Nvidia has officially released its Forceware 181.22 WHQL GeForce driver suite just under a week since making the drivers available as beta downloads. The graphics chip maker recommends upgrading to the latest release "for the best GPU PhysX experience in EA's hot PC title Mirror's Edge." Forceware 181.22 WHQL installs the new PhysX system software, now in version 9.09.0010.
Also included with the new driver release is support for Nvidia's latest GPUs, the GTX 295 and GTX 285. Nvidia also claims modest to significant performance boosts in select titles, such as up to 80 percent in Lost Planet: Colonies, up to 38 percent in Far Cry 2, and up to 25 percent in Devil May Cry 4. Several other titles are said to run anywhere from 10 to 18 percent better with the latest Forceware driver.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. We’ve spent a good deal of the last 12 months hunkered down at our PCs playing every game that’s come our way. The very best of them have pulled us into their imaginary, action-packed worlds and stolen hours of our valuable time—and we love ’em for it! Others, not so much. Here forth is our frank assessment of 2008’s most noteworthy games.
Here’s the scoop: Battlefield Heroes, EA’s free-to-play, browser-based FPS, is just about ready for the big show, but needs your help in the make-up room. And get this! So does Relic’s massively anticipated RTS Dawn of War II. Who will you rescue? Now allow us to blow your mind: you can have both.
For Battlefield, you need only follow this link to the dank den of EA’s sleeping monster. Once there, simply create an EA account, fill out a sign-up form and wait. Doing these steps out of order is inadvisable.
Dawn of War II’s beta will officially brighten up PC gamers’ days on January 28th, but if you’d like early access (read: you could be playing it RIGHT NOW), you’ll need a copy of Dawn of War: Soulstorm. Luckily, Soulstorm just so happens to have been marked down to $7.50 on Steam. However, note that this sweet deal (75% off!) is temporary and will expire on January 28th.
Now go! Don’t worry about us; we only want your happiness!
“Huh?! Oh – hello there. Sorry if we seem a tad shaken; we’ve been playing the newly released F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin demo, and the default control scheme must’ve jammed our pretzeled fingers right into an alt-tab. Guess we should have seen that coming after the first F.E.A.R.’s somewhat cumbersome default controls, but then, we can’t lean around corners anymore, so forgive us for our lack of vision.
Now then, we’re just going to hop back into the game and—hey! Is that crying? Oh my, we think it’s a little girl. And she’s all alone, her tears softly landing atop the spilled jars of strawberry jam she was clearly trying to sell. Talk to you later, everyone; we’re off to become some little girl’s hero!”
Earlier this month BFG announced it would become a boutique system builder, a bold move considering the market sector has seen the departure of big name boutiques like Alienware, Voodoo, and HyperSonic as standalone entities (now owned by Dell, HP, and OCZ respectively). Even bolder was the announcement of its $8,000 flagship Elite model in the new Phobos line, which comes standard with dual BFG GeForce GTX 295 videocards, Intel's Core i7 965 Extreme processor, 6GB of RAM, and other high end treats.
Now that www.bfgsystems.com has gone live and is taking orders, we have more information on the Performance and Advanced models, which start at $3,000 and $8,000 respectively. For three grand, the Performance configuration comes standard with a water-cooled Core i7 920 (2.66GHz) processor, 6GB of DDR3-1333 RAM, GeForce GTX 285 videocard, two 640GB WD hard drives, DVD burner, and a 1KW PSU. The Advanced configuration bumps the processor up to Intel's Core i7 940 (2.93GHz), adds a second GTX 285 videocard, trades the 640GB hard drives for a pair of 300GB Velociraptors instead, and forgoes onboard sound in favor of Creative's X-Fi Titanium.
All three configurations come with free in-home setup.
"It's going to happen whether you like it or not," the virtual worlds developer said of gold farming. "People will always find the path of least resistance, if you stop them buying your gold then they'll buy that gold from somebody else who is gold farming."
"Trying to stop that happening is literally like telling the tide not to come in - you will fail."
"If you don't build that into your system then you're not going to be able to compete with the gold farmers and that will ruin your in-game economy, which will in turn ruin your game. At the very least having the recognition that virtual economics is a discipline and is a very important integral part to being a virtual world," he added.
Fraser-Robinson listed Eve Online as a game that -- rather than stomping out real money transactions only to have them return in greater force – arranged its economy with the help of an actual economist.
"I think that's absolutely essential going forward… because wherever humans are in communities and whenever they are bartering there is a market and there is going to be a market place. If you let that go with no regulation and no recognition then very, very crazy things will happen."
In a talky-torial published at The Escapist, Team Fortress 2 developer Robin Walker hinted at yet another presumably free addition to TF2’s bullet-ridden house of hilarity. And fortunately for those who’ve moved onto grayer pastures, the article touts a “very different” mode currently just out of sniping range.
"A new Payload map is in the works, more community maps are on the way and the team will soon unveil a very different new game mode," read the article.
In addition, Walker confirmed that Valve has all manner of new class designs just waiting to get their shots at the small screen, but wouldn’t give a timeframe for their deployment.
“We've got several new class designs floating around, some of which we like a lot, but right now we're focusing on the broadening of our existing classes through the addition of the unlockables," he said.
Frankly, as long as Valve tosses up a few more “Meet the ____” movies, we’ll be dandy. How about you?
GameTap, for those unfamiliar, is a self-described “games on demand service” that zaps thousands of games – some aged and impenetrable, others still warm and wrapped in soggy design document – straight to your PC. It’s pretty neat! However, if you’re just now finding out about the goose that lays golden games, please refrain from getting too excited; GameTap’s vaunted free games section won’t be quite the looker it once was come next week. Said GameTap’s official blog:
“As many of you know, over the past year or so we’ve released well over one hundred games for free, in order to entice people to sample what GameTap has to offer and, hopefully, subscribe to our service. This strategy has worked incredibly well for us, and now we’re ready to move on.”
“Starting next week, we’re going to return a large chunk of our free games back to the Gold vault. They will still be available, but only to GameTap Gold subscribers.”
97 games, including heavy-hitters like Deus Ex, Psychonauts and, well, Daikatana (there’s always a silver lining) will be yanked out of the pet shop window, bringing Gametap’s free section down to a comparatively paltry 40. Weekly trials of select games will also be available.
So then, does this turn of events have you unbolting the padlock on your credit card, or does GameTap have some ‘splainin’ to do?
Mods, oodles of control configurations, switches and sliders for unholy graphical settings even God was unaware existed – these are the things that allegedly make PC gaming special. Clothesline inexperienced gamers with this taught branch of options, however, and they’ll see their first Game Over before even glimpsing the start screen. BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka’s solution? Er, it’s kinda vague.
“I think there are more people playing PC games and more dollars being spent on the PC space than ever before, but it’s taking a different form,” the good doctor told CVG.
“We can still make deep rich experiences but we have to make them easy to access, you have make the control system really easy to use, and you have to make people feel like they’re playing an experience that they can play how they want to play it, whether that is long sessions or short sessions.”
How does BioWare intend to make space for graduates of the PopCap Academy without giving core gamers the boot, though? Your comment section dialogue options are as follows:
“[Persuasion] Why even bother with casual gamers? They’ve only spurned your advances in the past.”
“Wait a minute, Muzyka! Sounds like you’re talking about console games to me!”
“Well, BioWare, you’ve never failed me in the past, so why should I doubt you now? I’m exceptionally level-headed and uninteresting.” (Click here for light side points.)
Nothing against the NPD Group, but if it’d like to stare us straight in the eyes (as opposed to peering directly into our upturned nostrils), it might want to consider duct-taping a few new tools onto its measuring stick – at least, as far as PC gaming is concerned.
The NPD Group recently released its 2008 PC game sales totals, wherein it concluded that our favorite platform is barely puttering along behind consoles’ gold-paved success parade, claiming that PC game sales are down 14% from 2008.
However, to be frank, they’re wrong. This is, of course, because NPD doesn’t take into account sales of digitally downloaded games, microtransactions, or the all-important subscription fee – that is to say, the rippling base of PC gaming’s food pyramid. The group has taken a few tentative steps into this arena with a quarterly subscription tracker, but its results are not factored into these 2008 totals.
Hopefully, NPD will continue to build off the base it’s formed with the aforementioned subscription tracker – otherwise, its descent into total obsolescence (even where consoles are concerned) will be less like a rollercoaster and more like Richard Garriott after they turn the gravity back on.
Fortunately, while this first run doesn’t look so hot, next week’s figures will be more in-depth. Here’s hoping this decidedly negative knee-jerk reaction finds itself looking foolish before too long.