Category Archives: News

SteamOS Under-performing Against Windows

While it’s certainly not unexpected, the performance differences between SteamOS and Windows games have been nicely quantified by an article on Ars Technica that shows just how much of your system power you’re sacrificing using Valve’s free OS over the pay-for Windows. In some cases, it’s pretty shocking – Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor on medium settings under Windows gets a higher frame rate than SteamOS on lowest settings. Ouch.

It would seem the main reason for this is that Windows has DirectX while SteamOS has to rely on OpenGL. The idea that DirectX is faster that OpenGL full stop doesn’t hold any water, but the idea that games devs are better at using DirectX than OpenGL makes perfect sense and basically boils down to the same thing for SteamOS users. Let’s hope the Kronos working group can put Vulkan together PDQ – the future of open source games performance is relying on it pretty hard right now.

Steam Controller Pre-Orders Shipping Soon!

If you were quick enough (and bothered enough) to pre-order a Steam Controller before the early shipping stocks were all reserved, you probably already know this and got an email from Valve asking to you to verify your shipping address today. Seems the deadline for altering your address is 25th September, so expect to hear about me getting my long, lean pianist’s fingers all over Valve’s first attempt at game control hardware very soon!

More Kerbal Space Program Launches Announced

A few months ago it was announced that KSP was being ported to the PS4 and Xbone. Around that time I was spending a lot of time hanging out in a KSP Twitch stream and the general consensus of opinion in chat was “good for Squad – gets them more money, and as long as it doesn’t distract them from continued PC dev work, we’re cool with it. But we wouldn’t buy it.”

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Nintendo Patent Discless Games Console

Folks around the Internet have been talking about a patent Nintendo have filed in the US for a games console with a hard drive, a network connection and no optical drive. I’m sure Valve and the folks behind the Ouya will be scratching their heads and lawyering-up if the patent is granted, but that’s besides the point.

This indication (however shaky it may be) that Ninty are considering exclusive digital distribution has a number of considerations. PS and Xbox gamers have proved highly resistant to attempts to curtail the second-hand games market. Steam’s unlimited redownloads give PC users security that they can always access their games, no matter what they do to their hardware, but Valve also run frequent deep discounts across huge swathes of the catalogue – Nintendo already charge full retail price for DD purchases on the Wii U and 3DS, could this be their traditional big new-product mistake?

Do You Trust Windows 10?

Back when the Windows 10 preview was released in October 2010, some enterprising folks did some network traffic analysis and came up with evidence that your keystrokes, microphone input and webcam images were all being sent back to Microsoft. At first, no-one was particularly concerned. Technical previews aren’t designed for consumption by the masses, they’re designed to let users help the developers iron out all the kinks in the interface before the product goes out.

Well, things have got a little more interesting since a report (translation) that the shipping version of Windows 10 is still sending back all this information. The veracity of the source has been called into question, as has the validity of the claims it makes. When the analysis of the preview came out, a number of sites took the opportunity to explain that this was nothing to worry about, it wasn’t really a keylogger, it was just features of Windows 10 and everything was fine. Wanna bet we get the same articles popping up again tomorrow?

Continue reading Do You Trust Windows 10?

No Suspend for SteamOS

One of the prime reasons behind the longevity of consoles is their homogeneous design. Every Xbox and Playstation is functionally the same as every other, allowing games to be written to take advantage of every function to the utmost without worrying about variations causes performance or operational differences between units. This is not a feature of Steam Machines. They are as varied in design and computational power as PCs, meaning the coveted optimization possible for console games to push their hardware exactly to the edge of the envelope just isn’t applicable here.

It also gives rise to another problem. As anyone who ever built a PC will probably understand, the issue of getting low-power suspend mode to work when you’re system is built from parts supplied by 8 different manufacturers and glued together with independently written drivers can often mean that interpretation of standards can lead to issues in the area of interoperability. Specifically – I’ve only ever built 1 PC myself that woke up fine when put into suspend mode. It seems Valve have had no more luck than anyone else in getting this feature to work across the plethora of hardware available to self-builders, so the low-power suspend and quick resume features available to today’s console gamers have been shelved in SteamOS.

While Intel Stalls, AMD Talks Up Zen

Fudzilla may have had the leaked slides since April, but a paper submitted to the IEEE by AMD has added further confirmat*ahem*indications that they plan to release a 32-thread APU with HBM2 memory on-board and DDR4 support. Only time will tell whether this monster ever appears, but the idea of a workstation-on-a-chip isn’t too far-fetched considering what AMD’s current budget-concious APU line-up looks like. A release window of 2016-2017 is mentioned, so don’t hold your breath.

On the other side of the trenches, Intel has finally managed to get Skylake out of the door. Given that Broadwell was effectively a non-event thanks to the time it took getting down to a 14nm??? process, it’s gotta be disappointing that Toms Hardware aren’t recommending the upgrade unless you’re on Sandy/Ivy Bridge kit from back in 2011-2012. While AMD are impressing on paper, are Intel genuinely stalling, or are they holding something back to rain on AMD’s parade? I guess time will tell.

MS Introduce Xbox One Backwards Compatibility at E3

The PS4 and Xbone both have the same problem – they aren’t able to play games written for their predecessors. Well, Microsoft have announced they are adding backwards compatibility to the Xbone on a limited basis. This has caused a few eyebrows to raise; the CPU in the Xbone is vastly different to the CPU in the X360.

Given that Mass Effect is the only even vaguely taxing game on the initial list of supported titles, I’d guess that they’ve recompiled the game from source and have implemented a system call translation layer where needed for the graphics and audio. Given that the entire Xbox line has always used DirectX, I imagine that’s not been at all difficult. It will be interesting to see what else emerges under this system, it might give us some idea of how powerful Jaguar cores are in comparison to the low-performance PowerPC cores from the X360.

Valve Implement New Steam Refund Policy

Valve has long been criticized for only giving refunds on Steam in exceptional circumstances. A recent change has been implemented to the Steam refund policies and procedures to bring them more in line with the service expectations set by services such as Google Play and GoG. A full refund is now available on all Steam-purchased games within 14 days of purchase and with less than 2 hours logged play time.

The policy has varying degrees of coverage for other products, such as DLC or or movies, and doesn’t allow for refunds following a VAC ban being placed on an account. A system has also been implemented to prevent abuse of refunds, preventing users from making further use of the refund system. While Origin also have a refund policy, Uplay continues to stonewall customers with a beef.

AMD Releases “Kaveri Refresh”

While there was a certain amount of tension accompanying the knowledge that AMD had a processor launch coming up, in reality it was never going to set the world alight – it’s certainly no Intel-style Tick, with only a few chips being released for public consumption. The A10-7870K and A8-7670K aren’t groundbreaking, with minor speed bumps on the CPU and no architectural changes at all. However, a 20% boost to the GPU clock over previous models like the 7850K is at least noteworthy, so it’s not a complete bust.

I doubt there will be any injuries in the stampede to buy these, but these are obviously just something to tide AMD’s budget offerings over until Zen makes it’s debut next year. The tension isn’t as much dispel as churned up. That is all.