Nvidia this week released new WHQL GeForce drivers for GeForce 6, 7, 8, 9, and 200-series owners. The new drivers, version 182.06, promise around a 10 percent performance increase in Fallout 3 at high resolution with AA, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Half Life 2 at high resolution with AA, the insanely entertaining Left 4 Dead at high resolution with AA, and Race Driver: GRID, also at high resolution with AA.
In addition to double-digit performance boosts, Nvidia says its new drivers include full support for OpenGL 3.0 on GeForce 8, 9, and 200 series GPUs and automatically installs the new PhysX software (version 9.090203. The drivers also fix a bug in Vista 32-bit where GeForce 9800 GTX/GX2/GT/GTX+ and 8800 GTS/GT/GS owners experienced a system hang when switching between performance states.
Fans of Half Life and, well, things that are cool are advised to take a five and a half minute break from the daily grind and check out the fan film Escape from City 17 - Part One.
Directed by The Purchase Brothers, the life-action fan flick started off as a test project to experiment with various post production techniques, but has now turned into a multi-part series. The directors claim the short film was shot with "no money, no time, no crew, and no script," and that it only took $500 to make the first two episodes.
Check it out, then hit the jump and offer your critique.
Microsoft received considerable buzz over its Silverlight web browser plugin during the Beijing Olympics, in which NBC opted to use Silverlight rather than Adobe's Flash to stream its Olympics coverage. But it didn't take long for NBC to run back to Flash once the Olympics were over, taking the spotlight off of the Silverlight platform.
Silverlight is back in the news, this time for a new contest Microsoft has launched at serverquestcontest.com. The contest is being aimed at Silverlight game developers age 16 or older and living in the U.S. To enter, eligible developers must create a user profile on the site, download the Software Development Kit, and then use it to create an online game.
Participants can submit up to three entries, each of which must follow a set of strict guidelines. These include a file download size not larger than 4MB and total file size of less than 10MB, resolution of 800x430 or less, the game cannot include any upload file aspects nor can it require or allow any external communication, it must be developed in Silverlight 2.0 and submitted in object/binary code format, and finally the game must clearly indicate to others that it is governed by the Creative Commons license. Phew!
The contest runs through April 30, 2009 (11:59 PM PST), with a voting period to take place between May 1 and May 14. Winners will be announced May 25, 2009.
Multiverse might be on the verge of revolutionizing web-based gaming, or so it claims. Using its technology platform, Multiverse says it's possible for developers to create 2D, browser-based versions of a full-scale downloadable 3D game, and then allow players to interact between them.
"Now, you can have proven genres of videogames, really popular games, like shooters, real-time strategy, sports, and things that exist on consoles or specially installed games, and those types of games can live in your web browser without a download," said Corey Bridges, Mulitverse co-founder.
To showcase the technology, Multiverse released a simple Flash game called Battle that runs on Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and Kongregate. According to Bridges, Battle is one of the first-ever multiplayer, real-time, action or combat-based Flash games. And unlike most multiplayer Flash games, Battle isn't turn-based.
But the real value to developers in having a 2D to 3D cross-over capability might come from being able to offer free online trials where potential game buyers can jump in and play with other people without requiring a download.
Whether or not Multiverse's platform catches on, only time will tell. But according to Bridges, we may not have to wait long. He says a small handful of developers have begun taking their in-development 3D worlds and "are making a window into those worlds that can be done in Flash."
If ever there was a case for parental controls, it's this: According to Virtual Worlds Management, there are now over 200 youth-oriented virtual worlds live, planned, or actively being developed. In other words, rather than grab a ball and glove after school, kids left on their own with access to a computer will literally have hundreds of virtual worlds to choose from and plenty of opportunities to spend their allowance.
When broken down into worlds targeting kids (7 and under), tweens (8-12), and teens (13+), VMW says "the kids market is the clear leader," noting 107 worlds are banking on at least part of their audience consisting of kids in the under-7 range. To make money off these markets, 59 of the virtual worlds use micro-transactions, giving users free access to the world but charging for virtual goods. Another 57 worlds follow the subscription based model, and 46 use advertising, VMW says.
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 appears the Blu-ray format may finally be picking up steam. At CES, Andy Parsons, president of the Blu-ray Disc Association, described 2008 as a banner year for Blu-ray sales, and the numbers appear to back his claim. Fourth quarter sales saw 28.6 million Blu-ray sales, up significantly from 9.5 million a year prior. There are now nearly 11 million Blu-ray capable players in the U.S., although 6 million of those are PlayStation 3 consoles.
By comparison, in the same three year time frame after release, DVD players totaled 5.4 million units, not far above all non-PS3 Blu-ray players. And with 40 million homes equipped with HDTVs, there's plenty of room for Blu-ray player sales to grow. Helping to do that, 18 new Blu-ray players were announced at CES, including an HDTV with a built-in player by Sharp.
Despite Blu-ray's recent success, Microsoft reiterated it has no plans to integrate Blu-ray capability with its Xbox 360 console. According to Robbie Bach, Microsoft's president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, the decision comes down to a combination of not enough users requesting a Blu-ray player, and because it wouldn't help "in the core of what Xbox does, which is gaming."
With competition from Gateway and HP, affordable gaming boxes are becoming all the rage and Dell has every intention of participating. The OEM has just launched the XPS 625, a sub-$1000 desktop with a modest spec sheet.
Dell, a longtime lover of Intel, turns to AMD this time around. The affair breathes hot and heavy with AMD's Dragon platform, including configuration options of the fresh out of the oven Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition processor (3.0GHz), dual ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards, up to 8GB of memory, a10K RMP hard drive (interestingly this can only be added as an "additional hard drive"), and Windows Vista 64-bit. Dell says the entire system is overclockable through AMD's performance tuning software, and as just configured, it's all going to cost a shade over $2000.
To keep things under a grand, the XPS 625's base configuration consists of an AMD Athlon X2 5600+ Black Edition processor (2.9GHz), 2GB of DDR2-800 RAM, 500GB hard drive, ATI Radeon 4670 videocard, DVD burner, and Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit.
After the thrashing Intel doled out with its Core 2 and now Core i7 platforms, one might accuse AMD of having its head in the clouds for the past couple of years. Now AMD really is looking to the cloud, but not the way you probably imagined. The struggling chip maker announced at CES a plan to shake up the "deployment, development, and delivery of HD content" by building a massively-parallel supercomputer that will give home to the "AMD Fusion Render Cloud."
"Seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest machines, including the fastest two computers on the planet, are powered by AMD hardware,” said Dirk Meyer, AMD President and CEO. "Today, AMD is pleased to announce a new kind of supercomputer unlike any other ever built. It is being designed to break the one petaFLOPS barrier, and to process a million compute threads across more than 1,000 graphics processors. We anticipate it to be the fastest graphics supercomputer ever."
AMD says its scalable graphics supercomputer will make it possible for content providers to deliver videogames, computer apps, and any other graphically intensive application through the Cloud to mobile devices with a web browser, and without sucking the battery life out of the units since both the movie and gaming chores will be rendered server-side.
Looking at the hardware, AMD says its Fusion Render Cloud will include AMD parts (duh) like the newly minted Phenom II processors, AMD 790 chipsets, and ATI Radeon 4870 GPUs.
Do you see this as being a game changer for AMD, or game over for a company with enough on its plate already? Hit the jump and sound off!
BFG Technologies, most known for its Nvidia-based videocards and, more recently, a power supply lineup and a short stint with 650i/680i-based motherboards, is jumping into the system building scene with a line of gaming and multimedia PCs called Phobos.
"Phobos was designed for gamers and media enthusiasts who demand top of the line performance, but may not have the time, desire, or expertise to build or maintain a high end system,” said John Malley, senior director of marketing for BFG Technologies.
BFG's banking on its reputation as a player in the enthusiast market to be successful in a sector which has seen consolidation in recent years, such as Dell acquiring Alienware and HP picking up Voodoo PC, two boutique vendors who helped define the niche market. BFG also looks to set its Phobos line apart with a combination of high end parts, "refined aesthetics," and a touch panel LCD.
Hit the jump to find out what BFG's new rigs will be packing underneath the hood.