The War is Over.

Microsoft and Sony have been trading blows with each other for the last few months since their new consoles were announced. They were constantly trying to outdo each other with technological prowess and games…

The Valve appeared. You remember Valve, right? That little game company who released Half-Life back in ’98, then set Steam upon the world (as a DRM tool basically for Half-Life 2) in 2004. Well 9 years later they’ve announced their next big Thing. Nothing to do with Half-Life 3 sadly but three pieces of kit which on their own are interesting and even fantastic, but combined will be a force to be reckoned with.

How has Valve ended the console war? Easy! They’re releasing their own console. Microsoft and Sony are using locked down x86 PC parts, but x86 PC parts none the less. So what are Valve doing?

The Steam Box.

How does the Steam Box work? Well it’s a PC, isn’t it? It’s modular like a PC. It’s unlocked and open like a PC. You can tweak it and change it like a PC. It’s an x86 PC just like the one I am typing this on. Due to the fact that they are full-fat PC’s they have a lot of grunt, and because they’re not locked down to the platform if you want more grunt you can buy and stick in a new piece of hardware! Modular Console! About damn time!

SteamOS

Naturally the Steam Box can run Windows, Linux or anything x86 you choose but why would you when there is a rather awesome looking SteamOS! Building upon Steam Big Picture mode released last year the SteamOS takes Linux gaming to the next level. Where the Xbox One or Playstation 4 have no backward compatibility, the Steam Box –and by definition the SteamOS- will have “hundreds” of games that will run natively through the OS and then on top of that can stream from any other PC on your network. What does this mean? Simple. You will be able to stream any of the over 3,000 titles on Steam through your network and onto your TV.

How’s that for a release roster? As yet there have been no more announcements on what AAA games will be running natively on the OS but it’s only a matter of time until announcements start trickling through. On top of this most TV, Movie and Music streaming will run through the OS giving pretty much all of the usability of the other consoles but without being locked down.

The Controller.

Finally, the new controller for the Steam Box is an interesting device indeed. Rather than two analogue sticks there are two trackpads. This allegedly gives enough accuracy to play RTS’ and FPS’ without getting really angry at the sluggish response time of the current console generation.

Conclusion.

There are a lot of assumptions. Valve are the kind of company who don’t release something –or even announce something!- without it being everything that is promised. There are still a lot of details that are required, price, range of specs etc… But there are still a lot of questions hanging over the next gen consoles so I’m not worried that we don’t know everything just yet.

An additional massive boon is that if you have an old PC hanging around you can install the SteamOS and use said system as a Steam Box for free. That’s right; the SteamOS won’t cost a single penny! I can’t see how Microsoft or Sony can even try to get into the ring with Valve now. They’ve got everything in place now to change not just the game for consoles but for PC’s as well.

Now give us Half-Life 3 ya bastards!!

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E3 Aftermath – PeeCee The Cross Platforms Cross Platform!

Hola once more!

So here is my final E3 Aftermath post.

Today is all about crossplatform and PC.

The PC was rather under-represented this E3 but that was to be expected when there are two brand new Console machines stomping around!

Some very good news for PC though as Crossplatform is now a major thing. Ubisoft and EA both announced a myriad of awesome looking games all coming to the PC plus either a single console, both main consoles or in some cases current and next gen consoles!

For me The Crew is the most interesting title newly announced. I am a massive fan of the two Test Drive: Unlimited games as well as Euro Truck Sim 2. I enjoy driving around places and The Crew gives you the Northern United States to play with… Obviously not to scale but regardless it is impressive.

Then we have Watch_Dogs and Battlefield 4, the former being much more interesting as a fully fleshed out game, which are both pushing PC as their big target. Heck the Battlefield showings at E3 were all confirmed by DICE to be running on the PC. Even the one at the Xbox waffling… *Chuckles*

Dark Souls 2 is also coming to the PC –no internet petitioning required this time!- as well as lots of developers (such as Bungie) hoping to being their latest games to the PC. In fact over 75% of the games announced have been confirmed to be coming to PC with at least another 10% hoping to come along for the ride! Great news for PC gamers

To make matters even stronger for the PC several established PC games such as DCU: Online, PlanetSide 2, and Minecraft are making their way over to consoles.

Then to top it all off we have the indies, some small (Gunpoint for example, a whole one man team built in spare time) through to large companies (like CDProject Red and Double Fine) who are bringing whole new areas of amazing gameplay, fidelity and stories to the PC. Most of these are currently even PC Exclusives if such a term truly exists!

Great times to be a PC Gamer, and thus I will finish with an analogy of what PC Gaming is to me. Consoles are like the awesome toys you had as a kid, the ones that had things like real moveable limbs and could turn into 3 different things! But in reality you’d play with them for a while, which was awesome –usual things like attack the cat, get thrown out of a window to see if they float with a bag attached and having inappropriate relations with a random Barbie doll- but would kinda be forgotten. There is only so much you can do with a toy like that.

PCs on the other hand, they are like the box that said toy came in. A box can be ANYTHING you want it to be. You can store things inside of it, hide things in there, put other toys inside there, stand on it, wear it as a hat (please note we’re talking about a box, not a PC… Please, don’t wear your PC as a hat!), turn it into a boat, or a spaceship or ANYTHING YOU WANT!

That there is a PC… It’s whatever the hell you WANT it to be.

This is all super important because this weekend I am off to Rezzed in Birmingham to play lots of awesome PC games. A full report shall be up probably Sunday, or whenever I have managed to recover!

A final note, I thank you kind folks who have liked my posts, it means a lot that people are reading them and –I am hoping- enjoying. Do please feel free to comment, I’d love to chat about anything related to things I post! Cheers!

E3 Aftermath – The PS4

Hola!

On to the second of my Post-E3 wafflings!

Let’s look at the PS4, shall we?

–Hardware–

As I have already detailed the specs previously I’ll gloss over what we already knew. Still a pretty decent machine and it is very aggressively priced. I know I certainly could not build a capable PC for that price-range. £349 is a very smart price, especially with the XBones price being considerably higher.

I am intrigued by two new announcements, hardware-wise, with the Game Streaming to the Sony Vita being the one that is grabbing my attention.
This very much seems to be a Nintendo-move as the Wii U seems built around the idea of having game streaming built in as part of the whole system.

The second cool thing it the LED Light Bar, Centre Touchpad and speaker all built into the new Controller. It all seems rather fun and combines what I feel are some of the best parts of Nintendo put into a single control.

–Software–

So what is new? Well, no native back-compatibility. That’s quite a big blow, however, Sony have talked about emulation. Doesn’t mean it will happen though.

Now the big one. PlayStation Plus. XBone and PlayStation will both require paid internet for online play… Now if you are already paying for your internet from your ISP and then have to pay to play your games you *buy* online I find that a very bitter pill… Word is that may get free games by being part of PlayStation stuff which would at least make it less terrible.

However, plus point is that games can be shared and resold without restriction (at least none from Sony).

–Games–

Exclusives are also thin on the ground, a new Infamous and Killzone but that is about it although you can bet on a new Uncharted at some point.

Other games such as DCU:Online and PlanetSide 2 which are currently PC only games will be coming to the PS4 which is rather impressive as both are large scale MMOs… Impressive stuff!

–Conclusion–

Sony have made the right noises, have a strong game lineup (doesn’t seem it thus far but more shall become clear in the next installment!) and have managed to turn their dreadful PS3 launch into a very successful spearhead on the PS4 campaign. They’ve listened to not only the Sony and PlayStation fans about what they wanted in a new console but to the wider audience and even looked at what has -and hasn’t- worked in the competition.

All in all, bloody good work Sony… I won’t be buying your console but by the Gods I am rooting for it!

E3 Aftermath – The Xbox One

Greetings!

So E3 has come and it has gone.

I have quite a lot of thoughts about it all so here is part one of three. This one is focused on the XBone.

–Hardware–

So the Xbox is running an AMD Jaguar x86 8-core CPU with the GCN 768-SPU stuck in there for the graphical grunt. 8gb of DDR3 memory (running at 2133mhz), Blu-ray, and even a 500GB HDD.

Not bad going, although one immediate thing I note, however, is that this 8gb of RAM isn’t 8gb of memory that can be accessed by games. Only 6gb is actually usable the rest is for the OS. Likewise the HDD won’t have a 500GB capacity.

So all in all it is the weaker of the two big consoles hardware wise. Not by a massive amount but it *is* the weaker one.

Now -as previously blogged- my current PC is better than the PS4 and the XBone is not as powerful as the PS4.

Still it is a decent looking spec under the exterior even though it isn’t anything “special” coming from a PC home.

–Software–

So the XBone will have a Triple-OS. A combo of the Xbox OS with a Windows 8 Kernel and a Virtualisation OS. Pretty interesting as -potentially- any Windows 8 software could work
on the x86 CPU.

Once again the new Xbox offers no backwards compatibility. They’ve argued that no-one wants to play their old games *that they’ve paid for* on a new machine and if you want to play old games then just keep your 360… Sorry, but whut?! No-one wants to play their old games? I have over 250 games on Steam, a further 40-odd from GOG.com as well as actual BOXED games… Now I can grab the discs of Jedi Knight, whack ’em in my PC and then play Jedi Knight… I was playing Rollercoaster Tycoon only yesterday! So I guess it’s just me who wants backward compatibility in their systems?

I thought so Microsoft…

On the software side the Kinect… Now I am all for motion usage in games. The Wii became the largest selling console of the last generation because of it! However, something that analyses you while you watch Television… HELLS no! The Wii and the Playstation Move we’re things that watched you, they saw movement though the controller and converted that into in game movement. That is fine! “Spying” is not fine Microsoft. Not fine at all!

Let’s not even start on the game-sharing policy or the whole online thing!

–Games–

Right, so this is the point of the consoles, right? So what are these Exclusives that these boxes push for that makes them feel special, eh?

Turns out there isn’t many… Forza, Ryse and Dead Rising 3 are the only ones that actually looked interesting. However, Forza can be trumped by The Crew (which looks Amazing!) and Dead Rising 3 can be trumped by any number of upcoming zombie games. So Project Spark, Titanfall, all those sports games, Mirror’s Edge 2 and Battlefield 4 are all coming to the PC… In fact a suprisingly large amount of “next-gen” games are using the PC as the lead platform…

I love being part of the next-gen *right now* baby!

–Conclusion–

The Xbox One is a confusingly named, mess of a console with games which are mostly going to be available on PC and PS4.

The whole point of a system -regardless of console, laptop, tablet or desktop- is that it does what you want it to and that you feel the developers value your money…

On that final note I shall finish with a quote from Don Mattrick, the president of Interactuve Entertainment Business at Microsoft about people who do not have an internet connection or a very poor connection…

“Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360”

Thanks Microsoft, glad I am not just a number to you!

Techno-Justice: The King Is Dead! Long Live The King!

Howdy!

So the Playstation 4… Come on, we all knew it was bound to be talked about, however while many people are laughing and slating and generally mocking the -what will almost certainly be a- black monolith I am not. I personally embrace our new insect Overlords!

I can almost hear the cries of “but, but, but you are no Console gamer! You are a man of taste and impeccable pecks* how can you not be filled with mocking jelly of mock?! IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!”. To this I reply, relax my friend. I shall explain. First though, let’s just quickly run through this whole “Next Gen” stuff and have a little word from Epic Games.

“Next-gen is here. It’s a high-end PC,” said Bleszinski.

Thanks Cliffy B for that perfect title for this little section! Shame he is no longer at Epic, he was always one of my favourites, anyway to business! When the Xbox 360 came out, it was quite a leap away from the PCs at the time. I was running one HELL of a PC back then and I couldn’t touch the Xbox at all… Now however my PC can run rings around it with ease. Now with the prices of things coming down and the sheer amount of Oomph you can get for your cash I would have expected the next generation of Consoles to be Super Powered boxes of PC-killing Doom.

Now all reports indicate that the PS4 will be the most powerful of the 3 (The Wii-U, Xbox One and PS4) so lets look at the specs and take them apart a little. Then for fun let’s compare what I am running now…

So the brains of the PS4 is an 8-core AMD CPU (now there is talk that the whole system will be an APU rather than a seperate CPU/GPU but let’s split it down just for easier discussion). That sounds impressive, it sounds big, it sounds… MEATY. Now let’s say they’re clocked at 1.6 ghz… Suddenly it goes found sounding like a whole cow to just an ear… Hmmmm.

If the brains are massive but underpowered how about the heart… The “highly enhanced PC GPU” under the hood? Again an AMD part… Now where AMD lack in CPU technology they certainly make it up in GPU tech. Now basically the card inside the PS4 is equivalent (already a bad sign) of a current HD7850… So we’re talking 1.84 Terraflops of graphical horsepower.

Backing it all up we have 8gb of GDDR5 memory. Not a lot can say about that apart from it is interesting that they seem to only be including GDDR5 memory and now any standard DDR3 stuff… I wasn’t aware that graphics memory could be substituted for normal memory but maybe I just know nothing!

The Dr. Is In.

So, my current system (Dr. Beasty Mk I.5) is a few years old, a little long in the teeth and 2 WHOLE generations out… However, can it out perform a PS4 when it is released? I am willing to bet a solid – Yes. Now soon I shall in fact be upgrading to Ivybridge (once I can afford the processor!) but let’s go with what I have right now.

CPU wise the PS4 is having this 8-core 1.6ghz under the hood. My poor ailing system has 4 physical and 4 logical cores. So totalling 8 (a draw!) but let’s be honest, hyper-threaded cores aren’y physical cores so how about we strip them out leaving me with just 4 cores… So I have lost, right? Not quite, lets add up raw Clocks now shall we. The PS4 -running flat out- has a total of 14.4ghz worth of power under that hood (that no-one has seen!). That is many numbers… So how about me with my 4 cores? At my standard clock speed (without turboboost or other technologies) I have a total of 12.24 ghz worth of power.

This certainly looks like a loss for the PC until you remember that this is running half the cores of the PS4 and ignoring the hyper-threads (which if they added say 750mhz to the overall numbers would stick me at 15.24 ghz), plus remember than AMD are not as efficient when it comes to CPU tech so an AMD processor clocked at the same as an Intel chip is around 10-20% slower. We’re also talking a CPU from 2009 vs one from 2013 plus lets add in the fact that what is running in the PS4 is a low-power Mobile chip rather than a full fat CPU!

Now the interesting part… GPU. This is the most important part of an console. If games look amazingly good then they’ll sell well, if they look poor then they won’t (Note: This only applies to the “hardcore” or “core” gamers, after all the Wii sold AMAZINGLY well and it looked like crap! They went for the approach of the Old School of making REALLY solid and fun games with Great GAMEPLAYrather than just ‘splosions and gore!) so it has got to have a LOT of grunt… So we have basically a HD7850 (with some upgrades admittedly) with 1.84 tflops of Oomph backed up by 8gb of GDDR5. Lets look at the memory first, shall we?

The memory numbers… Now -obviously- there is still a lot of speculation on these numbers so they might be WAY off but let’s go with what we mostly know. Approx 1-2gb of that ram if off the table for actually running systems so the console works right. You NEED a cache and suchlike after all so we’re down to 6gb of high bandwidth but as a consequence higher latency memory… How high bandwidth? Expected to be around the 176gb/s mark. However, DDR3 has a lower bandwidth but MUCH lower latency. So my system is running 6gb of said DDR3 memory, plus my graphics card is running 1gb of GDDR5. Again my card came out in 2009 vs a 2013 chip but I have a memory bandwidth of 153.6gb/s and that is from an old fashioned 256 bit memory bus!

Okay, so that is kinda a win for the PC but marginal as memory doesn’t play such a large part in things. Let’s look at the score card – Close call with the CPU but the PS4 won that. Memory… Meh, that is pretty much a draw. So it comes down to this… The very POINT of a console… Graphical power…

Here the PS4 wades in with its 1.84 tflops. See it looking all hard, especially as all three of the last gen consoles ADDED TOGETHER with by CPU and GPU power didn’t exceed 2 tflops, so it must be feeling pretty confident against a 4 year old GPU… Now see my ATi card step in to the ring… It’s Nolan-style Batmobile armour surrounding it, it towers over the punny little runt in the other corner and laughs Jabba style. That’s right, my 2009 card produces a MASSIVE 2.72 tflops of Oomph… 0.12 off being a WHOLE Teraflop more powerful… Now let me tell you, even *I* was amazed by this result…

But What Does This Mean?!

My 4 year old PC has done enough to beat what looks to be the most “powerful” of the “Next Gen”… And yet I am glad about the PS4, I am happy for its existence… Why? Let me tell you why.

For a start off, I love AMD. Their processors are terrible now, but my first home-brew system had a £700 AMD FX-57 at it’s heart and still today that processor can handle anything that is thrown at it (for example it is now acting as a mini server in a school!) so I still have that loyalty, and it broke my heart that I had to move to Intel for my latest system but if AMD cannot be competitive then I shall look elsewhere, but graphically when they bought ATi I was sad that ATi had been bought, but I was happy AMD bought them, and they have done Amazing things with them. Now my card is the LAST ATi card to ever exist, it says ATi on the PCB and on the heatsink and I will use it until it finally gives up the ghost, then I will buy an AMD card and I will be happy because they make amazing graphics chips. This move gives AMD MORE MONEY to spend on even more on graphics in the future.

For me though the single most important thing about the PS4 is this… The CPU is an x86 chip… That means that most games for the PS4 will run with very little tinkering for the PC, plus they will be written FOR MULTICORE from the start. You hear that Cities XL? You CAN use more than one friggin’ core! Now the new Xbox looks to ALSO run on an x86 chip and it’ll also be running DirectX which means it’ll be even Easier to take an Xbox game and have it just Run on a PC without those awful shoddy ports!

So much so that many developers are actually looking to be creating the Full Fat game on PCs then porting it to the consoles and dropping the quality meaning PC looks very much to be at the top of the pile again before the next gen comes out.

The Next-Gen is here, and it was here a WHOLE Four Years ago!

The King is Dead! Long Live The King!

* Not true… Not true AT ALL