A trade-off to ensure that games continued to be developed for the platform regardless of how flawed the end result.

It’s not just about performance either.  Anyone who plays online knows that cheating is a persistent problem and with DirectX hacks are easy.  If you have a chunky API between the player and the game you have plenty of opportunity to exploit the condition.

Take for example a common hack in FPS games known as the “Wall Hack”  What makes it possible is that DirectX requires all the information about an active game to be available all the time whether its local or online.  Hack into the area of memory containing current player locations and you can literally see and maybe even shoot through walls.

There’s not a lot that can be done about it either.  If the developer cares at all they may issue a patch but everything they do is after the fact.  The sin can’t be prevented only addressed when committed.  This is where utility trumps function and gaming has suffered for it.

Let’s also not forget about Microsoft’s shady history with DirectX…

DirectX 11 was introduced in 2009 and with only marginal changes has remained largely untouched.  Meaning graphics vendors will have waited 7 years before they finally get to fully leverage their current hardware designs.

Remember DirectX 10?  Back in 2007 if your video card didn’t support it you might as well throw away your keyboard.  Or so we believed.  It had a relatively short shelf life once Windows 7 launched and introduced DirectX 11.  In spite of the hype there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between them but almost overnight graphics vendors found themselves with useless hardware selling for bargain basement prices.

And for what?

It took years before developers took DirectX 11 seriously.  Even recent blockbuster titles like Bioshock Infinite were written for DirectX 9.  Battlefield 4 with its shiny new game engine (Frostbite 3) works perfectly fine in DirectX 10 just like its predecessor Battlefield 3!

So what can we take from this latest announcement from Redmond?

Not much.

Some say it’s a reaction to AMD’s Mantle while others claim it’s been in the works for years.  Regardless, don’t expect anyone to take DirectX 12 seriously for at least 2 years.  That’s 2017 for most of us and with it will come a graphics market even more influenced by Microsoft.

That’s fine if you like things the way they are now but don’t expect much competition.  The money in enthusiast hardware is still on the Windows platform (which includes Xbox) regardless of whether or not the SteamBox takes off.  That translates into Microsoft dictating hardware designs even more than they do now.

 

Which means nothing has really changed and we can still expect baseless hype, inflated graphics card prices and empty promises.  At least the cheap seats will see some benefit and that’s good news for all those board makers who make most of their money on mainstream graphics hardware.

After all, you can only sell so many Titan Blacks.

28
Mar
14

On the House, Freebies from EA


Originally published on Kupeesh!
Up for a free game?
Little did we know that last month’s “Player Appreciation Month”  for Battlefield 4 players  was just the opening salvo in what appears to be a face saving campaign by EA to win back the affections of disgruntled gamers.
This week found the publisher offering up free copies of the Sci-Fi/ Horror classic “DeadSpace” via its Origin service.  Dead Space is a third person shooter that puts the player in the role of Isaac Clarke as he struggles for survival in a scenario reminiscent of the Alien movies.
Hmm, did anyone else pick up that the protagonist’s name is a concatenation of Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke?
My geek is showing…
To the point, this is the first offering in a new promotion EA is calling “On the House.”  EA plans to periodically give away free games as well as “expansions and more” via their Origin service.
EA hasn’t announced a schedule for the giveaway but has indicated that this will be an ongoing promotion.  That means the freebies can show up at any time but disappear without notice.  EA isn’t exactly screaming about it from the mountaintops either.  A check of the Origin website as well as the “Store” tab of the Origin game client found no mention of On the House.
A buried treasure only found with the help of a search engine and word of mouth.  Still it’s worth the hunt as Dead Space is currently a $20 game on Origin so it’s not exactly burnt offerings.
Your best bet is to bookmark the “On the House” page on EA’s Origin website and check regularly for updates.  The current URL can be found here.
 In this case I suppose money really is no object…
25
Mar
14

Dice delays latest BF4 DLC for PC and Xbox 1


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published on Kupeesh!

More news from the company that brings you launch day failures like no other.
Today, Battlefield 4′s latest DLC pack, Naval Strike launched for its Battlefield 4 Premium members…well, kinda.
Game Developer Dice posted the following to the official Battlefield 4 blog
UPDATE: We wantedto provide more detail about the delay of Battlefield 4 Naval Strike. We have delayed the PC version of Naval Strike because we are concerned that the combination of the pack and planned PC updates would increase performance issues on mid-range to high-end PCs. We are working hard to resolve that issue now. Additionally, we have decided to delay the Xbox One version of Naval Strike because we want to address issues in the animation system that hinder players from engaging targets in set circumstances using popular weapon configurations.
 
So while Playstation and Xbox 360 owners are gleefully spreading carnage on the waves it seems those with PC’s and Xbox 1′s aren’t so blessed.  Dice assures Premium members that they will still enjoy 2 weeks early access when the game finally gets a launch date.  In other words, everybody is going to have to wait.  No release date has been set as of this writing although Dice indicated that they are “trying to release the update in early April for Xbox One and PC.”
 
Which ultimately leaves affected  Battlefield players either suffering delayed gratification or relief that they might have just dodged another bullet (pun intended).
At least you’ll have something to look forward to.  Details about 4 new maps were released last week including:
Lost Islands -
Players battle for control of a crashed airliner a midst a small group of
islands
Nansha Strike
Meant for boats and infantry players
alike with ample opportunities for each.
Wave Breaker -
Featuring a submarine base perfect for Deathmatch play
Operation Mortar -
It’s got an old fort in the middle offering views of the whole map.  Perfect for well, mortars.
 
Hang in there soldiers!
25
Mar
14

Free to Play, the movie


Originally published on Kupeesh!

Truth is stranger than fiction…
That’s what I kept thinking as I was watching “Free to Play,” a new documentary film released
by Valve this week.  A company better
known for producing games like Half Life
and selling them though its Steam
portal than making movies.  In fact, Steam is how I became aware of the film.
Free to Play chronicles
the emotional journey of 3 “professional” gamers competing in the DOTA2 International Tournament held in
Cologne, Germany during Gamescon
2011.
DOTA2, for the
uninitiated, is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game where teams of 5
players can slug it out in what is basically an online RPG (think World of Warcraft) without all the
boring parts.  And yes, DOTA2 is a Valve title so of course the movie is a vehicle for shameless self
promotion.
That’s not really the point though…
The film paints a canvass of the “professional”
gaming scene and its slow rise to legitimacy as a sport.  As such, I’d fully expected to abandon the
film somewhere between the opening credits and the 10th time someone expressed
their undying love for Valve and DOTA2.
Which in my estimation should have happened somewhere around the 7
minute mark.
That didn’t happen…
Instead, I found a thoughtful treatment on the topic of what
it means to be a “professional” gamer.  The film tries to draw a strong equivalence
of competitive gaming to professional sports.
Even as an avid gamer I struggle with that “professional” tag
and in the end so did many of the players.  Free to
Play
showed the glory but wasn’t afraid to address the pain and raise the
question of whether or not all the sacrifice was worth it.  In the end it was still just a game leaving
many of the gamers profiled in the film questioning their choices.
That kind of honesty was unexpected.
I went into Free to
Play
thinking I’d get the equivalent of Warren Miller’s Snowriders but got something more akin
to Bowling for Columbine.
Valve took the high road for a change…
Well done.

 

13
Mar
14

Grid 2 – A personal score to settle


 

If you’ve read my recent stuff you’ve probably noticed that
I’ve been waxing nostalgic lately.  In
part that’s due to a minor case of OCD that drives me to at least get a few
hours of play out of a game I forked over my hard earned money for.

 
That’s what caused my obsession with the BioShock franchise
over the past 3 months and the videos that resulted.
 
Considering I’ve recently been living on Ramen noodles ( .25 a package!) and tap water I’m hard
pressed to let anything I’ve paid for languish for long.  It’s used or it ends up on Ebay.
 
I can’t Ebay my Steam games so I might as well play them…
 
I wrote an earlier article on Grid 2 and I was kind of
lukewarm on it.  I really didn’t care for
the “Need For Speed
direction it’s taken with the very Autolog
like Racenet online portal and DLC disease.  Still, the game is as gorgeous as its
predecessor and car control is almost as good.
 
For months, however, I just couldn’t get into the vibe of
the game.  It seemed like there was
always this disconnect between me and what was happening on the monitor.  Today, however, I was in the right mood and
decided that at least I would finish the first “Season” of the single
player game.  I’d let it languish for
almost a year so it was about time I think.
 

Now I already mentioned that things have been a bit
financially challenging and one of the big changes,  gaming wise, was being forced to sell my
Radeon HD 6950 video card from my home gaming/everyday pc.

Hey, I got a few bucks that bought some groceries and gas to
get to a few interviews so not a bad trade but that left me coming up a bit
short.
 
I had originally tried to sell old Nvidia GTX 260 216 which
while a worthy card in its day, just doesn’t stack up to anything made
recently.  I mean, really now, it’s a
Direct X 10 card that came out 5 years ago.
So that’s what I had to put into my home gaming rig to get
by.
 
Here’s the thing…
 
I found out that Battlefield 4 could run on a DX10 card,
Call of Duty Ghosts won’t but then who cares,
I hate that game.  Guess what else
works, Grid 2.  In fact it appears to
play better on that old 260 than it did on the 6950.
 
I’m starting to wonder if in spite of my efforts I just play
better on Nvidia cards.  Even if they’re
old and crusty.  After all, HD gaming
doesn’t need a lot of power and Grid 2 isn’t taxing the hardware even with
4XMSAA and high textures.
 
The result is what you see below.  I finished the Season 1 series pretty
easily.  I was not having as easy a time
with the 6950.
 
I think I’m an NVIDIA guy now….
 
 
07
Mar
14

Bioshock – 1 Gamer’s trek (Part 2 Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite)


BIOSHOCK 2

So what the hell happened with Bioshock 2?
This time, we’ve been dragged back to what was left of Rapture after the closing of the first
game.  It’s 10 years later and you wake
up as one of the iconic “Big Daddy’s,” lumbering around in some giant
Victorian era diving suit.  Which for all
intents and purposes is where the first game left off. 
I didn’t make it more than a few hours before I gave up on
the game.  It’s one of the worst reviewed
of the franchise and for good reason.  Even
with a metacritic
user score of 7.9 out of 10 it wasn’t anything more than a recycled storyline
with slightly improved controls. 
For all the hype and the 3 intervening years fans had to
wait, they had a right to expect more. 
In short, if you like FPS games and really enjoyed the “Little
Sister” storyline in the original Bioshock this game’s for you.   
As such, it’s not for me.  I was bored with it.  Instead of wanting to see more I just wanted
out.  As a now fan of the first game this
is nothing less than a fail.  Gimmicks like
he inclusion of multiplayer were even more laughable.  2K and Irrational games milked the franchise
cow and I was having none of that milk thank you very much.
but, at least I didn’t pay full price. …




BIOSHOCK INFINITE

So finally, mercifully, I was onto Bioshock Infinite.  Arguably the only game I really paid for and
even then at a 75% discount.
It opened with my character seated in a rowboat being taken
to a secluded dock at the base of a lonely lighthouse.  Hmmm, seems familiar but I soon found that’s
where the most obvious Bioshock reference ended.
Columbia…
OMG, this was incredible. 
I was hooked, hours melted away. 
A rich, lavish, utopian world and you just knew something was going to
screw it up.  That something was you.
I love that!
It was still only a DirectX 9 game but they used every bit
of it.  Did I still trip over invisible
curbs, get stuck in Velcro shrubbery and occasionally have to contend with
controls as sluggish as an Atari 2600 joystick?
Yes, of course, just like any other DirectX 9 game but it didn’t
matter .  The story was good, the
environment every bit as immersive as Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty.  Again, I was hooked.
I liked the way the developers let you get a feel for the
place before people started shooting at you. 
I also appreciated how they let you take a breath between bullets as
well.  The themes were clear.  Hyper religious zealotry driven by megalomania
with a side of racism just for good measure.
Fascism was there as well but more of the nationalistic
breed than Andrew Ryan’s corporatocracy. 
The good of the state or at least the idealistic society it purported to
be were paramount. 
It was engrossing.
I remember strolling through a cobblestone street with a
barbershop quartet singing, “God only Knows” in 4 part harmony on the
Victorian equivalent of a land speeder. 
Which I accepted till it occurred to me that this particular song was
actually released by the Beach Boys in 1966. 
This was supposed to be 1912.
In another section of the map I heard CCR’s “Fortunate
Son”
Amusing.  Just an
Easter Egg but it seemed to fit the now uneasy backdrop of what was rapidly
becoming a dystopian world.
Just like the first game I was pulled along.  Learning new abilities and gaining new
weaponry to further my cause.  Unlocking
puzzles and always keeping a sharp eye out. 
In games like these you learn to look in every nook and exploit every
cranny. 
It’s how I survived…
Twists, turns, heart wrenching morality and outright
slaughter, you never knew what was coming at you.  History buffs would chuckle at the distortion
of their tomes.  Stone effigies of the
likes of John Wilkes Booth and  Jefferson
Davis alongside George Washington.
Looming larger than them all was the primary antagonist,
Zachary Hale Comstock, the Prophet as
he preferred to be addressed.
So the game continued on with the story revealing itself
like the layers of an onion. 
Brilliant….
Sadly, it all had to end. 
The final crescendo, the answer nagging for your attention throughout
the entire game was at hand.
Except…
The devs screwed it up. 
Cheating me out of a hard fought and anxiously anticipated
conclusion. 
Irrational Games decided to cheap out on the end and instead
of leading you to a natural conclusion placing a final “God
Battle” in the way of unlocking the secrets I’d invested so much time in
learning.
What the hell?!
Instead of seeing the end credits I was forced to defend
some blue jar on the deck of a floating air barge from hordes of invading foes
I was ill-prepared to dispatch.
I was sent scurrying to YouTube to find an answer.  After a dozen attempts and just as many
failures I relented.  I’ve been defeated
by a game mechanic.  It was like getting
to the last chapter of a book and finding someone had ripped out the pages and
locked them in a box then thrown away the key.
Life’s too short…
The game became a grind and one that took me further away
from the story.  It broke the immersion
and for that sin I cannot forgive Irrational games.
Again, just as in the first game and all of Bioshock 2, the
idea was to protect something defenseless with less than adequate means. 
I don’t have any patience for that.  Challenge? yes!  Stupid? No! 
Again I was resigned to YouTube to see what was denied
me.  Gracious souls either more skilled
or more lucky than I had posted the footage I would never see from my own
efforts.
All of the failings that were mere annoyances became
impenetrable barriers to me.  How could I
go through the entire game without the need of trainers, cheats or hacks only
to be thwarted at the end.  So much for
being a straight shooter. 
At least you had console commands in Bioshock 1 and 2.  No such luck in Bioshock Infinite.


BIOSHOCK  EPILOGUE

Those similarly afflicted (and there’s a lot of you out there) have our revenge, however.  It seems the same crass disregard for fans
has now extended to Irrational Games itself. 
Ken Levine shut
down the studio forever leaving most of its staff to fend for itself
elsewhere.  It seems the same DNA that
created my annoyances with Bioshock was really just an expression of studio
head Ken Levine’s callousness. 
So while the second DLC for Bioshock infinite is shipping
now don’t expect any more.  Even with
infinite universes, there are no more pages to Bioshock’s story.
Maybe that’s a good thing…

In an alternate universe where Levine let Irrational Games
continue, maybe the follow-up to Infinite would have been just another Bioshock
2.
07
Mar
14

Bioshock – 1 gamer’s trek (Part 1, Bioshock)


System Shock, Deus Ex, Fallout and the Elder scrolls and of
course Bioshock.  All Story game
franchises  and all require a commitment
that just doesn’t do it for your average run and gun FPS player.
I’m pretty picky about games that demand my undivided
attention for hours on end.  A good one
will make hours seem like minutes.  A bad
one, well I’d think it was pretty obvious at which point my only consolation
would be that I got it on sale.
That’s how I ended up with all 3 Bioshock games…
During the 2013 Steam Holiday sale Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and
Bioshock Infinite went on sale as a bundle for $15. 
I only had a passing interest in them but for $15 it was
kind of a no-brainer to take the plunge. 
My previous experience with games that focused on a strong narrative was
fairly limited.  I’d played a few Elder
Scrolls games including SkyRim as well as Fallout 3. 
I still don’t know what genre games like this officially
fall into.  They’re not really RPG’s, not
FPS’s and they’re definitely not MMO’s since you never play against anything
but code.  They tend to crossover
depending on what you’re expected to do. 
It’s all about the story and the game pulls you along giving
you just enough bait to keep you going. 
That’s what any good story does. 
They’re immersive, intimate and often thought provoking.
Bioshock fits the “thought provoking” label pretty
well.  It’s kind of Sci-Fi but really is
more of a “what-if” experience with just enough reality thrown in to
make it seem plausible.
I decided that i’d play all three games in order.  Truth be told I was tempted to rush right into
Bioshock Infinite but I resisted the urge to skip ahead.  I’m glad I did too.
BIOSHOCK
I started with Bioshock which came out in 2007.  By now everyone know the story so I won’t
saddle you with yet another boring rehash of it.  There’s plenty of YouTube videos out there to
clue you in if you don’t already know it.
What struck me was the intelligence of the game.  It was creepy, engrossing and I couldn’t
resist the urge to look at everything. 
That’s a good thing too because clues as to what was really going on
were sprinkled liberally everywhere. 
From map design to lighting effects  and even furnishings everything in the environment
worked to keep you on edge.
I haven’t been so creeped out since Doom 3.  The best way to describe it was like be
locked up in some creepy old underwater insane asylum and all the inmates had
guns.   It was brilliant and I was hooked.  Yes, hours passed like minutes and I was both
frightened and thrilled through most of the game.
Till it got stupid…
About halfway through things were getting a little tougher
on me than my patience could stand.  This
is the same flaw I saw with Skyrim and now just as I did then I went scurrying
off to find the hacks that would let me continue my adventure relatively
unscathed.
Mostly because there was a lot of “Scathing” going
on….
Which sucked…
I’m all for a challenge but when it turns into a grind it
ruins it for me.  Not that every opponent
should just fall over at the sight of me. 
It’s simply that these types of games tend to put you at a disadvantage
from the onset.  The first few hours you
do alright with whatever you can scavenge but soon you find yourself woefully
outmatched.  Your only hope of survival
being a lucky break.
I don’t want to be lucky, I just want to get to the next
chapter in your story.
Where games like this start to fall apart is when they get
too complicated for their own good.  Give
me the opportunity to find what I need but don’t make me spend 8 hours of my
life dying in the same spot to do it. 
That’s the very definition of a grind and it’s a cheap tactic used far
too often.
Instead of concentrating on the story we’re forced to worry
about things like inventory slots, combination attacks and whether or not we’re
going to find a health pack somewhere. 
It’s tedious; it’s stupid…
I honestly think developers do it to claim more hours of
gameplay but to me it’s a cheat. 
You know how I keep gushing about Borderlands?  That’s the reason right there.  It’s about the environment and there’s always
a way to succeed that doesn’t involve being forced into a grind. 
All the Bioshock games made this mistake but to their credit
they did throw you a bone.  Death was only
temporary costing only some time and a few coins.  Your enemies were still smarting from your
assault as well although they did recover somewhat.  That was eminently fair in my book.  What wasn’t was when I would reemerge from my
demise only to be instantly struck down again because of bad AI programming.
Block the way but at least let me grab a power bar for god
sake!
Ok, so enough bitching about game mechanics, the story is
still paramount in Bioshock and it’s a good one. 
Andrew Ryan, ambitious, industrialist, visionary and
ultimately megalomaniac.   The largesse
of his character is reflected in his sunken kingdom, Rapture. 
But obviously something went wrong in his world.  A world built on satiating the self was bound
to spring a leak (pun intended) at
some point.  His promise was classic Ayn
Rand, enrichment of the self above all else and to hell with the consequences.
It was fun to explore this cultural mix of objectivism
turned fascism.  Where else could such a
story go?  Bioshock made me want to find
out even if I had to cheat to do it.  Which
ironically is in line with the philosophical backdrop of the game.

Bioshock made me stop and think just as much as The Matrix or Inception.  Well done….



April 2014
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Popular

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 62 other followers

Top Clicks

  • None

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers