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This is a discussion on Game Tech News within the Electronics forums, part of the Non-Related Discussion category; Another day, another leak (or supposed leak) concerning the Nintendo NX. In this case, an unverified poster to the NX ...

      
   
  1. #291
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    New Nintendo NX leak hints console is more powerful than a PS4



    Another day, another leak (or supposed leak) concerning the Nintendo NX. In this case, an unverified poster to the NX reddit forum is claiming that the machine is “slightly above the power of the PS4.” Others in the subreddit have pointed out some discrepancies in the original poster’s comments that could indicate the entire thread is bogus — or might imply that the person in question simply doesn’t know the hardware specs very well.

    There’s been a tremendous amount of chatter around the Nintendo NX these last few months and reports continue to swirl that Nintendo has slashed Wii U production after sales in Japan collapsed this year.




    Wii U sales have cratered in Japan, the one market where it showed some faint signs of life. Q1 is always the worst period for console sales, but the Wii U’s reported performance to-date is bad, even by Q1 standards. It’s even worse if you compare global sales. Nintendo may or may not have pulled the plug just yet, but we suspect the fall-off in Wii U sales is going to decide it for them quickly (and not in a positive direction).

    What can Nintendo build?


    Just as the Wii U offered roughly the same horsepower as the Xbox 360 and PS3 (albeit with a more advanced GPU), there’s no reason the Nintendo NX can’t match the performance of the existing Xbox One and PS4. Questions like this ultimately come down to cost, form factor, and noise level. Historically, Nintendo has chosen to build small, quiet systems with hardware performance ranging from roughly on par with its rivals to roughly one generation behind. The Wii U was built on 40nm process technology at a time when 28nm was already readily available because Nintendo wanted to save money. Total main memory bandwidth is 12.8GB/s, nearly an order of magnitude lower than the Xbox One, and games have just 1GB of memory to work with.

    In short, the reason the Wii U has roughly the same performance as a last-gen console (with some notable exceptions), is because Nintendo made design decisions that used last-gen technology. There’s an important lesson here: One reason the Wii U’s gamepad never took off the way motion controller titles did is because many Nintendo games are best when used for local multiplayer — and the limited horsepower of the Wii U simply couldn’t handle multiple simultaneous gamepads (at least not without compromising game performance). The idea of a portable gaming tablet that you carry around your house while tethering to a larger system is something we’ve seen both Shield and Steam explore, but they rely on substantially more horsepower to back up the capability than the Wii U offers.

    There’s been a great deal of speculation about the NX’s hardware — is it x86 or ARM, is it AMD or IBM, does it use a GCN or Polaris GPU? All of this is interesting, but it’s not what will decide the shape or function of the console. If Nintendo wants to build a PS4-equivalent in 2016, it can obviously do so — Sony, after all, built a PS4 in 2012.

    Does the NX bet on gimmicks or firepower?


    Instead of taking yet another trip through hypothetical capabilities, I’d like to reframe the NX discussion around a different idea. The past two cycles have been won and lost based on whether or not the platform in question centered around a gimmick or simply provided more firepower.

    The Wii and Wii U bet on gimmicks, as did the Xbox One with Kinect. Sony bet on firepower with both the PS4 and PS3, as did the Xbox 360. The PS3 arguably lost that fight (at least as far as total revenue across the lifespan of the console), because Sony took such a shattering loss on the platform in the beginning that we’re not sure the PS3 was a net earning’s positive for the entire time it spent as a leading-edge console.

    Given that the PS4’s estimated cost in 2013 was a bit over $300, it’s entirely reasonable to think that Nintendo could build a PS4-equivalent in the Nintendo NX today. But based on even the limited facts we’ve heard from corporate, we know that the company is doubling down on the controller design and wants to field a “hybrid” platform.



    The NX controller photos that surfaced last week were fakes; this patent drawing remains the only imagery we have to go on.


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    Windows 10 will receive an Anniversary Update with Linux support, Xbox One compatibility, and more



    Update: An earlier version of this post implied that games would be among the Universal Windows applications that would run on either the Xbox One or PC. This is incorrect, the new capability refers to applications, not game titles.

    Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference is this week, and the company has a number of significant updates planned for Windows 10’s one-year anniversary. While Microsoft has moved away from specific update branding like Service Packs or point updates, it has to call them something — in this case, the Anniversary Update.

    At the conference, Redmond revealed that it now has 270 million Windows 10 users, which makes Windows 10 the fastest-adopted operating system the company has ever shipped, by a long shot. Adoption is outpacing even Windows 7 by 145%, though the company isn’t on-pace to achieve its one billion target goal within two years — at least, not yet. The only way to drive that level of replacement is if corporations start shifting to Windows 10 in large numbers, or if consumers finally begin purchasing replacement PCs. How much the company can depend on either trend is unclear.

    Windows 10, Xbox One, and gaming


    One of the major changes coming to the Windows 10 platform doesn’t involve the PC at all, but the Xbox One. Microsoft already allows for game streaming between an Xbox One and a Windows 10 PC, but that compatibility is expanding significantly with the Anniversary Update. Post-update, the Xbox One will be able to run any Windows 10 Universal Application.

    The Anniversary Update will allow gamers to actually disable V-Sync and will improve support for multi-GPU configurations. Other issues, like the complete lack of modding support or any kind of editable INI configuration, are not addressed in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update — at least, not yet. The company will have to work to rehabilitate its image after recent launches mostly flopped.

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    PlayStation 4K could offer ‘twice’ the PS4’s GPU horsepower



    Ever since the news first broke about a major hardware refresh for the PS4, the internet has been abuzz with theories and leaks. Most recently, a post on the popular gaming forum NeoGAF claims that the “PS4K” will feature a significantly more powerful GPU and support for the UHD Blu-ray standard.*A NeoGAF user named “OsirisBlack” started a thread earlier this week, and listed a handful of details about this mid-cycle update to the PlayStation 4. It’s supposedly going to have a GPU “twice as powerful as standard PS4,” a UHD Blu-ray player, and a UHD upscaler. As for the CPU, that’s still up in the air. Replacing the existing CPU could raise the final price from a $400 target to $500, so a decision has yet to be made.

    As for the release window, it’s tentatively set for the first quarter of 2017. That strikes us as very odd. Why skip the holiday season? At best, it angers the people who got PS4s for Christmas. At worst, a looming release could cause current hardware sales to nosedive. This story is quickly spinning out of control, and Sony would do well to respond to all of this speculation — even if that means discussing it publicly before E3.

    More importantly, this forum poster asserts that developers are already making games that will take advantage of the new hardware while remaining backwards compatible on the original PS4. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t seem as if native 4K games will be possible on this new hardware, but the post says it would be reasonable to expect a new release to be running at 1080p60 on the PS4K, while only delivering a 900p30 experience on the first PS4.


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    Microsoft exec dismisses idea of an ‘Xbox One and a half,’ talks Windows and Xbox ecosystem



    Microsoft’s Build conference was last week, and the company’s keynote functioned as a simultaneous look at the future of Windows, the development of various bots and artificial intelligences (Tay’s debut, in retrospect, didn’t do much for this area), as well as the launch of HoloLens, Microsoft’s AR platform.

    Build is a developer conference rather than a gaming event, but VentureBeat caught up with Xbox head Phil Spencer to talk about the platform and its future. With so much talk in the news about a possible PlayStation 4.5 (as well as myriad rumors about what kind of device it might turn out to be,) what can gamers expect from the Xbox One?



    Microsoft’s Phil Spencer at an earlier Xbox event

    When asked point-blank about the possibility of an Xbox 1.5, Spencer said: “I don’t know. Not a big fan of one and a half. I think about what happens in most spaces. If I’m going to move forward, I want to move forward in big numbers… I can understand other teams’ motivations, why they might want to go do that. But for us, our box is doing well. It performs. It’s reliable. The service is up. If we go forward with anything I want to make it a substantial change.”
    This doesn’t mean Microsoft isn’t planning some sort of upgrade — Spencer’s comments could be read as a remark on either branding (not wanting to rebrand the Xbox One as anything else without a big jump) or as pushing for a significant, rather than an incremental change.

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    Oculus Rift pre-orders get free shipping, but its Terms of Service raises eyebrows



    Two new pieces of Rift-related news today: First, the company has acknowledged it’s been hit by an “unexpected component shortage,” which delayed some of its shipments. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe took to Twitter to address the problem. According to Iribe, Oculus will provide free shipping on all preorders, including international ones, as a way to apologize to its most dedicated fans.




    A later tweet clarified that all preorders made between January and April 1 will be free, regardless of when they were placed. There’s been some concern from Rift backers and pre-orders over when devices would actually ship and the company has been criticized for being largely silent on these issues — it’s good to see some clarification on the topic. That said, Oculus is still apparently struggling to process orders; a number of Twitter users claim not to have received confirmation emails days after placing an order.
    The current shipping date for an Oculus Rift is July 2016 if you haven’t placed an order, but there’s no harm in letting the ecosystem firm up a bit. While we’re excited about the long-term potential of virtual reality, current reviews suggest the hardware and software suites are both first-gen products with the promise and pitfalls that entails.

    Oculus’ Terms of Use raise eyebrows


    Oculus’ shipping issues aren’t the only potential cloud on the horizon for the VR company. Gizmodo read through the Rift’s Terms of Use and pointed out some verbiage that’s likely to concern the privacy-minded. Some of the language is boilerplate-standard for a social company like Facebook, which grants itself the right to use any content you upload to the service for any purpose it wishes without acknowledgement, compensation, or expectation of privacy.

    Oculus also states that it collects information about your specific system, IP address, and other device identifiers, data on the games, content, and applications installed on your system, your location information (including your exact location if you are using a mobile device), and your physical movements and dimensions while using VR.

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    The Final Fantasy XV demo, despite dynamic resolution, can’t deliver a solid frame rate



    Last week, Square-Enix announced a giant multimedia blitz around the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV. An anime series, a CG movie, and the release date were all unveiled at a big event, but the biggest news was the release of a completely new demo that’s available to anyone with a PS4 or Xbox One. Unfortunately, it’s disappointing in nearly every way.

    If you move through the demo at a steady clip, there’s about 30 minutes worth of activities on offer. There are a few hidden objects here and there to keep you occupied, but this “Platinum Demo” is fairly light on content. And considering that it prominently features pressure pads throughout the world that can change the time of day, turn you into an animal, or spawn a vehicle, this is much more of a tech demo than a vertical slice of the game. A more traditional game demo is locked behind the purchase of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD — a remastered version of a PSP game.

    We weren’t pleased with the clunky character movement or the ultra-boring tasks in this demo, but at least this gives us a good look at the tech Square-Enix is working with. The folks over at Digital Foundry have analyzed the demo running on both platforms, and the results are troubling. Both versions are running at a dynamic resolution, and neither one is particularly impressive.

    The Xbox One demo fluctuates between 1568×882 and 1360×768, but it’s mostly hovering around 1408×792. On the PS4, a full 1920×1080 is possible in some environments, but it was seen dropping down to just 1568×882 at some points. Typically, it’s sitting at 1600×900.

    Depressingly, the dynamic resolution doesn’t help maintain frame rate stability. Dipping down into the low 20s is pretty standard here, and it even drops as low as 15 frames per second. The PS4’s frame rate is slightly better, but it seems to suffer from a frame-pacing issue that makes even 30fps footage look choppier than it should.



    We wish we*could say that those are the only technical problems, but that’s not true. Thanks to the highly flawed anti-aliasing solution, there are some really ugly moments here. Not only does it cause very heavy-handed blurring in some situations, but it often fails to handle the hair properly.

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    Firmware 3.50 lets you stream PS4 games to your PC or Mac — Here’s how to set it up



    Earlier today, Sony released firmware version 3.50 (codenamed “Musashi”) for the PlayStation 4. Social features like scheduled events and log-in notifications have made their way to Sony’s console, but today’s biggest news is the support for Remote Play on both Macs and PCs. At long last, Sony has finally decoupled this excellent feature from the wildly unpopular PlayStation TV and Vita hardware.

    Okay, so how do you take advantage of Remote Play? First, you’ll need to make sure everything is up to date. If you’re not immediately prompted to update your PS4 upon boot-up, head over to Settings > System Software Update, and download the latest firmware. On your computer, head to this page, and download the Remote Play client. Plug in your DualShock 4 over USB, launch the app, and then log into your PSN account. The app will search the internet to find your console, but you can also pair your device manually by going to Settings > Remote Play Connection Settings > Add Device on your PS4.



    Keep in mind, the default client settings aren’t necessarily optimal. Before you actually connect with your PS4, you might want to head over to the preferences panel first. For the best visual experience, set the resolution to “High (720p),” and change the frame rate to “High” as well. If you’re running on a wired connection, that should work perfectly fine. If you’re relying on a Wi-Fi connection, you’re better off leaving the frame rate on “Standard.” Give it a try at 720p, and see if your connection can handle it. If you run into problems, you can try dropping the resolution to 540p or 360p, but both of those settings are hard to look at on a PC monitor or HDTV.

    We’ve spent dozens of hours using Remote Play on the Vita and PlayStation TV, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed those experiences. It’s exciting that more people can use this feature, but it’s frustrating to see some of the limitations of this release. For example, the client only supports the DualShock 4 when it’s plugged in. Considering that the controller simply uses Bluetooth to connect wirelessly, it’s mind-boggling that Sony requires you to be tethered. Presumably, that kink will be worked out as time goes on.

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    Why you’re better off waiting a few more months to upgrade your GPU



    Yesterday, Nvidia took the wraps off its high-end GP100 GPU and gave us a look at what its top-end HPC configuration would look like come Q1 2017. While this new card is explicitly aimed at the scientific computing market and Nvidia has said nothing about future consumer products, the information the company revealed confirms some of what we’ve privately heard about next-generation GPUs from both AMD and Nvidia.

    If you’re thinking about using some of your tax rebate on a new GPU or just eyeing the market in general, we’d recommend waiting at least a few more months before pulling the trigger. It may even be worth waiting until the end of the year based on what we now know is coming down the pipe.

    What to expect when you’re expecting (a new GPU)


    First, a bit of review: We already know AMD is launching a new set of GPUs this summer, codenamed Polaris 10 and Polaris 11. These cores are expected to target the sweet spot of the add-in-board (AIB) market, which typically means the $199 – $299 price segment. High-end cards like the GTX 980 Ti and Fury X may command headlines, but both AMD and Nvidia ship far more GTX 960s and Radeon R7 370s than they do top-end cards.



    Polaris 10 and 11 are expected to use GDDR5 rather than HBM (I’ve seen the rumors that claim some Polaris SKUs might use HBM1 — it’s technically possible, but I think it exceedingly unlikely) and AMD has said these new GPUs will improve performance-per-watt by 2.5x compared with their predecessors. The company’s next-generation Vega GPU family, which arrives late this year, is rumored to be the first ground-up new architecture since GCN debuted in 2012 with 4,096 shader cores and HBM2 memory.

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    Blizzard kills fan-created ‘vanilla’ WoW server



    Almost 12 years ago, Blizzard launched World of Warcraft, the monster MMORPG that went on to dominate US sales charts and the entire MMO genre. It’s been almost nine years since the original version of World of Warcraft was available to play — the game’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, fundamentally overhauled many aspects of the game. For some players, these changes were less than welcome. Last year, a group of dedicated fans and gamers launched Nostalrius, a server devoted to running World of Warcraft 1.12, the last version Blizzard released before TBC hit store shelves. As of yesterday, the nostalgia server is offline at Blizzard’s “request.”

    The French group behind the project announced that the servers will go dark on April 10. The software behind the Nostalrius server will be released into the wild for others to use as they please, and Nostalrius was far from the only private WoW server. It does, however, seem to have been one of the largest groups of players, with 800K registered users. There’s no word on how many of those players were active on a daily or weekly basis, however.

    The ephemeral nature of gaming

    I played WoW in beta from just after the Tri-Horde push to 2011. Having watched the game evolve through multiple expansions, I can honestly say vanilla WoW isn’t an experience I’d personally care to focus on. At the time, Blizzard’s design philosophy treated hybrid characters as second-class citizens. Paladins and Druids were expected to be healers in the end game raids, and their ability to perform in other roles was extremely limited. Smaller guilds with limited rosters also had real trouble making the leap from 10-man raids to 40-man Molten Core, and the PvP honor system was a horrifying grind. The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King made dramatic changes to the game that, in my personal opinion, made it far more fun to play.



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    Quantum Break on PC is classically broken



    When Quantum Break launched for the Xbox One, gamers were treated to a visually rich title with some gorgeous special effects and interesting abilities. The frame rate and resolution both suffered on the Xbox One, however, which doesn’t seem to quite have enough graphics horsepower to do the job. Theoretically, this means the game should run beautifully on PCs — instead, gamers seem to have gotten another raw deal on this Universal Windows Platform title.

    Some of the game’s problems are issues we’ve never seen in a PC title before, as Eurogamer details. These include:
    It can’t match a monitor’s stated refresh rate. The game appears to top out at roughly 5/6 of a 60Hz refresh rate, no matter which detail levels or settings you use. Eurogamer couldn’t break 50 FPS on a 60Hz monitor, even when using a GTX Titan X or AMD GPU, even at 720p and lowest detail settings. I’ve heard of game engines being locked to a flat refresh rate before, but a game engine that’s stuck at 5/6 of one? That’s new, and simply using a faster monitor isn’t a solution. A 120 or 144Hz display will run more quickly, but Eurogamer notes: “[Y]ou can’t achieve a level of performance that results in consistent, level frame-times. As far as we can tell, a judder-free experience is impossible at the moment without a patch from Remedy.”

    Frame rate caps don’t work
    : Locking the frame rate at 30 FPS doesn’t actually result in a smooth 30 FPS experience. Instead, frame rate judder remains a significant issue — one that’s magnified by the fact that the frames are being displayed for comparatively longer periods of time. In a standard Win32 application, this could be fixed through the frame rate controls available through the Nvidia Control Panel or AMD’s Radeon Software, but since this is a Windows Store title with fullscreen borderless mode, those options don’t exist.
    The list goes on from there. Image quality is terrible because there’s no option to actually play the game in native 1080p. Gamers are instead being handed 720p upscale, just like the Xbox One. The game’s use of streaming means that it must be installed to an SSD (Eurogamer’s emphasis, not ours). There are LOD issues, draw distance problems, and the game somehow manages to crash Nvidia’s driver on a regular basis. The Radeon R9 390 is, according to Eurogamer, a full 50% faster than the GTX 970.


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