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Diecast #96: Valve, Game Engines, Windows 8

By Shamus
on Monday Mar 9, 2015
Filed under:


Enjoy this extra-long Diecast where we try to cover as much of the GDC news as we can. Thanks to Josh for editing this one while I nursed my computer back to health.

Direct link to this episode.

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Shamus, Josh, Chris.

Show notes:

1:00 Valve announced Source Engine 2.

And not anything we were hoping for. Source Engine 2 is nice though. I guess.

12:00 Valve VR headset.

Once again we discuss the problems of moving around in 3D.

19:00 Valve’s Steambox, its controller, and the system hardware concerns.

Despite my snarking, I really do wonder if they aren’t going to somehow try to use Half-Life 3, Portal 3, or Left 4 Dead 3 to sell the Steambox. They used Half-Life 2 to establish Steam, after all.

41:00 Unreal Engine, Unity, Source 2, and the wave of free AAA-grade engines.

I really think this is one step closer to bringing us those mid-range games I’ve been longing for. Thi4f and BioShock have shown that the Looking Glass classics don’t really work as glamorous AAA cutscene-driven spectacle. But these free engines make it that much more feasible to focus on mechanics and still have a game look presentable enough to attractive to mainstream consumers.

I don’t know if it’ll work out, but that’s my dream.

50:00 Everyone on the show is replacing their computer. So let’s talk operating systems.

I’m all ranted out by now, so this is pretty low-key.

1:13:00 MAILTIME!

Dear Diecast,

Rob Liefeld gets a lot of criticism, mostly for being paid way too much to perform a job at which he was authentically terrible, but to my mind his true legacy was making almost a decade of comics nigh-unreadable because the entire industry copied him.

Are there any trends (aesthetic, narrative or mechanical) you see in games that you think will have a similar effect in hindsight?


Comments (154)

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Does this repetition mean that we have settled for Josh to be gargamel?

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Are there any trends (aesthetic, narrative or mechanical) you see in games that you think will have a similar effect in hindsight?

    Quick time events.

    • Asimech says:

      Wow. That’s a really good analogue. Both are a plague on their respective lands and have people defending them for poorly thought out reasons.
      “He made a ton of money ergo he’s great.”
      “It’s better than doing nothing for five minutes while watching a drawn out cut-scene b/c making the cut-scene shorter is crazy talk.”

      • Merlin says:

        Rob is also by all accounts a really pleasant guy to work with, timely in an industry that’s plagued by delays, and generally better at his brand of schlock than the bulk of his pretenders. QTEs likewise are a reasonable, well-intentioned idea that became awful due to the wave of sloppy imitators.

    • Bropocalypse says:

      Call of Duty-style multiplayer.
      World of Warcraft clones(Notice that most of them die in a year).
      The graphical arms race.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I actually think Quick Time Events do have a place when used properly.
      Going back to Marlow Briggs when Chris said God of War looks easy to copy, but isn’t:

      In God of War the QTE’s always felt like a reward. You beat down a guy enough and you get to kill him in a way that you would never be able to do with the other controls presented. Not to mention in the middle of a fight seeing a way to get quick health can be a life saver.

      So yeah I guess I’m a fan of QTE’s the they are a reward not a slog.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yes,when done properly they can be nice.When used to take down an enemy quickly,or stealthily,for example.Or,like you said,in spectacular fashion.

        But the problem is that those proper qtes are used maybe 1% of the time,if even that often.

        And thats not even mentioning the horrible new(ish) trend of slow time events.

    • Do people simply not realize that QTE’s have been around since the 80’s? Have none of ya’ll heard of Dragon’s Lair…Space Ace. Damn near half the catalog of Sega CD. It’s not this new thang that latched itself onto the medium like a tumor. It’s always been.

  3. Zukhramm says:

    Vulkan is the new Khronos effort, basically the next OpenGL. Mantle has seemingly been folded into that instead of being an AMD project.

    Also, if you’re getting trolled by Valve these days, it’s your own fault. Here’s the Truth: There’s no Half-Life 3. It’s not coming. Get over it! Valve is a games store/games platform company, nothing else. They don’t do games.

    • Bropocalypse says:

      DOTA2 came out recently… They make games, just at the pace of… uh, an indie.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        Technically, DOTA2 was a game that was developed by people who Valve acquired, wasn’t it?

        • Thomas says:

          It was designed by people Valve acquired, but the nitty-gritty making of it was Valve.

          If you look at their timeline they’re definitely working hard as developers. They’ve produced games regularly every year or two. And you can see their big focus in creating new Free-to-Play mechanics, that beat the pants off everyone else in the industry. They make F2P mechanics where people like them more for it.

          But people tend not to count the F2P games when they think of Valve, also all those games have very fluid release dates (when was DotA2 really released? Probably a year before the ‘release date’)

    • *nod* There won’t be a Half-Life 3, or rather not a Half-Life 2 Episode 3 or a HL sequel to HL2.

      What I predict will happen is a Half-Life reboot.

      Valve actually doing a true HL3 right now is just silly, tech has moved along too much now, HL1 is very outdated, even HL2 is.

      So a reboot would allow them to remake HL1 and then HL2 and then do a HL3.
      This sort of makes sense with the Steam controller, SteamOS and the Steam VR headset.

      Just plopping out HL3 now will make it a Duke Nukem Forever.

      • ehlijen says:

        By the times HL2 came out HL1 was quite outdated, and that didn’t stop HL2 from being a pretty good game for its time (both because it wasn’t anything like HL1 in some ways and because it was in others).

        There is no reason to assume that HL3 can’t happen because of a reason that shouldn’t have seen HL2 happen either.

        We may not see a HL3, but if not, it’ll not be just because of this reason.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Valve actually doing a true HL3 right now is just silly, tech has moved along too much now, HL1 is very outdated, even HL2 is.

        Graphically,yes.But then,half life 1 was graphically outdated when 2 came out.Heck,when 2 came out 1 was way more graphically outdated than 2 is now.So that really doesnt matter.

        • Disc says:

          Yeah. I’d wager we’re actually more likely to hear about it and other possible sequels now that they’re getting the new engine out. It’s easy to see as it being at least one of the reasons why so many potential sequels have been delayed. Source was getting old years ago and I imagine there was only so much they could eventually push it.

    • Supahewok says:

      Has Valve fired all of their writers?


      Then they’re still making games.

      You can reshuffle things around to get your programmers and designers working on a new engine, but there’s jack crap a straight out writer can do with all of this hardware and engine development. They’re still making something in there.

      Although, with Valve’s sense of “humor”, I fully expect them to announce Ricochet 2 as the first Source 2 game… with a small postnote of Half-life and Portal “expansions”…

  4. DeadlyDark says:

    Well, as for Linux and SteamOs, somehow Mordor and Arkham Knight are coming to SteamOs, so it’s a start. Big step I think, but I am not Linux user, yet anyway.

    • ET says:

      I’m a Linux User (TM), but only because I also dabble in programming in a non_MS language/setup. One thing I don’t understand, is why Valve doesn’t spend some resources/hours building up a bunch of installers for Wine*. This would be one more avenue for securing themselves against MS/Windows, and would require a lot less work** than making their own variant of Linux.

      * Play On Linux does this; It’s basically a GUI / front-end for Wine, which has rules/setups for each game. Also runs each game in its own version of Wine / virtual machine, so that each application can’t clobber any other ones.

      ** I would assume. I could totally be wrong.

      • DeadlyDark says:

        So Wine basically works as an DosBox where you makes either different configs files (with special shortcut to them) or different installation?

        • Bryan says:

          Ish. DosBox emulates the hardware, running the CPU instructions on a fake register file and fake chunk of memory (RAM, ROM, memory-mapped I/O, I/O ports for stuff like video or sound hardware, etc., etc.).

          Wine is “just” a PE loader (that is, a loader for the file format of Windows executables and DLLs, to get their code mapped into memory and runnable on the hardware CPU) and an implementation of the various standard libraries. Of course since Windows is so much more complicated than DOS this last part becomes quite a lot more code than DosBox has…

          It’s not entirely a different config file per virtual install; it’s a configuration (implemented using the registry APIs), yes, but it’s also a mapping of Linux filesystem paths (or device files for raw disk or CD access) to drive letters. And settings for which DLLs to load the native-Linux version of, versus loading a native-Windows version of (and hoping that the stuff *that* library does is implemented, if that particular Wine is missing bits out of the library itself). And how to expose the sound card, if any. And a bunch more stuff I’m forgetting from winecfg…

      • Zak McKracken says:

        The Linux distribution bit (I think) comes in because they don’t want people having to install Linux on their own machines, and they want a Linux installation focussed on gaming — which arguably does not exist.

        Now, using Linux with proprietary drivers is often a pain, so it makes sense that they would create a new distro where this bit works better (could imagine a few distro-specific tools to keep your drivers updated and stuff), possibly at the expense of other things which many “regular” Linux users may not want to miss.

        Now, depending on how deep you want to dig, a person can make a new distro in a day if they know what they’re doing, so I have no idea how much work Valve actually spend making SteamOS — probably more than one day, I’d guess :) … and I’d also guess that it will use Wine at least to some extent (since they can’t recompile all Steam games…)

      • bucaneer says:

        Wine is not a sustainable solution, especially if you have any hopes of keeping up with newly released games. Wine still does not support DirectX 10/11 – sure, there is work getting done, but most games that rely on features beyond DX9 currently just crash at launch. Who knows how many years it’ll be before DirectX 12 gets implemented.

        There are at least some games on Steam where the Linux version is actually a Wine wrapper, e.g. Xenonauts. It’s not really in the best interests of Steam to promote the practice because performance under Wine is necessarily worse than what is possible for a native game, and because it just isn’t a workable long-term plan.

  5. Infinitron says:

    Speaking of the Looking Glass classics, do you have anything to say about Underworld Ascendant (which will be using Unity 5)?

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Virtual living room simulator:It scans your whole living room,then projects it to your vr glasses verbatim,allowing you to see in vr exactly what you would see in reality.Only in glorious 120 fps hd!

    • Alex says:

      Does the virtual TV screen show whatever game you’re playing? Because if it does, that could make for some truly horrible horror games.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        What about a VR/AR game that makes you think you’re a ghost haunting your old life but not actually living it? Like you’ve been a ghost this whole time and didn’t know it. The AR overlays your actual house with rot, cobwebs, other signs of neglect. People seem to ignore you.

        The Sixth Sense didn’t scare me when I first watched it but there were a couple of times when I was living alone for ten years and losing social contacts that that scenario became particularly unnerving.

        And even if that scenario is a bit fantastic, it has a nice mundane parrallel in that its easy to think you’ve still got a life only to wake up one day and realize the things and people you still think of as part of your life haven’t been for quite some time. You haven’t been in contact with them and they’ve moved on. What you’ve been actually doing each day is going home to be by yourself because you just didn’t feel like going out and facing the world. Can be pretty unsettling in its own right.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      … and with a little drift on the position sensor!
      I’ll just drop the word “out-of-body experience” here …

      oh, and voices out of nowhere whenever someone enters your real living room. That could get scary quickly.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I’m going to seize upon this slight opportunity to mention something I think ties into Campster’s comments from the Oculus Rift and Inputs video. Sort of a corrollary, I think, to his point that we’re racing headlong for the holodeck when we haven’t even explored what we can do with this new presence thing yet, is that we’re so focused on first person VR when third person VR has interesting possibilities too.

        I’ve noticed most of whats available in the Gear VR store is first person and most of what we envision for use is that as well, and I’m on board with that. But we shouldn’t ignore the third person experiences that can be provided.

        I’ve got Herobound now which is a third person game, played from a Zelda esque perspective where you’re looking down on the game space and controlling your hero. People might argue that its a gimmick but if it is its less gimmicky than the equivalent 3D experience. Imagine you’re a mighty wizard in a tower using a scrying pool to look upon the game space and control it. I dunno. Even if all it does is take the game out of the monitor and drop it in front of you in 3D, its still a neat experience and I feel like interesting things could be done with it.

        For example, I think VR could save online virtual tabletop roleplaying, by finally putting the players into a shared gamespace. The problem as I understand it from a lot of people right now is that when you’re playing online tabletop, you’re in your house and everybody else is inside your monitor and speakers. It can make you more distracted and less engaged. VR could solve that problem. It would also allow you to use a limitless supply of virtual miniatures and 3D tabletop set pieces when roleplaying. We could jump right over 3D printed miniatures here.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          I’m not sure about the 3rd person perspective since “Presence” is the big thing, and that is helped by having a body.

          On the roleplaying bit: Yeah, that sounds good. I think this could be the future of video chat, or at least one of its futures. That said: Would I rather look at a coarse 3D representation of the people I’m playing with, or a “proper” video feed of my friends with no VR glasses on? While body language will eventually work in VR, facial expression is another thing … so … not convinced.

          • Thomas says:

            But I think Wide and Nerdy is suggesting that it’s very possible to have a feeling of presence without actually ‘bodily’ being there.

            …I actually think one of the VR kits had a tech demo that experimented with this recently and the guy who was trying it was impressed.

            Maybe playing an RTS with the Rift will make you feel like some Godly being looking down on the world and choosing what you want, zooming around and looking at the action as you choose and then zipping back up and making orders.

            I think it’s definitely fun to try and experiment with that at least. Assuming that we need to have a ‘logical’ body might end up being one of those weird restrictions no-one understands 5 years later. “Of course the brain is imaginative enough to not need a physical body…”

            Or maybe not. But I’m betting even non-first person games will feel special in VR

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Looking back over my post I was tired yesterday and I’m glad you followed up. Yes Thomas, that was what I was driving at. Thank you for clearing that up. And thanks for the link, that looks really cool.

              Really I think there are a lot of places right now where we don’t need to simulate an entire world so much as we should be playing with pulling our digital experiences out of the monitor and setting them in front of us in VR space. I think eventually 3D modelers are going love working with VR based modeling tools and wonder how they ever did it any other way (Well ok, the ones that are used to 2D tools may be slower to adjust). And using all three dimensions in a user interface. We can start looking at the design disciplines surrounding real world objects and bring more of that into UI/UX.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Here I was going for a redundancy joke,and you guys had to ruin it with stuff that actually can be cool.

  7. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Haven’t listened to the diecast yet but Campster, no fair sending in questions for the mailbag just so you can hijack the Diecast. ;)

  8. Zukhramm says:

    Josh: To close a Metro app, you simply slide your finger from the top of the screen to the bottom. I don’t know how you’re supposed to figure that out (or how I did) but once you know, it works fine.

    • RTBones says:

      In 8.1, Microsoft eventually added a hidden bar at the top of a Metro app that will appear if you mouse over it. This bar has the traditional X in the top right to close apps with. ALT-F4 will also close apps.

      EDIT: I havent listened yet, so this may all be old hat.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “I dont hate it anymore.And here are some stuff I still hate about it.”

    No,no,Shamus,you dont get it,you dont need your mouse,you can search for everything with your windows key,so of course the mouse sensitivity will not exist.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      This is all reaffirming my decision to wait till Windows 10. I hear its targeted at Win 7 users so hopefully it won’t be as big of a nightmare. (First World Nightmare?)

      • RTBones says:

        While I am certainly interested in seeing what Windows 10 has to offer, I am not holding out too much hope. Microsoft has openly said they see Windows as a service – meaning they could shift their licensing and funding model to be more like Office 360. Bill Gates has been working on Personal Agent – basically, a piece of software in Windows that allegedly remembers everything you do. With the push to always be signed in to Microsoft, that has dangerous potential privacy implications. Add to that, Cortana will be listening, and happily send your searches out into the Web.

        EDIT: Yes, you can tone down Cortana , and of course, right now Windows 10 is in beta. But I shouldnt have to ‘opt out’ and I still am not happy…grump, grump, grump.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Oh I agree and if thats the case, I will be staying put, Direct X 12 be damned. This may even push me to a Steam OS install or just straight up Ubuntu.

        • “Personal Agent?” Wasn’t that called “Microsoft Bob” at one point?

          • RTBones says:

            Lol. From the article I linked above, Personal Agent is the internal Microsoft code name for a personal assistant that remembers everything you do – and its supposed to work across all your devices.

            Perhaps when they came up with the code name, the devs were remembering Microsoft Bob.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              I’d be on board with the idea too. Virtual personal assistants have a lot of potential especially when they get smart enough to help the chronically disorganized. But we’re all obviously scared given Microsofts privacy track record (or lack thereof especially when it comes to sharing with the government.)

              • Remember when the idea of a robot or personal virtual person that knew everything you liked and helped you make decisions from what to wear or what to eat seemed like an appealing idea instead of something at least vaguely creepy?

                And forget Microsoft; I don’t like all that info condensed into one place at all. Once it’s out there, it’s pretty much out there. It just hasn’t been hacked yet.

    • JackTheStripper says:

      Right, just hit the Windows key and start typing your search query, you don’t need anything else. You can also type Control Panel to access the old-school features or simply type them by name if you happen to know it (e.g. typing “regedit” will bring up the Registry Editor).

      To everyone using Win8, the gesture to close a metro application is to click the top of the screen (around the middle) and drag down. I realize it’s not very intuitive, but that’s how it is. That’s why in Win8.1 they enable the top bar with the X to close windows, because most people didn’t know how to close them regularly (there was no X to close a metro app in vanilla Win8, also, click-and-drag-down to close was very buggy, which is another reason for the X addition).

      And one more for Campster: The way to access the “secret” right-side bar on Win8 is by placing your mouse on any right-side corner (without clicking) and moving it up or down along the side.

      All the points made in this episode about a particular OS not being intuitive or being complicated are completely valid, but almost all the complaints would’ve been resolved if you guys had actually looked around for the answer.

      • Eruanno says:

        You can also get to the sidebar by hitting Win+C on the keyboard which is far less fiddly.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        See,those are the things you do on a tablet,because its hard to do a discrete single click,double click and click and drag with your finger(or a pointer).But its easy to do it with your mouse,so adding all these charming mouse charms is just pointless (and frustrating) conversion of a tablet into a pc.One should not be looking around for a solution for a tablet when one is in front of a pc.This is not a good design for a desktop computer os.

        And before anyone says anything,the same complaint would go in reverse just as well:having to click and scroll,or to double click,or to click on a specific discrete place on a tablet(or worse,a phone)would be just as stupid and just as bad of a design.

        • Thomas says:

          I love the mouse movement to open charms. It so smooth and fluid and it’s actually kind of quicker than clicking on something because you don’t need precision.

          It doesn’t work so well for multi-monitor set-ups though. But otherwise it’s a very natural mouse movement that I hope they use more often (Opera used this kind of thing long before Windows 8 or even touch controls came around)

          EDIT: Just tested to make sure I’m not talking nonsense, and yes, I can open up the charm menus with a mouse significantly faster than I can click the button to open a program tied to the taskbar

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yes,opera introduced these long ago.I tried it,but it wasnt worth it,because opera already has pretty nifty one button shortcuts that are faster than anything you can do with a mouse.

            As for it being faster than using the buttons because of precision,its not universal.For example,depending on where my mouse is at the moment,Ive been using both the middle button shortcut and actual click on the button(which requires more precision) to open/close a new tab with about the same speed.Heck,sometimes its even faster for me to use the mouse instead of the keyboard,though not often.

          • Simon Buchan says:

            Multi monitor works so long as you hit the top or bottom of the screen before the side (assuming a horizontal layout of course)

  10. RTBones says:

    Not listened yet, but am curious to hear some OS details about the rigs the cast run, and why they run them.

    My main rig runs three OSs – Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Xubuntu (though in fairness, the Linux partition has had virtually all of the *buntu flavours as well as Mint on it at one time or another – Xubuntu is just what I settled on for long-ish term use/trial.) I also have a laptop that travels with me which runs Windows 8.1 which I am intending to install a linux partition on – likely as a virtual machine.

    • Neko says:

      I have a backlog of diecasts to catch up with, but yeah, for some reason it’s always interesting to hear about people’s computer setups – hardware, software, even where it is in your house! It’s one of those little things that gives you a bit of insight into a person.

      Me – crazy setup for a crazy neko, I have a macbook running kubuntu that also serves as my main keyboard/mouse via synergy to my desktop (once win7/ubuntu, now just kubuntu). It’s pretty cool to be able to just shove my pointer up off the macbook screen and use the desktop.

    • John says:

      Hey, can I ask you how ultimately settled on Xubuntu?

      I started with Ubuntu, which was absurdly slow. Switching to an Xfce desktop sped things up, but not the point where I was happy with it. I didn’t get to the performance I wanted until I tried LXDE, and from there a proper Lubuntu install seemed the logical thing to do. I never actually tried a strict Xubuntu install and I didn’t spend long enough with Xfce to get a good sense of how the desktop behaved.

      • RTBones says:

        For me, it was balance: speed, and an environment that was light, but not featherweight. My first *buntu was Ubuntu, which I like you found slow. I also found Lubuntu a bit *too* light – not in a speed sense, but in a feature sense. I just felt Lubuntu scaled back the install a bit too much – great if you have old, sluggish hardware, though. I stuck with KDE for a while, but just found Xubuntu to be a bit crisper in the end, with the default install giving me many of the programs I would end up installing anyway just without the KDE plasma bling. I never really warmed to Mint – cant really explain why.

        • John says:

          Thanks for the reply.

          I find that Lubuntu works very well for simple, straightforward tasks. But I’ve been frustrated by recurring audio problems and the clunkiness of the default file manager. If I could get the same performance elsewhere, I’d probably switch.

          Word is they’re switching from GTK to Qt soon. It will be interesting to see how that changes things.

          • RTBones says:

            No worries at all. I am happy to have discussions like this.

            I am running 14.10. One of the things I found is that on initial boot after install, it seemed sluggish. But once all the updates were installed and I had a couple hours on it, it ran (runs) right as rain. So far (knock on wood), I havent had any sound or other hardware issues. I am with you on the Lubuntu default file manager, because I was the same. I find I prefer Thunar or Dolphin. Again, I am happy with ‘light’, but my rig is new enough that I dont have to trim functionality to the bone to get it to run quickly.

            I wonder what the aim is switching to Qt. As you say, it should be interesting to see.

            • John says:

              As I understand it, the developer of the file manager decided to switch, and the rest of LXDE–and therefore Lubuntu–seems to be following. I don’t actually know why.

              I’m running 14.10 now myself. I did a fresh install a while ago, and most of my audio problems are gone. Boot time is perhaps a few seconds slower than it used to be, but I could be wrong.

              I use Lubuntu on a netbook that originally ran Windows XP. It was a second-hand computer and the Windows install was ancient. It took forever to boot and then even longer to do the post-boot virus scan. I had to wait maybe ten minutes for the computer to be in a truly usable state. I was going to do a fresh XP install, but the sticker with the Windows product key was so faded and worn that I didn’t quite dare. I decided to try Linux first, and added an Ubuntu partition where I experimented with different desktops. After a couple of months, I realized I was booting to Linux every single time I used the computer. I guess the rest is history.

              • RTBones says:

                For me, it was more roundabout. I have, for a while, experimented off and on with Linux-various in virtual machines. Got the itch to partition and try it ‘for real’ as I have watched Windows 9/10 develop. (When I say for real, I mean more than about 30 GB of space – which I had also done off and on alongside my VMs. Partition like it was going to stay.) Then, ran into a problem where my Steam library essentially outgrew the drive it was on. Installed new drive, moved files around, installed drives I had in the closet, which gave me LOTS of free drive space, so decided to triple boot.

  11. lethal_guitar says:

    Ok so I’m no expert, but this is what I know about Mantle.

    It’s not so much about offering exclusive special effects, but about an API that’s more efficient and “closer to the metal”. The design of current graphics APIs (OpenGL and DirectX) doesn’t really match how modern GPUs work. This leads to a lot of work that needs to be done by the graphics driver, in order to adapt the API calls to what the hardware expects. As an engine programmer, you don’t get to control this adaptation directly, you can only try to setup your API calls in a way that’s hopefully efficient for the driver, which is not necessarily obvious. Additionally, this complicated logic in the drivers results in runtime overhead, but also makes it hard to write correct and bug-free drivers.

    Mantle is essentially a “thinner” API that lets you interface more directly with the graphics hardware. Consequently, you have much more control over the amount of CPU time you spend interacting with the driver, and you can optimize your engine better. So a game supporting Mantle will essentially run faster/smoother on corresponding AMD cards – which might in turn make it possible to create more complex effects due to better CPU and GPU utilization.

    • Xeorm says:

      Do note though that the original promotion for Mantle used almost entirely special effects from being able to use the GPU for something other than graphics.

      Like the physics example. That brand of mass calculation is fairly straightforward on a GPU compared to a CPU, but isn’t something you can normally do with directX without a lot of workarounds.

      You can get some small amount of performance boost by using the API instead of directX as long as you’re very aware of how things work and use it very well, but I wouldn’t call it the real draw of mantle, as you’re more likely to screw things up and heavily restrict yourself to a certain brand ad age of GPU

  12. lethal_guitar says:

    Wow, those Steam Machine prices really are ridiculous. If you build a PC yourself, you can get a decent gaming machine (i5, 8 gigs RAM, GTX 750 Ti) for around 500 €. And a very powerful machine (i7 CPU, 16 gigs of RAM, GTX 980 and SSD) for something around 1400 €.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I see it paying off in a couple of years if they can get their act together. PS4 and XBox One seems to have missed the mark and locked in at a hardware level that can’t quite deliver 8th gen looking graphics at 1080p at 60fps. They have to compromise on the resolution or the framerate or the post processing.

      If Valve plays their cards right, in a couple of years after hardware prices have fallen that much more, they can say something killer:

      “Are you ready for the 8th gen experience that They couldn’t give you?”

      Can you imagine if they could sell that? Valve might pull a darkhorse victory with that strategy while Microsoft and Sony scramble to try to develop their 9th gen machines.

      “Are you ready for proper 8th gen machines? Ones that can handle 4K? Ones that run on solid state drives?”

      Could be good, but thats assuming they don’t trip over themselves for having launched this too early.

      Also, let me strongly agree with Chris about the “Tier/Class” idea for Steamboxes and/or Gaming PCs. Thats what the potential buyers of this type of product need.

      • Ithilanor says:

        I wonder if the PS4/Xbox One will be able to deliver the 1080p/60fps level of performance everyone was expecting in a couple of years, once developers get more familiar with the newer platforms.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          They certainly will. The Wii U offers that performance for its games and its way less powerful. Of course the models look lower poly and textures look simpler. Plus the brighter cartoony aesthetic has got to mean much simpler lighting and shaders. And yet I find the games to be more of a visual treat than the vast majority of other games I’ve played.

          Developers were already starting to play with an emphasis on design over crunching the most hardcore cutting edge graphics, but then 8th gen consoles hit and devs faced pressure to try to show off super realistic looking games to make console buyers feel like their money was well spent. I think they’ll go back to exploring stylized aesthetics again soon.

          And maybe they’ll also develop a bunch of tricks to optimize performance within the limitations like you suggest.

        • Bryan says:

          …Are developers *not* familiar with the platforms now? The platforms in question are basically a year-old PC. Can’t be that different from … a PC a year ago. :-)

          Sure, in the past this sort of argument might have held some water, when the consoles were actually different hardware — different CPU instruction sets, different memory interfaces, different video “card” instruction sets, etc. — but now that they’re the same it doesn’t work quite as well.

          The OS-equivalent is different I suppose…

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I’m really excited about the Steam Link. I’ve been wanting to bring my PC games to the living room. Bought a Wii U with friends in mind but it would be nice if I could pull out the occasional game from my Steam Library. I think my friends would love Crypt of the Necrodancer.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      It’s probably (supposed to be) about the set-up, not the hardware costs.
      If everything comes installed and configured with drivers that work etc., that changes the nature of the product.

      I know lots of people who’ll gladly pay more for something that you just plug in and use a minute later, as opposed to a few boxes of hardware that you spend a day configuring. I’m firmly in the DIY camp here, but whether that makes sense depends a lot on how much time you have and if you like doing these things.

      Oh, and if those boxes come with very tightly matched custom case, power and cooling installations then they’ll have another big advantage compared to a custom PC, likely being smaller and quieter (and also less extensible but not everyone uses that)

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Yeah but in that case you need to do a real good job of telling the user why they want a Steam box when they can drop 400 on a PS4 or Xbox One.

        Probably the library is the big selling point (not to mention the prices of the games).

  13. Retsam says:

    Haven’t listened to the episode yet, just read the summary… but did Chris write into the show that he’s on?

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I find it funny that even with Shamus in the group,Chris is the one that took the role of the serious adult.

  15. CJ Kerr says:

    It sounds like Chris, and possibly Josh, hasn’t yet upgraded to Windows 8.1, which is definitely making life harder than it needs to be. For instance, you don’t need the drag gesture to close “Modern” apps on 8.1 – if you mouse up to the top, the bar that pops up has minimise and close buttons.

    Also, searching by Win+s is unnecessary, because there’s an invisible search box when you just hit Win, and that version doesn’t try to hijack your screen. So yeah, just hit Win and start typing.

    • Rack says:

      The flip side of this is Windows 8.1 introduced a bug that borked mouse support for 99.999% of games made before 2014. You can fix it with a massively convoluted registry hack for each individual game but I’d say going from 8.0 to 8.1 is massively compounding your problems.

  16. Ithilanor says:

    An odd forerunner to the age of brown-and-gray was Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. It came out before most FPS’s and games as a whole went that route, but it definitely relied on a subdued color palette for most of the game, to its detriment. (With the exception of Sanctuary Fortress, which was all kinds of awesome)

    • Ed says:

      Little Late to the article, I agree, but I think you are off on the color a bit. Of the game, I’d say only Agon Wastes and temple grounds are mostly brown. Torvus Bog and Sancutary fortress as you mentioned both had quite a bit of color. Echoes’ dark world is where the too “Samey” and dark color scheme comes into play, but its actually mostly purple.

  17. bigben1985 says:

    I know the news broke too late for it to be in the show this week, but what do you guys think of the end of Maxis Emeryville (and does that mean next week we get a Bad SimCity News Of The Week again)?

  18. Smejki says:

    I wonder. What if Valve rejects your SourceEngine 2 game? Can you still publish elsewhere?

  19. ehlijen says:

    For the non-readers of whatever comic genre Rob Liefeld is in, what does/did he do that’s considered so terrible?

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      His art style featured a lot of gross exaggeration of anatomy. Every male hero was built like the Hulk is now, with 5000 extra muscles that don’t even exist and he had a lot of pecadillos like eyes without irises, feet that were either hidden or vanished to a point. Women with prehensile spines (you think their anatomy is exagerrated now, you should have seen how he drew them).

      He’s associated most strongly with what TV Tropes calls the “Nineties Antihero”, a hyperviolent antihero loaded with guns and belts and pouches few if any powers and morally little or no better than the people he was fighting. A lot of this actually came from lesser talents inspired by Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns which both used grittiness and darkness as part of their decontructions of Silver Age and Bronze Age comics (if you don’t read comics, think Adam West Batman or the old Super Friends cartoons for a very rough approximation of what we’re talking about).

      Some of it was his immaturity as a writer and an artist but a lot of it was also stuff that happened in reaction to him or in reaction to the things that inspired him. Stuff like artists forming independent publishing companies where they both wrote and drew their comics. And around this time stories about the worth of old comics were circulating leading people to buy issue #1s of new comics which lead publishers to release lots of collectible issue #1s foil covered with holograms, and lots of alternate covers so you’d buy 4 copies of the same comics (all three alternate covers and a “reading copy” so you never had to take the other three out of their bags and backboards of course.)

      This was also the beginning of event driven comics to drive sales with storylines being rewritten by marketing (look up Spiderman’s Clone Saga)

      Not all of this was Rob Liefeld’s fault of course but he was very popular for a short time, practically a rockstar in comic circles and is demonstrably overrated, and the height of his fame came in the middle of this giant pile of suck which he contributed to.

      Hope this helps.

      • It was more the combo of the whole extra muscles thing combined with the fact that he got anatomy so incredibly wrong. Women were all boobs and butt, yet his most famous atrocity is his infamous Captain America cover (which appears as #2 on this top ten “worst” list for Rob). The theory for that one was that he was using a photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger from his Mr. Universe days and got carried away.

        From what I understand, he keeps getting work because he just grinds things out and meets deadlines. He’s not great, but he’s reliable, which is sometimes more important when publishing deadlines are involved.

    • Evilmrhenry says:

      He’s just not a good artist. He hides feet behind conveniently-placed rocks, people have way too many teeth, proportions are completely off, etc. Then there’s the stylistic issues: pouches everywhere, giant energy weapons, and so on.

    • Shamus says:

      This is a little mean-spirited, but it’s a pretty good overview of the awfulness: The 40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings:


    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      He infected comic book characters with youngbloods disease.

  20. James says:

    Oh Microsoft you never lost your way. That would imply you knew were you were going to begin with.

  21. Chris, I don’t think I understand what you want Steam to do in regards to your recommendations. The fault lies not so much with Steam, I think, than with the data you’re giving them.

    If you only play X genre of games and buy Y genre of games, that’s probably the best data to base recommendations on. Why would it recommend games that are similar to ones in your library that you never play? Even if you bought them and never played them, it’s unlikely to weigh as heavily as a game you both bought and spent time playing.

    I’m betting Steam doesn’t have a self-recommendation system because that’s what searching and tag-hunting is for. I mean, I love Fallout, but when I search “post-apocalyptic” and “RPG,” I don’t see a lot that interests me that I don’t already own. If Steam was recommending things from those two tags that I admit interest me, I wouldn’t want anything on offer.

    It’s something I just ignore out of habit, but I’m not sure what you think should be done instead? The analogy with ads is a little off, since that’s your browser history at work, and if you’re like me (and I know I am), you don’t give those cookies in your search history much to work with other than that one time you looked up one product on Amazon and that’s the ad you’ll get forever.

  22. John says:

    Even the cheaper Steam boxes Josh is mocking would be a big step up from my current antiquated hardware. And I really want a small form-factor computer, too. My computer is also the family DVR and is consequently a visible portion of my living room decor. Something smaller and more tasteful, provided it can accommodate my tuner-capture card, would be lovely.

    But I’m not paying those prices for that hardware when I’m pretty sure you can buy a comparably-specced laptop for less.

    • ET says:

      Laptops of the same price are a significant downgrade for playing games. The main killer, is that the mobile versions of video cards are an order of magnitude slower than the desktop versions.* So, if you want high quality graphics, you should probably build a tower. Otherwise, a laptop that has a non-integrated video card would be fine.

      * They’re still better than integrated video cards, though.

      • John says:

        Fair enough. But when I said my current hardware was antiquated, I wasn’t kidding. The specs Josh cited sound a lot like my wife’s laptop, which can, in your choice of metaphor: (i) dance rings around my tower, or (ii) beat my tower up and steal its lunch money. Plus it’s a laptop, which is neat.

  23. JackTheStripper says:

    I’ve used both OSX and Windows for about 15 years and I disagree that the UI in OSX is not keyboard friendly. Mac OSX’s commands are mostly just different than on Windows:

    -Instead of CTRL+C to copy, it’s CMD+C.
    -Instead of Enter to go into a directory, it’s CMD+O.
    -Instead of ALT+### for special characters, it’s Opt+some letter (e.g. instead of ALT+164 for Ñ, it’s Opt+N and then the letter).
    -Instead of AL+F4 to close a program, it’s CMD+Q (CMD+W closes the window, but not necessarily the program since the standard in OSX is for the program to exist in the top bar regardless of a window).
    -Instead of Win+D to show the desktop, it’s F11 (if you’re on a Macbook, all F-keys should be preceded by the FN-key, so this command would be FN+F11).
    -Instead of Win to use the search function (you don’t need the S, Shamus, just typing anything while on the Metro screen will search your PC), it’s CMD+Space.
    -Instead of ALT+Enter for a file’s properties window, it’s CMD+I.
    -Instead of CMD+A to select-all, it’s CMD+A.

    Anyway, I recommend that Campster gives Spaces a try. That feature is probably one of the most useful for any kind of work (and yes, you can download some software in Windows to get the same behavior, but I’m just mentioning that it’s available on OSX out of the box). What it does is create virtual desktops so that you can have your applications take as much screen space as you need, and then use some command (I use CTRL+Arrow keys) to move between them.

    Actually, almost all the features in Mission Control are necessary to get the most out of your Mac. You can also customize all those features into almost any keyboard command you want on OSX’s System Preferences.

    A couple of other useful commands that are not in Windows are:

    -Space while highlighting a file or folder will bring up a quick look of the file for an easy peak at the contents.
    -CMD+H will hide the current application and make it lose focus (you can bring it back by CMD+TABing into it or by selecting it in the Dock).
    -CMD+SHIFT+3 to take a picture of the entire screen (the picture will be saved into the Desktop folder, but the directory and file format can be changed).
    -CMD+SHIFT+4 to take a picture along the bounds selected (press Space to take a picture of a window only).
    -CMD+OPT+PLUS or MINUS for a zoom that works across the entire OS (this one needs to be enabled first on the Accessibility options of OSX’s System Preferences).

    Anyway, there’s way, way more than that. In fact, I bet it’s much easier (albeit different) to access any OSX feature using only the keyboard than in Windows.

    • David says:

      Actually, to join you in being That Guy, you can enter a folder / run a file in the Finder by doing cmd-down. This has a useful parallel, in that you can hit cmd-up to go up a level.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Chris didnt say that osx isnt keyboard friendly,but that its not combo friendly.So you can use your keyboard with ease,or you can use your mouse with ease,but not both at the same time.

      How this would happen exactly,I have no idea.I didnt have that much experience with macs to see if this is true.

      • JackTheStripper says:

        No, I’m pretty sure he meant the former. Having easier access to everything on either input would essentially mean that any combination of the two would also be as easy.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        If ever Apple were to gain such dominance that I had no choice but to work in it, I’d just quit IT because there’s no point in working in that field if humanity has demonstrated that they completely miss the point of it.

        Apple tells you what features you will have and which you won’t. Windows and Android have been considerably less dictatorial (though at times shows hints of the same disturbing behavior such as with Windows 8 pre 8.1, but hey Microsoft almost always caves at least).

        Its fine as long as Apple is simply an option with Windows beating it in the desktop space and Android nearly matching it in terms of OS share in the mobile space. But it would be dark days for us if Apple ever became truly dominant the way Microsoft once was.

        Ok yes the above was a bit grouchy. PBS Game/Show noted something I thought was interesting. The split between Apple and PC users is ideologically much the same as the split between console and PC gamers. In both cases the first group just wants something that does the job and doesn’t require them to think. The second group is willing to accept a little risk and put in a little work for the freedom to control their user/gamer experience.

        • The Mich says:

          I don’t know, I’ve been using both systems for a long time (I have a PC for games and a macbook for work and basically everything else) and I think that there is not such a clear distinction between the two in the end. I had to fiddle with both quite a bit to make them work in the way I want, and I ended up with really versatile and relatively powerful systems with which I can get things done in a satisfactory way, especially with the macbook.

          • BenD says:

            This. I kept cracking up during Chris’ Mac rant because it sounds like me complaining about Windows–it’s just that the two systems are different, not that either lacks obvious features like keyboard control. At one point he says something like ‘extremely common’ in describing a Windows shortcut and all I could think was ‘common to Windows and what else?’ Setting aside either smaller user base (Mac) or having later entry into the graphical OS (Win) neither has any reason to suddenly throw out everything they’ve ever done and make their shortcuts the same as the other’s; doing so would only alienate existing users.

    • Xeorm says:

      Speaking as someone who’s done the same switch to a mac for a project before, it’s pretty ugly how so many of your basic ideas of what does what need to be changed when you switch over from windows to a mac. It can get pretty overwhelming, especially for learning the basics of how to interact with the very different interface, much less learning all the different key commands.

      I think the key commands especially in more modern designs have the problem that they’re not very well advertised or even treated as the extras they are. Like, take a traditional window. Usually, I can right click something on it to get a context-sensitive menu with available options. Ideally, they’re given a key command next to the option for future use by the user, both as a reminder of what they are and that a command exists. But, and most importantly, there’s usually other ways of accessing the same option. If I want to exit a program in windows 7, there’s an x in the upper left, I can right click it in the task bar, use alt-f4 and occasionally just the esc key, and there’s usually some sort of menu option available.

      In short, if I forget something there’s usually some other option, and plenty of locations saying “Hey, hit me. I likely have some solution to your problem”. Comparably, a lot of modern design seems to be trying to do away with alternate forms of usage in favor of saving space or being more efficient with time. Which is great as long as you know the super secret handshake, but anytime you don’t, you’re left lost and confused while you search for a way to do what you want.

      Which also comes into play when we look at assigning the generic keys to actions. Obviously, we’ve got a limited line of keys available, and especially limited in what makes sense. So, for example, we only have 1 enter key. Ideally, we use it for the most basic action since it’s likely to get used a lot. Having apple assign it to (I think) relabeling the file seems odd to a windows user, since I so infrequently want to do that compared to entering a folder or accessing a file.

      Though, I’ll also note that any keyboard command that uses keys on the right side of the keyboard are highly unlikely to ever get used if I’m also supposed to be using a mouse at the same time, and I hate that design. But that’s a bit of a side topic.

    • ET says:

      Do you know of a keyboard shortcut to move a Window to another space left/right? Not the entire application, just the current window. I desperately want these shortcuts. :S

      • JackTheStripper says:

        You can place a single program’s windows in different spaces, but they won’t separate correctly in that the main program will exist in only one of those spaces (so when you open a new window in that program, the space will switch to where the main program is). Spaces is tied to the standard behavior of the program where if it exists on the top menu, that top menu must reside in a single space, regardless of other windows.

        So the answer is no. There can’t be a shortcut for that because programs don’t behave like that. Spaces is really made to separate programs from each other, not to separate windows. You can move windows to other spaces but focus will switch between spaces when the window focus does.

        The only way to have your desired behavior is to use two different programs (say for example, run Chrome in one space, and Safari in another to have two separate internet browsers active in different spaces).

    • Retsam says:

      I’ve been using a Mac for work for the last year and a half or so after being a long-time windows user and my biggest gripe is the lack of Win-Left Win-Right equivalents to make things take up half the screen, or move them to the next monitor.

      I also don’t see the appeal/value in Spaces. It doesn’t help me see more things at once, and actually it gets in the way of my ability to split-screen things.

  24. Thomas says:

    To shorten by a microsecond the ridiculous way of closing programs for you Josh:

    If you open up the left hand charm (by swiping the left corner on the desktop or going into the corner and swiping down with a mouse), the left hand charm has all the active programs, you can swipe a program down to the bottom screen to close it.

    EDIT: Whoops Campster just mentioned it. Jumped the gun.

    Definitely one of the big failings of Windows 8 is just how terrible it is at teaching people things. Someone said last time that it’s meant for casual users – no casual user will ever figure out how to do any of these things.

    I do love the charms though. I hope they stay for Windows 10, I love opening them up (Incidentally Shamus, if you search using the right hand charm it doesn’t take up the whole screen, only a little bar on the side)

    • Simon Buchan says:

      The current build seems to have dropped the charms bar in favor of a notification history and mobile stylequick toggles, but it’s think it will see a lot more changes yet. Currently it’s impossible to get to settings for OneNote, for example, because it doesn’t have the new top-left menu, which is a rough equivalent to the charms bar.

  25. John says:

    Upon reflection, I don’t think that Valve–or anyone–could establish a common PC hardware standard.

    While there are ocassional cosmetic and internal changes within a single console generation, the technical specifications are deliberately left in a fixed state. PC components change all the time. I built a very-low-budget rig in 2010 that would have been very difficult to recreate even a year later just because the obsolescent motherboard was no longer easy or cheap to acquire. How often would changes in commercially available hardware require the standard-setter to change the standard? How frequent is too frequent for developers to find the standard useful?

    • I don’t think the idea is to develop an etched-in-stone standard for hardware makers. The idea is to have a pretty compelling hardware baseline that devs would shoot for rather than what happened in that void between the 1st gen consoles and the XBox/Playstation era.

      Back then, there was this arms race going on for graphics cards. You might say it’s still going on today, but back then, it was practically every year: A new handful of awesome games would come out, but if you wanted to play them without destroying your machine (if you could run them at all), you needed the latest and greatest graphics card. You’d have to drop hundreds for the card and game only to have the same thing happen a few months later.

      When consoles became enough of a force that devs were shooting for console/PC crossover, they didn’t bother making their graphics bleeding edge all the time. You could expect 3+ years out of a graphics card with little fuss. Granted, there were drawbacks (see games where the number of NPCs is limited and the way sandbox-style GTA games basically reset the world after missions), but overall, a lot of gamers were happy that they didn’t have to toss out half their computers to stay up to date with the latest games.

      I think off-the-shelf PCs are already outpacing the XBone and PS4, so I could see a “Steambox Standard” helping to curb another era of “Will It Run Crysis?” descending on us.

      • John says:

        If not a specific set of hardware, what exactly is a “Steambox Standard” and how does it benefit PC developers? I can’t quite tell, but you seem to be suggesting some sort of “acceptable range of performance.” For what reason would PC developers choose to stay within such a range? How could they be compelled to do so?

        • Perhaps I wasn’t clear. What I mean is “not a specific brand of hardware,” but rather a minimum capability listing of some kind (memory, graphics processor capability, etc.).

          As for directing PC devs, that’s what consoles have done for quite some time already. I’ve used this example before, but take Fallout New Vegas. PC game? Ehhhhh… kind of. It was coded with consoles in mind. Many PCs could have had loads more NPCs on the screen at one time, Freeside could’ve been part of the larger world, and the Vegas strip could’ve been one continuous area rather than three chambers linked by doors. Console memory limitations dictated those decisions. While many PC users found this annoying, there were mods that restored a lot of this cut content/setup, but it also meant older PCs could run the game without many problems.

          The same is true of Skyrim: You had maybe 8 combatants in any part of the “civil war” most of the time, because it’d cause a console to start melting down if you had many more. It didn’t stop Skyrim from being one of the most popular games on PC. Now, looking at mods again, there are ones that make the game look fantastically real and uber-detailed to the point that it looks about as compellingly solid as the world outside your window. It also pushes a lot of systems to their limit to render while actually playing the game. Imagine if that had been the demographic for the game when it was developed. It would never have run on consoles, so no profit from that, and it wouldn’t have run on most PCs, further limiting the appeal.

          I appreciate it when games are developed for the PC, and I love the variety it allows for in regards to graphics fidelity and so on. However, as I stated, I also appreciate that to get the most profit from a game, many devs have to keep the console market in mind and don’t go off doing something that would require more $$ from me going to Nvidia more often than I pay my taxes. In the end, it means more games will run on my system for a longer span of time. If consoles disappeared tomorrow, we’d probably be even deeper in games whose sole reason is to see how many more polygons they can demand as opposed to having better gameplay elements.

          • John says:

            It sounds like you mostly want developers to develop for low-spec machines. I can understand that. (It would be tremendously convenient for me, too.) But what exactly is Valve supposed to be doing with either Steamboxes or Steam OS to encourage that behavior? That’s what I don’t get.

            • Are you trying to be obtuse?

              I’m saying that if there’s a very large user base of hardware level X, there’s going to be more made for it than for the more expensive and rarer hardware level X+. The upside of that is hardware level X+ users don’t have to replace all of their hardware until level X is upgraded or a greater level of hardware becomes the new majority user base.

              The up side of this is you don’t have to shell out hundreds if not thousands a year to play games, game developers can concentrate on getting better at using the hardware they’ve been working with for long enough to do clever things (see the progression from Oblivion to Skyrim, both coded for XBox 360 hardware), and you can still buy better equipment for the PC if you so desire, but you’re not locked out of current games if you don’t.

              If you said you were glad they weren’t changing HDTV standards every year, would that mean you were against 4K Ultra High-Def TV?

              • John says:

                No, I’m really not. I suspect we are talking past each other. Your argument as I presently understand it is that:

                (i) Valve should introduce a standard Steambox, rather than allow PC builders to sell Steamboxes with a wide range of hardware.

                (ii) Valve’s Steambox (specs) will gain widespread adoption

                (iii) Developers will have a (relatively) common set of hardware to develop for, and you (and I, and everyone else) won’t have to upgrade our computers so often.

                I agree that (iii) is desirable–and always have! It seems that the difference between us is I don’t see how or why (ii) is supposed to happen and you appear to be taking it for granted.

  26. One of the core issues with VR headsets is tha they do not have proper 6 DOF (6 Degrees of Freedom) movement.

    Oculus Rift first had 3 DOF or 4 DOF, and that cause motion sickness, you gotta feed the rendering/game/VR engine all 6 DOF.


    Some headsets had lacked up/down and roll (aka they are only 4 DOF),
    the worst (simplest) head tracking has only forward/backward, left/right, forward/backwards (3 DOF).

    Proper 6 DOF will feel ok even if you just sit in a chair if precise enough.
    The Valve/HTC one seems to perhaps be one of the best 6 DOF VR headsets so far.
    I can imagine a space sim, or racing game will be awesome with that.

  27. High DPI (or PPI) on Windows or rather the lack of programs handling it is not MicroSoft’s problem.

    Ever since Windows XP there have been APIs available to allow supporting high DPI.
    Problem is that programs ignore checking the OS DPI setting.

    It’s not that hard to support different DPIs, all you need to make sure is that your program scales it’s graphics properly and scales it’s fonts properly, and you need to add some stuff in the program manifest to tell the OS you know what the hell you are doing.

    I’m working on a update for a software right now to better support Windows 8 and later, in particular to support different DPIs per monitor for multi-monitor systems.
    The software scales it’s content as you move it from monitor to monitor.

    High DPI monitors gives you the benefit of anti-aliasing without anti-aliasing, the only thing better than super-sampling anti-aliasing is higher DPI displays.
    Fonts get less jagged edges etc.

    The worst though are software that say it supports DPI but don’t, you get really broken software that way, text that is cut off or pixelated etc.

  28. Corpital says:

    Haha, butts are funny!

    Enough meaningful contribution for this week.

  29. Atle says:

    SteamOS is in my opinion a really good thing. I’m not a Windows user, and don’t want to spend money and time on maintaining Windows just to play games. And I don’t, I play on PS3/PS4 now. But not all games are console friendly, so SteamOS is something I really look forward to.

  30. Zak McKracken says:

    A note about Valve’s VR thing:

    The laser things you put up in your room are not ingesting any data, they just emit IR lasers in some flashing pattern, and then there are sensors in the headset which can detect the headset’s position, similar for the peripherals the user has in their hands.
    This means the headset knows its own position with extremely low latency, thus can update the display contents at the last microsecond (though I’m not sure if it does that itself or just tells it to the computer).
    Apart from an HDMI cable, the final version will be wireless, too, which is cool — only 90Hz wireless low-latency transmission f display contents doesn’t quite work yet :(

    A nice thing: The room can be scanned by the system, so it knows where your walls are and can adapt the virtual space so you aren’t encouraged to run into a wall or out of the volume covered by the lasers.

    The other nice thing: Laser sword fights! There are different controllers which have 6 DoF awareness, so the system knows where your hands are, you’ve got a thing in your hands, and in-game that can be rendered as whatever your character may be holding (gun, sword…) and be exactly where it should be in your field of view.

  31. Piflik says:

    I hate to say this, but Campster’s display of Unity’s pricing model is plain wrong…

    You can subscribe to Unity Pro for 75$ a month, but this subscription is not tied to a game, but to you using the engine to create the game…when your game is finished, you don’t have to pay anything if you don’t want to have Unity Pro.

    Alternatively you can pay 1500$ to buy the engine, without any further cost.

    Additionally, if your company earns less than 100.000$, you can use the feature-complete Personal edition of Unity, which is completely free of charge. The only thing missing from it, is the Profiler to quickly identify performance issues.

    I personally find this preferable to Unreal’s 5% cut…

  32. Tobias says:

    This whole Steam Machines thing has me scratching my head since they announced what exaxtly they’re doing with it. I mean, Valve are smart people: They have to know that nobody will buy these machines at these markups. And they have to know that the 3DO failed for exactly those reasons: Because hardware vendors with no other investment in the platform have to sell these things at a profit. Which immediately makes them uncompetitive with consoles, which are (usually) sold at a loss because the vendor hopes to make it up in game licensing fees. It’s also the reason Microsoft made the XBox in the first place – they knew these things.

    So, if Valve knows this, I can’t help but wonder: What is it they know and we don’t? What are they up to? They have to know the machines we’ve been seeing at GCD won’t sell like hotcakes, but again, they’re smart people, so… what’s their game plan here?

    • Microwaviblerabbit says:

      Valve probably cannot afford to built and launch their own console considering how expensive the Xbox was for Microsoft.

      Plus, I doubt we are seeing ‘true’ steam machines on the store at the moment. Since the machines will be using Nvidia and Intel components, there are probably ongoing negotiations between Valve, manufacturers, and the suppliers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw price cuts and component standardization start to emerge closer to launch.

      • WarlockOfOz says:

        My guess: Valve considers it important not to be entirely reliant on another companies product. They don’t really need Steam Machines to be a commercial success in ordinary terms, they just need them to be viable enough that even internal Microsoft politics never results in an attempt to to lock down Windows software purchases as iOS or to a lesser extent Android does. So (personal speculation only) they might well be willing to offer incentives to both software and hardware developers to support SteamOS. It might hurt their short term profits to do so but if they drop their cut a bit if a SteamOS version exists and pass another bit to the hardware supplier if the account purchasing has a Steam machine linked they’re probably still making enough to keep the lights on while protecting the future of the company.

  33. Volfram says:

    Advice to anyone using Windows 8 on a desktop: Get a touchscreen monitor.

    I have this one. The viewing angle is a bit off and the speakers needed adjustment(yay for a system-wide equalizer), but it’s a large 1080P monitor with an LCD backlight, and the image is at least decent when you’re looking at it head-on.

    Too bad it’s sold out…

    • Echo Tango says:

      So, what you’re saying, is that to compensate for horrible software, we should buy brand new hardware, for an interface metaphor that’s slower than using a keyboard and mouse?

      • CJ Kerr says:

        I still think this is completely unnecessary.

        Windows 8.1 fixed enough of the problems that using a mouse and keyboard is no harder than Windows 7, except for a few isolated cases where a setting is hidden in the horrible “modern” settings panel instead of the real control panel. It also adds some nice stuff, like the dramatically better task manager and network file copies that aren’t completely braindead.

        – “Modern” apps appear in the taskbar, so you don’t need the hidden task switcher. Mousing to the bottom of the screen shows the taskbar even if you’re in a Modern app, so you can switch out.

        – The charms bar is basically useless anyway, so continue ignoring that, particularly since shutdown is now in the right-click menu of the Start button (easy to use, if not particularly discoverable).

        – You can minimise and close Modern apps by mousing up to the top of the screen, which shows an auto-hidden bar with the buttons you want. The “hidden” controls in modern applications are accessible with a right click (again, not terribly discoverable, but once you know… also note that this menu is accessible by Win+x for keyboard junkies)

        – 8.1 sensibly changes the default applications for desktop systems to use the desktop photo viewer and media player instead of the horrible Modern apps, so you’ll end up there less often anyhow. Just install a better PDF reader and you may never end up in a Modern app at all.

        – The only thing the Start Screen does worse than the Start Menu is the lack of recent applications. For opening commonly-used applications, it’s superior, since you can memorise the layout (and develop muscle memory). Plus you can still pin applications to the taskbar like Win 7 anyway. (No, I don’t care that it pops up over all your other stuff. When, exactly, are you trying to read some other part of the screen whilst navigating your application launcher?)

        – Small tip: There’s a setting to make the background of the Start Screen your desktop wallpaper. This goes a long way to making it feel like part of the Windows UI instead of some jarring alien intrusion.

        I’m astonished by how many people are unaware that most of the stuff they hated in 8.0 was fixed in 8.1.

  34. Joel says:

    If your machine is running Windows 8.1 (I think it was added then); windows_key-x will pop a small menu with “all the useful bits in it”.
    eg: control panel

  35. Blake says:

    In case nobody has mentioned it yet, you can enable more detailed information during shutdown with a registry setting: http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/48338-verbose-status-messages-enable-disable-windows-8-a.html has videos showing the result.

    Basically you want:

    DWORD VerboseStatus – 1

    Makes you feel much better when you can see what system thing is taking forever.

  36. Purple Library Guy says:

    Well, based on the diecast commentary and the latest xkcd,
    It would seem Steam Machines are going to be a gigantic success.

  37. gresman says:

    I have a few annotations regarding: Hidden Object games and OSes

    @HOG: I always found them mindnumbingly boring from the first minute. This could be because I such at them or due to not finding any that are good or thanks to me not understanding/enjoying them. But on the other hand I am able to gain enjoyment from jigsaw puzzles. Maybe it is the haptic feeling of the thing or the wish to create something. I do not know.

    @Win7/8/Vista: With windows i never had any issues finding something in the start menu under any of the newer version. I assume this has something to do with the fact that my main way of using the start menu is opening it by pressing the windows key and then typing the program I want to find. In the case mentioned by Chris I would open the start menu and type control and press enter to select the control panel. Could be that I am just used to that. The only thing I am missing in 8 is the list of recent programs. maybe I just overlooked them till now.

    @OSX: I have to be honest here and have to say that OSX is really annoying. I believe everyone who tells that it is great but I do not get it. Either there are no simple shortcuts for some of the most basic operation (Rename, Delete (not the move to trash thing(yes this one is missing a shortcut as well), Copy, Paste ,…), Yeah it could be that I was not able to find those hotkey combinations till now. At work everyone in my department groans if we have to do something on OSX. And all the hotkey combinations we found till now are at least three keys. SHIFT+CONTROL+3 is the combination of a screenshot if someone is interested.

  38. WWWebb says:

    As an owner of that bottom end Alienware rig, let me assure you that you cannot spec match it for that price unless you are
    1) re-using components from a previous build…this is where the majority of “build it yourself” savings tend to come from,
    2) using really cheap (in all senses of the word) components,
    or 3) building something large and loud that you really shouldn’t want near your TV.

    The thing that struck me about the SteamOS build is that (in theory) they’re saving money by not having to include a Windows license, but it costs exactly the same as the Windows version. Maybe the Steam controllers are just more expensive than 360 controllers?

    That bottom end machine runs the Witcher 2 just fine (for me) and most reviewers said it had no problem with Watch Dogs and Shadows of Mordor on medium specs. Considering that running those at high specs would involve a video card that costs as much as my entire machine, I’m pretty happy with it as a non-hardcore gaming rig. You can overlook a lot when playing on a 50″ monitor with a good sound system.

  39. Thomas says:

    Unreal 2 was released before KOTOR.

  40. Nixitur says:

    I’ve been meaning to write this comment for ages, but I always forget.
    Anyway, Shamus, you said that “nobody goes ‘Oh, the quick time events in this game are great!'”, so let me disagree with you there:
    The quick time events in The Wonderful 101 are great!

    They are part of basically every boss fight, but the way you trigger most of them is interesting because it’s exactly the same as the actual gameplay.
    For example, a quick time event might start with time stopping, the main protagonist yelling “UNITE HAND!” and then, you have to draw the “Unite Hand” gesture that you constantly use in normal battle. Once you’ve successfully done that, the quick time event usually just continues with you holding or mashing A or B and that’s literally it.

    You don’t have to do some nonsense finger gymnastics on all the buttons, the only thing you need to do is a simple gesture that is the exact same as the one you use in battle (even if you forgot it, the game shows you how it’s done while time is frozen) and then, you mash one button. That’s it.

    It’s simple, it mimics the actual gameplay, it allows the designers to go all-out with cool attacks from both you and your enemies and it only happens quite rarely.
    So, yes, the quick time events in this game are great.

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