What is it like to experience VR's latest prototype called "Crescent Bay?" How does it feel to have a T-Rex breathe down your neck as you stand in a pile of her unhatched eggs? Does the T-Rex really have a walnut-sized brain? Awesome, scary, and watch Land of the Lost. Those are our quick answers if you're in a rush. For everyone else, let us elaborate a bit about what we saw at GDC.
Does anyone buy CDs or Blu-ray discs anymore? You can stream so much stuff for a few bucks a month that it's hard to make an argument for physical media these days. Those two mediums have nearly leapfrogged the downloading phase that PC games have been in for a decade, since the dawn of Steam. Now Nvidia is making a push for streaming games, too, and its new Shield console is central to that effort. We sat down today for a talk presented by Eric Young, an engineering manager at Nvidia, who gave us some more details about how the Shield handles streaming from the company's cloud-based service dubbed GRID.
If you've heard of Games for Windows Live (GFWL), then you're probably familiar with some of its troubles. The difficulties some users had with fundamental things like logging in and updating the GFWL could produce some epic tales of woe. GFWL was deactivated last year, and with it went its online matchmaking system, meaning that games that used this service to create multiplayer sessions either no longer had multiplayer or had to plug into something else, such as SteamWorks. With the next big version of Windows coming out this year, Microsoft wants to give it another shot, and thankfully their using a different set of tools and also introducing some interesting new features. We sat down for a lecture on the subject, conducted by Microsoft engineers Vijay Gajjala and Brian Tyler.
In the land of video cards, Nvidia's GTX Titan is generally considered the king. The original gangster came out in February 2013, followed by the Titan Black a year later, each sporting an unprecedented 6GB of RAM, 7 billion transistors, and more shader processors than you could shake a stick at (eventually tipping the scales at 2880 "CUDA cores"). Nvidia capped it off in March 2014 with the Titan Z, which put two Titan Black GPUs on one card. And now it's been nearly a year since we've seen activity from them on the super-premium end. But the company hasn't been idle. Today we got up close and personal with this obsidian brick of magic, the GTX Titan X.
Shield can do several things: play Android games, play triple-A Android games made for Shield, handle your online media needs, and stream from NVIDIA's Grid streaming service. Grid has been in the making for several years, and NVIDIA hopes to be first to deliver a playable, lag free experience. At launch, NVIDIA will have roughly 50 playable titles, all of which should be the most recent PC hits. NVIDIA's vision is to deliver all games, at maximum graphics settings, without the requirement for having a high-end gaming rig.
Backtrack several months and you have Razer's Forge TV, a device that's meant to allow you to stream all your games to the living room, lag free. Forge TV is also an Android device, but it doesn't have the power that NVIDIA's Shield has. For reference, Forge TV is equipped with an Adreno 420 GPU, while the Shield's graphics duties are handled by NVIDIA's own Tegra X1, which is based on its current flagship Maxwell architecture. Specs aside, the Shield can do everything the Forge TV can do, and much more. Shield is also 4K ready, while Forge TV is not.
We get our hands on both at GDC. What's our impression?
Same compact G302 chassis, but with new and improved sensor
Logitech recently came by the Lab to show off its new premium gaming mouse, the G303 Daedalus Apex. If you’re thinking it looks just like the G302 Daedalus Prime, that’s because it uses the same lightweight and portable body, which weighs 87 grams and measures 11.5x6.5x3.7 cm. Logitech says this is the enthusiast version of the G302, thus the “Performance Edition” moniker.
There are plenty of mini PC options in the Windows space, but does anyone remember that Chromeboxes exist? For those who care, Acer is expanding its Chromebox CXI line with a couple of new models that have been upgraded with Intel's 4th Generation Core i3 4030U dual-core processor clocked at 1.9GHz (3MB cache, Hyper Threading support, 15W TDP), a speedy replacement for the Celeron chips that power the existing models.
At GDC today, a number of VR and AR developers gathered in a casual forum moderated by Chris Pruett, who does developer relations for Oculus VR. What followed was an interesting jam session as creative minds shared their ideas, triumphs, and frustrations with virtual platforms. Pruett stated at the beginning that he was not there as a representative of Oculus, and in fact he was not the original planned leader of the session.
Tools for digital hair, water, light shafts, and shadows
Most of us think of Nvidia as a hardware company. Video cards, tablets, and now a game console. But they've been doing a lot on the software side, working directly with developers in a program called GameWorks. This is a set of graphical tools that a developer can select from like a buffet, to fill in gaps in the game-creation process, or to accelerate it. Today, Ubisoft Kiev, the guys who worked on the PC ports of Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed Unity, gave some real-world examples of different GameWorks elements that they used to improve their visuals. Also along for the ride was free-to-play online shooter Warthunder, who makes liberal use of some interesting water effects.
I just walked out of Valve’s SteamVR demo and can say that it is the best VR experience I’ve ever had. And this is coming from a guy who has tried nearly all of the VR headsets out there, including Oculus VR’s newest Crescent Bay prototype. This is the closest thing to a modern-day holodeck we have at the moment.