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Jonas, Author at Armchair Empire - Page 7 of 8

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february releases

Most Anticipated Games Of 2017 – Our Top Five Picks

The year 2016 is past us and quite honestly it wasn’t the best, be it world events or video game releases. Apart from ‘Gears of War 4’ and ‘Uncharted 4’, there weren’t many that evoked the interest to play them. Thankfully, indie titles did a solid job (Superhot, Inside, Firewatch…) but they too were few and far in between.

Then there were the big disasters. ‘The Division’ takes pole position and who can forget ‘No Man’s Sky’ – so much promise but delivered very little in terms of immersive gameplay.

That said, the year 2017 looks promising with some of the best titles coming out in as early as March. While there are too many upcoming games worth mentioning, we focussed on five and for good reasons too. Read ahead to find out why.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This PlayStation 4 exclusive title certainly has us on the edge of our seats brimming with anticipation ever since we got a taste of it’s gameplay in E3 2016. Set in our world 1,000 years from now, robotic creatures and not the humans have moved up the ladder to become the dominant species of the planet. With much of the human population wiped out, there are but a handful of surviving colonies that have to constantly fight the odds.

You get to play the role of Aloy, the female protagonist of the Horizon Zero Dawn plot, she has been outcast from her tribe and over time, has learnt to hunt these creatures making her way through an open world. Her sole weapon from the first looks, is a bow and a quiver of arrows. The arrows themselves seem to be of different grades, some explode, whereas others pierce armours and discharge electricity.

The part that’s intrigued us is what Aloy does once she runs out of ammo (read arrows). It seems she has this special ability to construct weapons through a combination of machine parts from downed robotic animals and earth-based natural minerals. Oh, and did we mention it has giant metallic dinosaurs, because it does!

Mass Effect: Andromeda

The Mass Effect series has taken single-player space hoping and exploration missions to the next level. And we are guardedly confident that Andromeda shall not disappoint us on that front when its available in March and playable on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

The Andromeda plot begins in 2185, somewhere between the events of Mass Effect 2 and 3. The Citadel has identified the galaxy Andromeda as the next best bet to find and populate new home worlds by letting each race send a group of its finest on a one way, 600-year journey to the new galaxy. Each ship appoints a leader who’s called the Pathfinder.

In the game, there is a choice between human protagonists Scott and Sarah Ryder who serve under their father Alec Ryder, who happens to be humanity’s pathfinder. Much like the other Mass Effect games, here too we expect lots of space explorations, interactions with other alien species, alliances, wars, negotiations, decisions, break-ups and make-ups and a kickass storyline to thread all of these individual gameplay aspects together.

Although there will no cross-platform feature for multiplayer, like Mass Effect 3, Andromeda will support peer-to-peer gameplay. And quite frankly, we did enjoy playing it this way on the last one.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

The eighteenth in the list of Zelda family of games released by Nintendo over the years, Breath Of The Wild is among the rare few to incorporate HD graphics that’s set to release in March 2017. What makes this game even more exciting is that it can be played on the all new Nintendo Switch console as well as the Wii U.

Set in an open world, players can finally explore the lands either on foot or by riding Epona, the protagonist’s horse. That in itself should be reason to rejoice as the earlier titles had constricted gameplay decision making by pipelining entry and exit points in the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption was such a hit that its 13-million players (that includes us too) were praying that the game studio releases a sequel to it. And those prayers have been answered! Red Dead Redemption 2 is officially a thing and should be released for consoles sometime in autumn 2017.

Like its predecessor, this too will be open world but whether it clings tightly to the Western action adventure genre is something that we need to wait and watch. Chatter on the forums suggests that sequel will take American history as its central point, and offer a big sprawling gameplay to match.

Also, there just might a rethink to release Red Dead Redemption 2 for PC platform following the massive online petition sent to Rockstar with more than 47,000 signatures (and counting). The other being a multiplayer game play for the title, about which Rockstar has remained characteristically tight lipped.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

Set in Bolivia, a few years into the future, you take on the role of an elite Special Forces team, The Ghosts who are sent behind enemy lines to wreak havoc on the Santa Blanca cartel and neutralise their drug peddling operations for good.

As per Ubisoft, Ghost Recon Wildlands will be set in an open world that’s not just massive but extremely responsive. In fact, this could be the first game to offer nine varying types of topography, terrain and atmospheric combinations, from arid deserts to mountainous regions, each with their own rendition of day-night cycle.

Open world means more travelling and that means vehicles to do the job. And the rumor is that we could get to a do smash and grab ops on cars and trucks much in a GTA style. As for main gameplay, the weapons, tactical planning shall no doubt be improved, but a welcome addition are side-missions that you could do while on a mission.

Releasing in March 2017 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC , Ubisoft is offering a lucky few the chance to beta test the game between 23rd -27th February. The beta will have both single and multiplayer modes. It shall include two out of the twenty-one provinces from the actual game for players to test the open world nature and provide feedback.

february releases header

Top February Game Releases of 2017

The sheet number of titles scheduled for launch in 2017 makes this the best year yet in terms of game choices and February is just the start of a flood. Here’s a quick look at February’s top video game releases of 2017.

Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list of game title releases since some games were announced for February but no specific release date were given for them. Only games with confirmed release dates are mentioned in this list.

Fire Emblem Heroes, Feb 2nd

The game just launched for smartphone users and is available on both iOS and Android platforms. This particular edition of the franchise sees the player taking up the role of Summoner. You are required to call upon the services of various Fire Emblem Heroes throughout mankind’s history, which brings back characters from its previous installments. Using these heroes, you participate in turn based battles that occur over an 8 by 6 grid on your phone. The game relies on the same triangle weapon system and Players get to upgrade heroes plus call extra heroes to aid them in battle.

Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World, Feb 3rd

Designed exclusively for Nintendo 3DS, this game will include all levels present in the Wii U edition plus a few new levels where you can control the woolen Poochy. As Yoshi in game you can take the help of the Poochy Pups to find secrets.

Atelier Sophie, Feb 7th

Did you know that this will mark the 17th title in this franchise and while this particular edition has already made its appearance on PS4 as well as the PS VITA, it makes its way to the PC this February.

Nioh, Feb 7th

Exclusive for PlayStation 4, Nioh feels influenced from Dark Souls series though the major difference between the two is that the former occurs in feudal Japan with mythological creatures walking the lands along with ninjas and samurais. You play the role of a westerner in their society taking the shoes of William, who is suddenly thrown amidst the turmoil of this tumultuous land. The game is riveting and keeps you glued to your seat throughout thanks to the picturesque settings and the character interactions.

WWE 2k17, Feb 14th

Your usual package of wrestling available on your computer, releases on Valentine’s Day. Great for us single gamers but those in a relationship might have to wait till 15th to play their favorite smash-your-head-in title.

For Honor, Feb 14th

An original cross-platform game title from the stables of Ubisoft Montreal, this battle intensive medieval action game features total of three playable factions starting with the Vikings, Samurai and ending with the Knights. It is the multiplayer mode of this game titled, War of the Factions, that you should be interested in though it features a complete single player mode too. Good news though, the multiplayer mode too is cross-platform too.

Sniper Elite 4, Feb 14th

For those loyal Sniper Elite fans, the 4th installment releases on February 14th but those who haven’t ever played this title, be ready to be bored on purpose. Yes, the game is a lot of preparation and planning and very little action but for those who love to strategize and meticulously plan each and every move, this is a title worth having.

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, Feb 21st

This game is based on a popular manga series by the name of Berserk but it gets its own spinoff world and warriors. You basically control the protagonist Guts and his merry band of fighters in a vendetta on the hordes of demons terrorizing the fictional lands.

Halo Wars 2, Feb 21st

Releasing this time around for Xbox One and PC, Halo Wars 2 is a strategy based real-time game with multiplayer put in it. The focus is more on card-based strategies and deck building rather than resource management and base building. There is a single player campaign too, complete with its own villain and mercenary band. The unique feature of this title is that a single license purchase allows you to play on Windows 10 as well as Xbox One.

Night in the Woods, Feb 21st

Proper cross-platform game that works not just on PS4 and PC but also Mac and Linux, this game follows a cat, Mae who has just returned to her rust-belt town from college. The dialogues are dense and the game presentation is enticing. There are several mini-games inside the main game plus loads of characters and upgrades.

Horizon Zero Dawn, Feb 28th

Developed by Guerilla Games, the new project titled Horizon Zero Dawn brings together a fantastical world where robots have overtaken the world and somehow made giant dinosaur copies of themselves. You are a hunter-gatherer who has to survive in this post-apocalyptic world now run over by robots.

Torment: Tides of Numenera, Feb 28th

Another cross-platform title this game will be available for Xbox One, PS4 as well as PC. It also is the only title on this list that gathered funding from Kickstarter about three years back. The game draws major inspiration from a classic RPG title called Planescape: Torment. However, that’s where the similarity ends because the game takes on a life of its own. The focus in this RPG game is more on conversations and how each sentence can affect future events.

Interested in any of the February releases scheduled or already available this year? If so, leave us a comment below and let us know which game you mostly look forward to playing and why. Also, if you feel we have missed any title out, do remember to remind us!

nvidia quadro gp100

$6000 For Latest Nvidia Graphics Card – What’s The Hype?

Nvidia has finally revealed the secret of its latest graphics cards and no we are not talking about the GTX 1080 Ti. While that graphics card is scheduled to come out soon, fact remains that it is a poorly kept secret and everyone knows it will make an appearance sometime in 2017. We are speaking of the GP100 Pascal architecture and the Quadro GP100 – first PCIe graphics card in the Pascal architecture for the Quadro range. Some might argue that the Tesla P100 is the first in the Pascal line-up but this isn’t a commercial card since it is only available on Nvidia DGX-1 server, which by the way costs a whopping $129,000.

For those of you unaware of the Tesla P100, this specific graphics card is proprietary from Nvidia and it works only on its own servers, more specifically the DGX-1 server. Now, the first editions of this card relied on custom NVLink mezzanine connectors from Nvidia instead of a PCIe slot. A little while later though Nvidia did introduce the PCIe variant but without any display output. If Nvidia can make a PCIe version of their proprietary graphics card, then it stands to reason that they can add display outputs and that is what the GP100 brings to the consumers. Think of it as a toned done version of the P100 Tesla that operates off a PCIe bridge and has its display outputs.

Where Tesla is predominantly a computing based solution, Quadro from Nvidia is geared more towards professional multimedia and graphics works such as 3D rendering, CAD/CAM, video editing and a lot more in between. Now while the region of overlap between graphics and multimedia work with gaming has grown, there is still a clear demand for the gaming series of graphics card as well as the QUADRO range of professional graphics cards.

Now the next question about the $6000 card is whether it trumps the previous version of QUADRO, the P6000 or does it come close to its performance? Let’s find out.

New Memory Module

If you were to create a Venn diagram showcasing the areas where the GP100 overlaps on the performance of the P6000, it would have a large area of intersection but the one place where it would stand far apart is in the memory module. The GP100 relies on HBM2 memory rather than GDDR5X and this gives it higher memory bandwidth. At 720GB/s, it is way higher than the P6000’s 480GB/s transfer rates. However, memory bandwidth isn’t the only thing that defines a graphics card and it is in other areas that the figures get a little confusing.

The Disparity

The P6000 features a fully functional GP102 GPU, which means it uses the complete 3840 CUDA cores at a clock speed of 1530 MHz thus producing around 12 TFLOPS. To do this it uses 24GB of GDDR5X memory. The Quadro GP100 however packs in only 16GB of HBM2 memory with 3584 CUDA cores operating at around 1430 MHz that together deliver around 10.3 TFLOPS of performance. Basically, you get greater memory bandwidth but less computing power and memory. Because of the tradeoffs though, the GP100 uses significantly less power as opposed to the P6000.

At present the P6000 Quadro retails for about $5000, which is a significant slash in prices from the original price of $7,000. It is safe to assume that the Quadro GP100 will perfectly slot into the $7000 price range though going by the initial stats, but considering the slight drop in overall performance, it is possible for a lower price tag. The P6000 on the other hand should continue to retail at around the $5000 mark even with the GP100 launch since it is still a quite capable card that matches the GP100 blow for blow, outdoing it some performance segments.

Now, being a gaming oriented website, all this talk of QUADRO is immaterial to us unless the GP100 technology is scheduled to make an appearance in the GTX commercial gaming series. Can it make an appearance as a Titan? Well, as it stands this seems highly unlikely. The Titan Pascal X is already giving phenomenal performance with its 12GB GDDR5X GP102 processor that produces around 11 TFLOPS. The need for higher performance of memory bandwidth at the moment is limited and companies that are interested in this sort of jump in memory performance are limited. In other words, GP100 might not receive a consumer variant anytime soon simply because the Titan XP performance is almost at par with it.

No graphics card article is ever complete without discussing AMD cards. Good news for AMD lovers, the Vega will release with HBM2 memory with 8GB in total. The reason for such limited releases in this particular memory technology is the price. More expensive than GDDR5 memory, AMD trying to keep true to its affordable nametag, packs in only two stacks of 4GB HBM2 memory. This does beg the question as to why Nvidia could not reduce its memory stacks on the GP100 for a slightly lower memory module with 8GB in total? This card could have outgrown the popularity of the P6000 with its lower price tag plus equal performance.

As it stands, Nvidia probably will not pump out another graphics card with HBM2 memory module at least until AMD comes out with its Volta model, which is scheduled for the later part of 2018.

Performance Of The P6000 And Why It Won’t Be Outdated Because Of GP100

Speaking in terms of pure gaming, professional graphics cards were never really designed with this intention. Yes, they have similar stats and at times even better parts but they are not game optimized – this is the number one complaint we hear from gamers. Well, if benchmarks are anything to go by, the P6000 blasts high end gaming GPUs to smithereens.

A popular choice among benchmarks, the NVIDIA TITAN X Pascal actually falls way behind the P6000 QUADRO in gaming benchmarks. This is not surprising though, since the TITAN X Pascal has only 3548 cores while the GP102 based card has all its CUDA cores enabled. When it comes to gaming parlance, the full gamut of cores and superior architecture together help the P6000 zoom past the Titan X Pascal in games.

  • Jonas
  • February 27, 2017
  • PC
indian men gaming

Gaming Takes Off Big Time In India

With the size and magnitude of the gaming public in India, International publishers are beginning to see the country as an undiscovered market ripe for the taking. The size, scale and potential of this market is truly different as opposed to that of any country. Yes, there are several challenges facing publishers but the rewards are equally lucrative.

Before we get further into the article, it is worth noting that the Indian game market is ripe for AAA titles with big budgets but doesn’t really respond well to independent games developed indigenously in the country. However, this could change in the coming years as the market has seen a steady growth in India, year by year.

Earlier, a lot of game makers preferred staying out of China and India because they felt the market wasn’t ready for games that cost a lot. Today though, these two countries have a market riddled with gamers who don’t mind foregoing the piracy route. Indian gamers pay for games that they are really interested in. The problem up until the past few years was that Indian gamers really had no option to pay for the games they played and now that Origin, Steam and others are offering the gamers licenses, more and more gamers are willing to pay for their gaming experience. Previously payment methods were unsupportive of Indian services and that was probably the biggest hurdle. This no longer is a concern with indigenous payment portals and international portals opening up to the Indian Banking sector.

Yes, another limitation over the years in India has been the abysmal broadband plans. Not only are the plans archaic but also expensive. You have capped download limits that cost a lot. With today’s games averaging around 50GB, the decision to download games off the internet is a big one. Take for instance, DOOM download on Steam. 70GB is a huge amount of data and for a country like India, this means spending your entire month’s bandwidth trying to get a game from the internet. Things are changing however with better plans and higher packages available in major cities across the country. However, it is the availability of original game CDs days after their international launch that is helping convert Indian gamers into loyal customers for international big brands.

India As Game Makers

Yes, major titles are not in the pipeline from Indian game manufacturers but the moment you move into the mobile gaming segment, you realize what kind of potential the country has. Indian companies and their gaming titles all dominate the Play Store. In fact, after voice, text, chat and email, gaming is what Indian mobile users spend their time on. In a recent report published by the Business Standard, the mobile gaming sector in India will be worth $400 million with nearly 628 million users by 2020.

Gaming As An Event

India hasn’t yet seen the likes of E3 gaming events however, the trend of annual gaming events has already begun in the country. Take the Indian Gaming Show that ran from 2nd February to 5th February in Delhi. While it wasn’t as massive as E3, it was a success on a much humbler scale. While the turnout was slim, there were a lot of encouraging signs. Take for instance big game publishers such as Square Enix participating in the event.

Held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, Hall number 18 was the venue for The Indian Gaming Show and this hall had several smaller pavilions, each sporting a host of publications, publishers and gaming hardware makers. Among the many things that you notice as you walk into the venue is the mega setups for pro gaming matches. India’s E-Sports pros had a heavy presence in this event and it was probably the biggest crowd puller of the entire event.

The usual gimmicks from large brands were on display. Sony booth had a mash up of several weird ideas that kept the crowd engaged but what stood out was the sheer number of game titles on display. Some of the titles weren’t yet launched. Nier: Automata was one such title. Then there were complete VR zones that gave visitors a taste of the VR experience.

Specific titles have for long gathered a lot of fan following in India. Take the Tomb Raider franchise or even the Final Fantasy franchise that has several Indian gamers following the official fan pages on Facebook from the subcontinent. Delhi seems to be the hub for such fan following in India and this gaming event was an attempt to connect pro gamers, enthusiasts with game developers and hardware makers.

Two titles that have managed to capture the Indian market include FIFA from EA Sports and GTA V. The sheer number of users from the subcontinent suggests the potential of gaming in the country. Up until 2015, EA Sports would target India on a third tier basis, opting to release their games later in the country and offer game CDs at lower prices because piracy was a big thing. However, with a steady growth in fan following, they quickly went the online licensing way with 2016 and for the FIFA 17, they managed to record the highest sales ever. GTA V has had a similar experience with the Indian gaming market.

All these developments over the past few years points towards a boom in Indian gaming promises a better future for gaming enthusiasts in the country. Will the next big independent game title to take the world by storm come out of India? It truly is only a matter of time.

resident evil 7 still shot

Resident Evil 7 – Sneak Peek Into What You Are Missing

It is the environment in which Resident Evil 7 is set that gives the creeps. The game manages to bring you into a state of absolute solitude and then it brings on the horrible sequences, scares and the whole shebang. In fact, one of our fondest memories is simply navigating the house to discover stuff. Initially you only find decrepit things and abandoned stuffs but as you progress further you begin discovering animal parts, mutilated dolls and slime. That’s the moment you know you are in for a heavy session of horrifying gaming.

The game’s USP isn’t the demons, monsters and the gore. They only add to the overall effect. What truly sets this game apart is the reality of the decaying space around you. With littered items, an environment that speaks of abandonment, it compels you to imagine the life of the owner and previous occupants, what might have happened for the house to become the way it is now. That’s what really sets the tone of the game with the gore creating whatever remaining horror effect is necessary.

Instead of spoilers, let’s just briefly outline an idea of the game for you. Say you are Ethan and your wife is missing, much like the Outlander story. Except, she goes missing in some swamp somewhere. You play this character and he doesn’t like speaking much, but when he does open his mouth – it is usually to say something useful.

The starting of the game, about an hour is really non-descriptive other than the surroundings. You are left to discover things and by the time the real creeps start appearing, it is a little bit too late. No warning and definitely no inkling of idea when the horror starts. By the time, you are in the middle of the gore storm, you are left with a gut wrenching feeling of being in a wreckage.

In hindsight though, we felt that the game had a sort of low budget horror vibe to it. Through the first half of the game, things are laid out with clear ideas, there is a lot of thought that goes into the game. If you are a horror movie franchise fan, then you will begin to see similarities with various movie titles such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacres and more.

The game only works because of the sparse use of guts and gore. Unlike many previous horror instalments, here in Resident Evil 7, you spend much of your time moving about through nothing but filth. The limited gore appearances and gut wrenching horror moments leave you with an anticipation of things yet to happen, except you don’t have any idea when they will happen.

In our opinion, Resident Evil 7 is more of an intimate game. Yes, the world in this game is small, there aren’t that many protagonists in the game including the horror characters but together they somehow make up for an experience that is terrifying and yet addictive at the same time.

Think of a madman or in this case an entity that wants to do horrible things to you, creeping up on you as you explore a mansion. Imagine the weight of that knowledge on your shoulders and not knowing when this entity or its many minions will surface. It is the threat that Resident Evil 7 possesses in its spacious surroundings that drives the player forward. At times you are left alone in a quiet corridor with the fear of something untoward happening but then nothing happens. Then there are times when you are a well-lit environment with complete visibility that scares the crap out of you, catching you unaware.

Yes, there are cheap scares and thrills laid out bare in the game but then no horror game would be complete without those spine chilling cheap tricks. What does help with the entire effect of the game is the use of the house and its limited space. As you go on unlocking specific areas of the house and new routes, you end up back in a place you previously explored only to realize that there’s more to it than previously met the eye. Sometimes, that something more happens to be a scary part of the game and at other times, you are left wondering how you missed it in the first place. The sound effects in the game too play their part. Clacking shoes, some breathing noises, minimalistic music that appear right after a sudden change in storyline – all work well in giving that panic attack, unsafe for heart patients.

After completing just a few hours on Resident Evil 7, it was evident that this game hasn’t received the right kind of reception and that’s why we decided to provide an idea of the horror a player is in store for. If you still aren’t convinced, then we suggest you check out the crazy new video for the game that was recently released. This particular release has managed to drive the sales of the title further.

At the end of a brief overview of Resident Evil 7, here are a few reasons why we feel everyone should attempt playing the game at least once.

  • Loads of puzzles, exploration and an ever present tense atmosphere that just seems like it squeezes on you. This experience is reminiscent from its previous installments.
  • Totally revamped gameplay that brings survival horror into the next generation.
  • For VR adopters, this is a one scary game as the entire game engine was designed keeping VR compatibility in mind.
  • Addictive immersion where you are in control of your actions and the consequences but not aware of when the two will eventually tie together.
esports scholarships

eSports And Athletic Scholarships

Electronic Sports, a concept that started in the last decade and some attribute it to the rise in sponsorship for gaming competitions and the fact that regardless of country, language, religion or ethnicity, everyone loves to game. Unfortunately, colleges for long haven’t taken eSports seriously enough. Those engaging in this kind of activity were looked down upon but that’s all changed thanks to few pioneering universities, high schools and colleges.

Yet another university adds competitive video gaming to their athletics programs. This time it is the turn of a private liberal arts university from Ohio that is offering scholarships and a place at their prestigious college for select individuals who engage in eSports.

Mary Ann Gawelek, the President of Lourdes University assumed office last July and has ever since pushed her agenda to include eSports program. Her basis for including eSports in the University’s athletics program is that eSports requires critical thinking, mental ability and team building exercises. Basically, you have to be competitive and willing to learn in order to achieve success and this goes well with liberal arts education.

With this latest development, Lourdes will not participate in eSports competitions held by the National Association of Collegiate eSports, which was formed recently in 2016. To do so they plan on recruiting a total of 60 eSports athletes in the next couple of years but have clarified that they will refrain from first-person shooter genres.

eSports Scholarships And Growth of eSports in Universities

Playing video games will get you nowhere! Haven’t we all heard it at one point in our lives? How about, would it not be better studying in your free time? Things have changed and today, those who spent their free time gaming, honing their eSporting skills have a lot more opportunities. Educational institutions from all over the world have begun eSports programs where they accept students on scholarships for their expertise in specific gaming titles or genres. Here’s the complete list of top 7 global Universities that accept eSport athletes in their academic programs.

UCI – University of California

It was March 2016 when UCI announced its League of Legends eSports scholarship program. This made UCI the first public university to do so and the new scholarship program began its intake in the fall of 2016. This specific program is currently being supported by Riot Games along with a brand new PC gaming café in the premises. The café mimics the setup of Korean PC joints, thus offering a plus League of Legends experience. There will obviously be other games available and together, UCI and Riot Games aims at improving student interest in eSports on the campus.

Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University is in fact the first college in the US to start its own eSports program. This university is a private non-profit entity nestled in Chicago and it currently provides a huge scholarship fund for professional gamers who wish to pursue their education too. They engage mostly in League of Legends gaming and under their scholarship program, half of their boarding costs, room and tuition costs are covered but as add-ons they get professional coaching and access to the in-house facilities for gaming.

UPIKE – University of Pikeville

A private liberal arts university out of Kentucky, this University provides eSports students with good GPA scores and a gaming background scholarships. They need to continue their GPA scores, attend mandatory practice session and train for competitions, much like actual athletes. In order to attract the best students from across the country, representatives of the university make regular trips to high schools, arranging practice matches with potential students and even browsing game ratings and rankings online.

Columbia College – USA

Columbia College came late to the eSports party but towards the end of 2016, they finally launched their scholarship program for the same. They offer money for eSports athletes and are in the process of converting their old soccer locker room into a fully functional gaming hub.

GVS – Norway

The Garnes Vidaregaande Skule in Norway will actually include eSports in their curriculum. Basically, students in high school will have to study eSports nearly five hours per week and the program is intended to work on focus predominantly through the use of games. All students who enroll for this course will have access to the gaming rigs of the college that are packed with GTX 980Ti graphics card among other things, just so they have the best possible gaming experience.

AGS – Sweden

Arlanda Gymnasiet School from Sweden started the eSports trend way back in 2015 when they took in total of 7 students just so they could enter such competitions. It is their vision to enable students through education and yet provide them support to continue eSports. This ways, if the latter does not span out as a viable career choice, they still have their education to fall back on. It is also the hope of the school that with their educational programs and experience in eSports, students who don’t break into the professional gaming circuit will be able to find employment in some other respect in the gaming community.

Such stories of universities and colleges beginning eSports ventures plus establishing scholarships are truly encouraging for us gamers. Imagine a future where eSports athletes are not just accepted but also revered for their accomplishments. College football, basketball and other such physical sports already receive a lot of eyeballs and attention providing, athletes a chance to shine while pursuing their education. Now eSports athletes too have the same chance.

Keyboard & Mouse On Gaming Consoles – Where Do You Stand?

For a PC gamer, no game is ever complete without a keyboard and mouse. It is second nature for us PC gamers and we simply can’t think of using a gamepad, especially for FPS games. With gaming consoles though this debate has largely stayed muted simply because of the incompatibility of the conventional keyboard/mouse combination. Thanks to third-party accessory makers though the debate is once more back on in full swing.

It really does not matter which side of the spectrum you fall on. Whether you love analog stick controls or keyboard/mouse dual combination. The fact remains that almost everyone on a particular platform sticks to the same control schemes. It is only because of the third party adapters that gaming consoles now are starting to take keyboards as dedicated controllers. But then why is this is an issue?

Overwatch director, Jeff Kaplan believes there is a major problem with this development. Before getting to the specific issue that Kaplan speaks on, let’s first investigate the pros and cons of keyboard/mouse controls with console gaming.

The pros are numerous especially for those who game on PCs. One major reason why so many PC gamers are anti-console is because of the lack of keyboard and mouse usage. Let’s be honest, first person shooter games are way more enjoyable when you use a mouse. There is no way an analog stick can be as accurate as a mouse pointer that you move in a split second to target someone or something. Then there’s the advantage of multiple keys of a keyboard to configure specific skill moves, which you simply cannot do with a gaming console.

The cons however are all restricted to gaming consoles. Firstly, gaming consoles historically were more interested in peddling their own brand and design of controller that cannot be used with anything else. Thankfully, Xbox controllers are plug and play with a PC but a PlayStation controller isn’t. However, PlayStation does allow USB and Bluetooth connectivity of the keyboard and mouse but unless game developers explicitly provide support for these input devices, you are out of luck. Games that migrate from a PC environment over to PlayStation tend to retain keyboard/mouse functionality but games exclusively developed for the Playstation tends to miss out on such features.

Okay so, now that we have highlighted the pros and cons of keyboard/mouse combination as opposed to a game controller, let’s get back to why Overwatch director Kaplan has an issue with it.

Kaplan left a comment on Battle.net forums stating that the Overwatch team officially objects to the combination of keyboard and mouse for its games. They have even gone ahead and contacted console makers, expressing their concerns over the input conversion devices and the duo of keyboard and mouse.

The Overwatch team isn’t explicitly against keyboard and mouse. What they have an issue with is that these devices are not inherently compatible with the gaming consoles and players need to purchase expensive third-party adapters in order to use them. This means that only some of the users can use a keyboard and mouse and because of the inherent advantages of this kind of input, it puts the rest of the conventional console gamers with analogue sticks at a severe disadvantage.

Their request is to either outright ban any such conversion device or to provide complete and open support for mouse and keyboard. This ways, the entire community is benefited. With open and free support, the issue of cheating no longer arises as anyone can use a keyboard and mouse. And with complete ban on this kind of input adapter, gamers have to revert back to the conventional controllers.

The products questioned by Kaplan and his team include the XIM4 or the IoGear Keymander. The former costs about $125 but it lets you use specific keyboard and mice combinations intuitively with a few PS4 and Xbox One games. They even work on older Xbox 360 and PS3 titles too. The Keymander costs about $100 and does a similar thing though it is cross-platform for all console games.

What these devices to is to emulate a general controller using software settings and hardware. The mouse and keyboard input are then disguised as controller input thus developers really can’t detect their presence. This is a huge issue in competitive games such as Overwatch where a mouse is too quick and precise for anyone left on an Analogue stick. Controllers will always be bulky, leggy and clunky but a mouse is too precise and it shows in the game. Those terrible at such games will end up having a better chance of registering more points over seasoned pros who use controllers.

In fact, Overwatch forums are filled with complaints of “blatant cheating” in the console edition as players are starting to use the mouse and keyboard instead of the controller. It is this particular issue that Kaplan and his team are sympathetic to.

In fact, the question isn’t about allowing or disallowing control options. Remember Gears of War 4. They actually held a competition between PC gamers and console gamers to find out whether the debate of keyboard/mouse versus controller does hold up to be true. At the end of this trial run in December, it was observed that while certain figures were slightly higher, average score, kills, KD and a lot more all were relatively the same depending on skill ratings. Or in other words, the competitive advantage is limited between controller and a mouse aiming mechanism.

Nevertheless, Kaplan simply wants the option to use mouse and keyboard on consoles available to all his customers and not just those who invest into expensive third-party adapters. This would definitely help even things out. As it stands, Microsoft is currently working on an official support but it is still “months away” as reported by their own technical team. In fact, there is no official release date for the support.

As for PS4, they already provide support for Bluetooth and USB devices but developers do not usually utilize this support for their proprietary PS titles. Only games that have come from the PC platform have this kind of support and that too mostly MMO titles. Nevertheless, the idea of having cross-platform keyboard and mouse support is enticing, at least for us PC gamers who simply cannot imagine playing a first person shooter on a gamepad! Oh, yes we exist!

steam vendors differential pricing

Differential Pricing Lands Steam Based Game Distributors In Hot Water

The European Union or the EU promotes the concept of “parallel trade” and as such hates differential pricing especially for customers of a particular product from different geographic locations in Europe or countries that are members of EU. Basically, if you sell a tomato online for €1 in Germany, you can’t then sell it for €2 in Spain.

Differential pricing in the gaming industry though has existed for a long time now. For those unaware of its negatives, it restricts gamers in a particular country from gaining access along with rest of the world by simply putting an impossible price tag during release. Basically, those who wanted to play, would pay exorbitant prices just because they belong to one particular geographic region. Another flipside to this is that gamers from countries where prices of games are higher, can then use proxies and VPNs to pay and download games at much lower rates thus bypassing the price restrictions set by the companies.

Steam is not a game maker and it is owned by Valve. Game developers use this platform for the Steam community and outreach it has. It is a budding market place and using Steam to sell their products helps garner instant sales, communicate with fans and make improvements or updates to their games. However, this does not hold Steam liable for the pricing policies of individual game makers. The EU investigation has targeted in particular five companies that are suspected of practicing differential pricing within EU.

According to the latest statement from EU Anti-trust authorities, they are concerned that certain game publishers are bypassing EU single market regulations and charging their customers variable prices based solely on the country their IP address points to. Since, the games are essentially the same regardless of the geographic difference, such variable pricing strategy is in breach of EU regulations.

European Commission has already begun investigations into the five accused companies and its sole jurisdiction is on sales through the Steam network. The companies under scrutiny include Focus Home, Capcom, Bandai Namco, ZeniMax and Koch Media. The accusation is that they are putting geographic restrictions on Steam activation keys so if a buyer purchases a game in a certain part of EU then he cannot play that in other parts of EU. Basically, the buyer must purchase another license to play the same game if he moves across specific borders.

The reason why European Commission is bothered with this practice is because it provides companies a chance to sell their activation keys at higher prices in specific countries and undercutting the customers in other countries.

It is this practice that the EU believes is breaching parallel trade rules. The question remains as to whether the issue is with pricing or because multiple licenses are required within EU. If it is the case of pricing then parallel trade comes into effect but if it is due to multiple licenses, then the EU might find the companies in breech non-liable though they may write them off with a warning not to engage in such arm twisting practices.

Another question on the minds of investigators is whether the companies are unfairly restricting retail prices or simply singling out customers because of their location or nationality.

There are several games under scrutiny on the Steam network. Project Cars, Dark Souls, Pack-man 256 are the titles selected from Bandai Namco for the investigation while Capcom features with Devil May Cry and Resident Evil series. Then there are titles from the other three brands, popular among them being Railroad X, Cities XXL, Elder Scrolls Online.

The intriguing thing about this whole episode is that there were no complaints on differential pricing. The Commission has clarified that this investigation is their own undertaking and it was started only after observing the company activities on Steam.

Simultaneously, two other similar investigations were opened but pertaining to different spheres of operation all together. Online hotel bookings, sale of domestic appliances and hi-fi equipment are the other three areas where the commission will investigate several sellers and companies.

In the recent past, the Commission had aired similar concerns with regards to hotel bookings. Tour operators such as REWE, TUI, Thomas Cook and Kuoni are all part of the online hotel booking investigations for operating with hoteliers like the Melia Hotels to show differential prices and room availabilities to customers based on their country of residence or their nationality.

This investigation is also backed by the Computer & Communications Industry Association as they hope the results of the investigation will help prevent sale of products with scrupulous intents online. Such practices undermine consumer choice and price transparency.

Couple of years back Origin practiced differential pricing for most of its titles especially with the Indian subcontinent. Games such as FIFA were priced much lower as opposed to rest of the world in an attempt to garner greater sales in the subcontinent except it resulted in exploitation. Consumers from other parts of the world would use Indian IP addresses to purchase installation codes and download games at fraction of the cost for the rest of the world. Soon after, Origin removed such pricing practices and went with a unified single price strategy.

nintendo switch game list

Switch Titles Quadruple Overnight – Now Launching With 10 Titles

Just a month ago, Nintendo announced its latest console release, the Nintendo Switch that garnered rave reviews worldwide except for one small complication – Nintendo had launched a console with a trickle of game titles to its credit.

The design, innovation and functionality of the Nintendo Switch makes it an interesting device and priced at around $299.99 on Amazon, this first generation device can reach its sales target but provided sufficient game makers sign up for the new console and extend existing titles or create brand new ones.

Back at the time of launch, the total number of confirmed titles was around 26 that were spread out across 2017. Some of the titles were totally new and innovative while others built on the previously successful Nintendo franchises. Most popular of all titles was the Zelda: Breath of the Wild but there really wasn’t much one could get excited on.

Now a month later, the extended list of game titles scheduled for launch in 2017 has grown and while folks other than the early adopters will continue to be skeptical of this brand new device, those holding back because of a dearth in game titles will be pleased to know that Switch will now have a lot more games made exclusively for it than previously believed. The total number of game titles coming out for the Switch has quadrupled in a month.

According to PressStart, a gaming website, the original number of titles at the time of Switch launch was 26, which has now gone up to an impressive 106! That is a huge increase in titles. Besides, there is yet another good news in that gamers who pre-order the Switch on launch day will receive more game titles from the beginning.

The original plan was to launch only five games with the Switch. The titles include Skylanders Imaginators, Just Dance 2017, 1-2 Switch, Super Bomberman and Zelda. For those purchasing the Switch on the day of launch, the total titles releasing with the Switch has grown to include the titles of World of Goo, Human Resource Machine, Little Inferno, I am Setsuno and The Binding of Issac. While there aren’t more than the handful of games at launch, it still is better than having just four to five titles at launch.

After receiving heavy criticism from fans for the dearth in game titles, Nintendo decided to add a few late releases into the launch day release segment. This was necessary considering the $299 price tag. Remember Wii and its launch? The concept back then was innovative and they rode the innovation wave for quite some time but due to the lack of game titles for the Wii, it began to quickly fade away. The same could be true for the Switch though, this is an entirely different concept from the Wii and the concept alone should help it garner a good fan following. Now with more launch titles, it should get better first day sales and with nearly 100 plus titles promised for 2017, looks like Nintendo might just have the next big thing in the gaming industry.

The Problems of the Switch

Speaking of the next big thing, consumers aren’t just interested in the Switch because of its looks or the way it operates. The fact, that this device can offer big screen entertainment plus mobile entertainment is what helps it garner support. The only real question remaining however is whether it does well as a multi-tasking gaming device. Any new idea requires time to settle in and baring the early adopters, the rest of the market is interested in more than just an innovation. In order to convince this lot of buyers, Switch will have to increase its titles quickly and if possible add to the number of titles scheduled along with its launch. 10 titles sound good but 20 would be outstanding.

Another hurdle in the Switch’s path is the interest shown by third party developers. Games developed or commissioned by Nintendo will help keep the Switch alive but for this platform to grow, more independent game developers and their production houses have to begin making games for the Switch or at least include cross-platform compatibility for the Switch in their already existing game titles.

How Game Titles Will Be Available

Yes, you probably have heard that the Nintendo Switch does not have a huge internal storage capacity. With just 32GB of space available inside, the need for game cartridges or storage devices is paramount. Unlike Sony that decided to make expensive proprietary memory cards, Switch has gone with the tried and tested Micro SD Cards. They will allow games to be downloaded onto microSD cards or sell them as such with titles already preloaded. And to start off their campaign they already went into a partnership with Hori to make 16GB and 32GB Switch insignia microSD cards.

With the Nintendo Switch capable of working with a 2TB micro SDXC memory card, space should not be a major concern. By the way, 2TB micro SDXC memory cards are a pipedream away at the moment, just in case you were wondering, but Switch is geared up for the eventuality when it happens. Coming back to the present, with microSD cards costing anywhere between $10 to $25, storing games for the Switch should not be a problem at all.

Only a month remains for the launch of the Nintendo Switch and things are already starting to look up. New titles added to the total 2017 Switch games list, SD Card branding, aggressive marketing and a truly innovative design are just a few positives that Nintendo will be aiming at peddling in the coming few days as they build up to the launch.

 

lenovo y series gaming laptop

Next In The Y Series – Lenovo Now Taking PC Gaming Seriously?

For long, those in the gaming industry never really looked at Lenovo seriously as a gaming intensive manufacturer. They were always known for their Ideapads and office workstations, their servers, their smartphones maybe but as a serious gamer’s tooth fairy – never! Well, that all changed with the Y510p High Performance multimedia laptop as Lenovo put it. This particular model, while not at all aimed at gamers boasted of near gamer specifications and abilities. Soon after this model gained some momentum, we saw the Y50 series launch with the Y50-70 in particular earning a lot of praise for the design, performance and above all the affordability of these machines as opposed to the rest of the competition.

Now, Lenovo has taken the next stride in PC gaming and they are here with the newest two members of the Y series. With these two new launches, Lenovo hopes to settle the debate of their gaming stance once and for all. No longer does Lenovo only want to be known as a hardware manufacturer, they now want to be taken seriously in the gaming industry.

After decades of professional catering, workstations for multinational corporations and a more general audience, Lenovo’s gaming segment is now seeing major strides forward all thanks to their current gaming boss, Will Fu. The latest Y line-up is slightly different from its previous Y series offerings. The gaming section of Lenovo is now taking Y series quite seriously, ensuring that the features will entice hardcore gamers with loyalty towards other major gaming notebook makers such as MSI, Alienware and Asus ROG. It is no longer just a question of adding more processing power and a better graphics card but more of building long lasting relationships with the target audience.

In a recent announcement, Will Fu made these new directives known and also unveiled the Y520 laptop that will feature the GTX 1050 graphics cards. It is Fu’s ideology that any Lenovo Y series gaming product should last the consumer a good two to five years. This means better hardware, more stability and a proper gaming specific service contract.

In a first, Fu said that unlike the previous business model of Lenovo where customers and the parent company were separated by a sea of distributors, retailers and brand partners, now their focus is on reducing the gap. They don’t just want their customers to do a single business transaction with the company but want them to keep coming back for more. Hence, their ideology now revolves around improving the gaming product lineup by listening to their customers. Basically Lenovo Gaming is going the consumer centric way. In order to achieve this goal, Lenovo is starting a Lenovo Gaming Community.

This community will not be country specific or selective of its members. It will attempt to bring together likeminded folks who love games and whether they play them professionally or because they love playing games, everyone will be able to chip in and share their experiences. In return, this will allow the company to capture a larger market, spread its innovations and ideas plus interact with the customers, fix or resolve issues and better their future product line.

One of the very first things in Fu’s Lenovo Gaming plan is to increase Lenovo’s presence at various gaming events across the globe. Some of the major events they plant to be an integral part of this year include Gamescom, China Joy and the likes. In the past, Lenovo never really wanted to showcase or interact with its customers at these world events because they were more interested in B2B deals. However, with the steady growth in popularity of these world gaming events and with nearly million gaming fans showing up per event, it just does not make any sense not to attend them and give a strong showing especially when you are now entering the hardcore gaming market with a product like the Y520 and Y720.

The New Releases

So, the latest two entrants are the Y70  and the Y520. The latter is a virtual reality behemoth codenamed by Lenovo as the Legion. These new Y series no longer sport the IdeaPad moniker but feature a gamer centric logo for the Legion title. The entire specifications too get an overhaul with NVidia Pascal graphics coupled to Kaby Lake processors that together make the Y720 a virtual reality ready machine. All that remains is to double down and purchase a VR headset, which by the way Lenovo is currently in the process of fine tuning. If you want to try out their headsets, be sure to visit the next gaming convention in your country.

Now, back to the laptops. They retain the design of the Y50-70 series with a black-red color scheme but there is a slight difference in the overall finishing. The Legion now seems to be sharper at the edges, with the cuts and drops. In fact, it is slimmer than before too. Another great addition is the RGB keyboard lighting with four zones and optional lights for each. That and the central hinge are probably the reason why the new generation Y series looks much more badass than before. Consumers even get the option of taking a 17-inch version of the Legion that comes with an Xbox One wireless receiver built into it!

Coming to the actual specs that drive this beast, the Legion Y720 will be powered with the 7700HQ Core i7 processor and games will run off 6GB GDDR5 memory GTX 1060 NVidia graphics. The other specifications include maximum of 32GB DDR4 RAM capacity, PCIe SSD plus HDD, 60Whr battery and optional 4K display. Lenovo says, its top of the line mode can delivery battery backup of around 5 hours.

On paper and with the sneak peek available thus far from Lenovo, the new Y series sure does sound enticing. Question is, does Lenovo continue with its aggressive pricing policy or will it go the Asus ROG way and up its asking price because now it considers itself a gaming giant?

  • Jonas
  • February 6, 2017
  • PC