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Jonas, Author at Armchair Empire - Page 8 of 8

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Best Performers Of 2k16 – 10 Games That Made It Big In The UK

As always Call of Duty and FIFA battle things out on the top of the annual UK charts, but what about the rest of the spots? Does a new IP finally make it into the top 10 list? Or is it still the same as with the year before and the year before that?

With all the excitement now shifting to the Nintendo Switch and its impending release, we totally forgot to release the annual charts on who made it big and those that went bust. No matter, we are here a month late to give you the UK top performers chart! (Better late than never, right?)

Alright so, no guesses obviously as to which two titles rule the roost. FIFA and COD come in at one and two respectively with their latest releases and this has been the case for a few years now unless a new GTA title releases. Nevertheless, GTA V still goes strong by continuing to feature in the top ten list.

Now, before we reveal this list, don’t get your hopes high because it is just as mundane as the year before. There is absolutely nothing to surprise us here. A case in point though, titles that release earlier in the year, tend to get a biased judgement when it comes to annual lists simply because their memory tends to fade away with all the titles that come after it. Nevertheless, we have tried to remain as objective as possible with our evaluations and instead of just relying on the sales figures from UK, we have factored in monthly sales figures and taken cues from global sales too.

What has astonished us in all our research though is that this year, there is one new IP in the top ten –  Overwatch from Blizzard. Some might say The Division is a new IP but it bears the Tom Clancy platform’s USP so no, according to us it isn’t a new title. This is worrying as most publishers simply want to rehash working titles into new games without working to build a brand new concept and create a niche. What’s more worrying is that in the last three years, there have only been four new franchises in the top 50, for all consoles included together!

The presence of Overwatch and to a certain extent The Division proves that new titles can do really well. They are in the top ten after all. Forget that and consider Steep. This title was called a dud by most critics and yet it managed to creep into the top 50 retail games list. What this basically says is that the gaming community is eager to lap up any new thing but in the absence of creativity and new titles, they have to stick with existing ideas and concepts. The final new IP to make the top 50 list is “No Man’s Sky” that features at number 29 but it isn’t something that everyone would remember.

Another trend we realized with 2016 top charts is that retail sales have fallen further as opposed to the penultimate year. Now down to just 15.8%, it amounts to £1.78 billion. Thankfully though the figures point to a direct increase in digital sales but finding this information or rather collecting the data is difficult because of the numerous websites that one can procure digital downloads or license keys from. From certain sources though, an estimate of 12.1% is reported as the digital sales growth in 2016.

Hardware sales too remain stagnant with PlayStation 4 leading at 45%, Xbox One at 34.1% followed at a fair distance by 3DS and Wii U at 7% and 2.5% respectively. As for publishers, EA continues to lead at 22.1% followed at far by Activision at 12.1% with Nintendo, Ubisoft and Take-Two completing the fantastic five.

Alright, enough of statistics and metrics here’s a quick recap of the top ten performers from the UK.

FIFA 17 (EA)

The year that FIFA does not make it to the top ten list and come among the top three, is the year gaming industry has revolutionized to a huge extent. We can’t remember the last time Fifa did not feature in the top three spots, at least in the UK.

Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Activision)

Same applies to Call of Duty. If a COD title comes out, it makes it into the top three spots with relative ease. UK loves its COD and FIFA yearly releases without any abatement.

Battlefield 1 (EA)

Not a regular yearly release but every time Battlefield title comes out, it ends up being a part of the top fives.

The Division (Ubisoft)

Ubisoft continues to push forward with innovative ideas and concept games. The Division was one of its hottest awaited releases of the year 2016 and in our opinion, the fact that it came out with such promise is probably why it made it into the top fives.

GTA V (Rockstar)

With multiplayer mode and periodic exclusive content releases and new additions, GTA V continues to stay relevant and grasp a larger audience.

The Last Five

Top among the last five is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Sony) and the only reason it sits at number six is because of its exclusivity to the PlayStation 4 platform. Close on its heels is yet another COD title, Black Ops III followed by Watch Dogs 2, Overwatch and Forza Horizon 3.

Games that are worth mentioning because they just missed out on the top ten spots or because they are older titles that continue to work wonders include The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition and Doom from Bethesda, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens from WB Games, Mafia III from 2K and finally FIFA 16 from EA Sports.

nintendo switch

Nintendo Switch – What To Expect From Nintendo’s New Hybrid Home/Portable Console?

Formerly known as NX, Nintendo Switch is the latest video-game console to come out in March of this year. But, even before it’s proper release, it has garnered quite the following over social media platforms.

So, what is the Switch? Well, it’s a cross between a home and hand-held console. At first glimpse, the Switch looks like a mini-tablet with its 6.2” screen straddled by two detachable controllers, on either side.

The controllers that go by the nickname ‘Joy-Cons’ can be used in a variety of configurations, thus allowing for a smooth transition between solo gameplay and double player mode as and when required.

Contents And Cost:

The contents of Nintendo Switch upon unboxing shall include the console (tablet); a docking station for the console; two Joy-Con controllers (left and right); controller straps; a Joy-Con grip to play while charging; AC adapter and an HDMI cable.

Customers in the United States will get to choose between two different stylized editions for the Switch; a dark-grey pair of Joy-Cons that match the overall system’s color combination, and the other being a contrast edition, featuring blue and red controllers.

Other than the aesthetics, both SKUs are identical in their hardware and specs. The suggested markup price for the Switch is on the higher side at $299, given that Nintendo has historically seen success by undercutting the competition.

Its also interesting to note that back in 2102 Nintendo’s Wii U too had an expensive launch price, which it had to slash by $50 in the following summer to stay relevant in the console market.

Hardware And Specs:

At the heart of Nintendo’s Switch is the 6.2-inch tablet a.k.a. console with a nascent resolution of 720p. When docked, it can be projected to the TV screen using an HDMI cable, with a support for up to 1080p.

Under the hood, the Switch packs a customized NVidia Tegra graphics processor. The storage capacity is rather low – only 32GB of space, but thankfully there is a microSD card slot provided to expand storage as per needs.

The Joy-Cons are the hybrid console’s versatile limbs, employable in a variety of ways to play games. The default setup has the Joy-Con pairs slid on to either side of the console for a portable solo-playing feel. Additionally, the Joy-Cons can be detached and used separately much like Wii controllers to play two-player games.

In terms of on-battery game-time the Switch gives anywhere between 2.5 to 6 hours when fully charged. For example, break-free playing of Zelda, a relatively graphic intensive game will drain the battery completely in roughly three hours.

The controllers however last for much longer – 20 hours, if one were to rely on usage data from Nintendo sources. The console can be charged in one of two ways – either by docking it or via its USB-C port when on the move.

Games Available At Launch:

At the time of launch, only two in-house games, both developed by Nintendo shall be available in the Switch. One of them is the long-awaited title from ‘The Legend of Zelda’ franchise – Battle of the Wild, and the other being, 1-2 Switch.

1-2 Switch is a collection of mini-games designed specifically by Nintendo to showcase the creative control scheme of the Switch. Take for example a game from 1-2 Switch, where two players, each holding one Joy-Con have to face each other to play as opposed to facing the screen. Interestingly, this mini-game pack was originally intended to be released for the Wii U.

Future Switch owners can purchase two third-party games separately. This includes Activision’s Skylanders Imaginators featuring a gameplay revolving around the concept of toys coming to life. The other title, Just Dance 2017 from Ubisoft is all about simulating and replicating dance moves using full-body controls.

Games To Be Expected In Future:

According to Nintendo of America’s President, the company is closely collaborating with 50 different game developers and plans to bring out 80 titles for the Switch console in the time to come.

Expect games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe; Lego City Undercover; Super Bomberman R; Has Been Heroes; Sonic Mania; I Am Setsuna, and Arms to be released for Nintendo Switch in the spring time-frame. There’s also Snipperclips: Cut It Out Together, a title that will be available as downloadable content.

More graphically engaging games like NBA2K18, Splatoons-2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are slated for fall/summer release, whereas the iconic Super Mario Odyssey should hit store shelves around the holidays. Price per game is set at $60.

Online Gameplay:

The Switch also features out-of-the-box multiplayer option allowing up to eight such devices to connect over a Wi-Fi network. Also, much like Xbox1 and PS4, Nintendo too shall launch an online subscription service sometime around the console launch.

Based on reliable sources, the downloads for the first few months shall be free of cost. Thereafter, customers shall have to fork out a monthly subscription fee (undecided) to continue downloading content from Nintendo servers.

Initially, the company plans to offer Super Nintendo games as well as NES titles as downloadable content. With time, more specialized Switch features and in-game additions will be made available for customers.

Final Thoughts:

The Switch looks like a well-made kit, with the hardware that is, quite frankly, the best to have come out of Nintendo’s stables. But then, the video-game console giant has always been great at imagining new ways to play video-games.

Sadly, the problem area has been with convincing developers to make meaningful yet engaging games that can fully exploit it’s creations.

Switch seems no different. Here is an incredible piece of hardware, but with very little games to play on it. Then there is the issue of its introductory price being on the higher side. However, Nintendo says that it has learnt some valuable lessons from its Wii U experiences.

And we sure hope they have, and that by the end of this year, there are enough numbers and variety in game titles that will push the immense creative potential of this latest hybrid console offering of Nintendo.

nvidia graphics card

NVIDIA’s Latest Graphics Cards – What Makes Them So Good?

The Titan X and GeForce GTX 10x series of graphics cards are the latest from NVidia, all of which are based on the new Pascal architecture. GTX 1080 is the standard for the series, with Titan X featuring at the premium range, whereas the likes of 1070 and 1060 offer systematic scaled-down versions without suffering on performance parameters. For this article, we shall focus on the marquee players i.e. 1080 and Titan X, but not before delving into some much-needed Pascal literature.

Pascal Architecture – The DNA Of NVidia GeForce GTX 10x And Titan X Graphics Cards

The GPU architecture for the 10x series graphics card is named Pascal whereas it was called Maxwell for the preceding 9x series. So, what’s in the name you ask? Well not much more than a collection of new feature(s) and/or improvements across baseline attributes that make the Pascal 10 times better if one were to go by NVidia’s claims.

Compared to Maxwell’s 28 nanometres (nm), Pascal GPUs have managed to cram up billions of transistors over a 16 nm FinFET manufacturing process. In layperson’s language, you got way more computational power on a given piece of silicon board than ever before. Plus, smaller architecture means efficient energy consumption, leading to less heating issues.

Pascal architecture variants churn out more than 5-teraFLOPS; up to 12 times more neural network training and seven times higher deep learning throughput. Without delving deeper into each aspect, its suffice to say, that the processing capability of Pascal GPUs is way higher than existing benchmarks.

But modern Graphics cards are a marriage between processing power and memory capabilities. And the simple thing with pairing memory with GPU until Pascal was that you could either increase capacity or you could increase bandwidth of the memory unit.

Increasing both capacity and bandwidth was a challenge, but it was a necessary challenge to overcome. Enter 3D memory on Pascal GPUs which offer 2.7 times the capacity and 3 times the speed, thereby leading to a holistic jump in overall performance attributes of the GPU.

Titan X Pascal – Simply Irresponsible Amounts Of Performance

In terms of performance parameters, Titan X’s Pascal version shreds its Maxwell counterpart to bits. Just to give you a perspective of the gulf in class, made from a 12 nm FinFET lithography on a die size of 471mm2, the GP-102 chip in the Pascal Titan X sports 12-billion transistors compared to 8-billion transistors on GM-200 chip of the Maxwell Titan X card.

The new Titan X with its 3584 CUDA cores and 1,417MHz of base clock speeds compared against its Maxwell counterpart (3,072 CUDA cores and 1,000MHz) is simply a phenomenal jump in graphic processing power. And even though the older version had similar memory capacity and bus i.e. 12GB and 384-bit respectively, the Pascal Titan X with its 48GB/s bandwidth accounts for 40% increase in that department.

As if past Titan X owners weren’t feeling miserable enough about their pricey card being trumped by the new GTX 1080 (on a price to performance scale obviously), the new Pascal Titan X has taken that gulf in class to a whole new level. The parameter numbers and benchmarks are all good, but the real test for the new Titan X was always going to be its performance on 4K resolutions. And here too, its proven more than capable.

For starters, this is the only single-GPU card that has been able to constantly pump out 60fps at 4K resolution for most games, a feat that was previously possible only through SLI. As for the games that it can’t, the bottleneck lies at the CPU level. So, if you really need to see what this card can do, then shift to a X99 platform with an eight-core CPU.

GeForce GTX 1080– The Gold Standard For 4K And VR

The GTX 1080 is the flagship of NVidia’s 10x GFX cards featuring the famed Pascal architecture. It is also the first card from the NVidia stables to take on the dual pronged challenge of 4K resolution display units and Virtual Reality gears.

The GTX 1080 uses the GP-104 GPU with 7.2 billion transistors, but for us gamers what counts is the CUDA cores and there’s 2,560 of them on this card. Compare that to GTX 980’s 2048, that’s a 25% more cores!

The clock speed is also higher – 1,607MHz to GTX 980’s 1,126MHz translating to 40% higher speeds. These two parameters alone offer ample evidence of the superior performance of the GTX 1080 against it’s previous generation counterpart and that too at a marginal increase in peak power draw.

There’s massive improvement on the RAM front too. Compared to GTX 980’s 4GB GDDR5 at memory clock of 7,000MHz, the GTX 1080 sports 6GB of GDDR5X RAM clocking at 10,000MHz. That means all that extended holding capacity for graphical data can be transferred at higher speed.

Ports wise, the Founder’s edition card offers connections for DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort (DP), where using the latter, 4K content can be pushed on to equally able display units at 120Hz and 5K at 60Hz. The 2.0b HDMI interface too can push 4K content but at 60Hz. So, all in all the GTX 1080 can be considered future proof in terms of the GFX hardware on offer.

On the software side, NVidia looks to have finally cracked the code to multi-monitor displays (4K), not to forget support for VR modules likes those on offer by Oculus and HTC. Apart from the basic software packages, one significant software feature is the asynchronous compute, which allows the GPU to work simultaneously with games and other GPU-intensive applications.

Now, you can play a game with a video compression software running in the background, without being bugged by those irksome frame freezes that were a constant pain with the GTX 980.

Verdict

The future of 4K gaming definitely looks a lot brighter with the Pascal based Titan X and GeForce GTX 1080 cards. At this point, there really aren’t that many games that can push the GTX 1080, and we doubt the Titan X will break a sweat with upcoming games.    

  • Jonas
  • January 30, 2017
  • PC
nvidia shield tv

A Comprehensive Look At NVidia Shield TV 2017

“Streamer for Gamers” is how NVidia wants us to look at its Shield TV’s 2017 avatar. Making a splash at CES 2017, Jen-Hsun Huang, NVidia’s CEO introduced the device as a compact TV hub/console, that’s powered by NVidia’s Tegra X1 chip and runs on the latest Android-based UI.

Theoretically speaking, you get the best of both worlds with this $200 streaming device in that you can choose from its vast library of games (requires monthly subscription) and stream HDR and 4K movies and shows on your TV via the multitude of Android apps.

After having played around (read research) with the 2017 Shield TV, here’s our comprehensive take on the nifty ‘stream-box’.

Hardware

NVidia this time around, went for a more compact footprint accentuated by a sleek, sharp and angular design. However, the full plastic build seems like a cost-saving measure especially when compared to hefty, metallic finishes that the previous version of the Shield box featured.

Under the hood exist NVidia’s Tegra X1 graphic chip with 3-GB of RAM and a 12-GB SSD storage; an aspect that’s remained unchanged from its 2015 model. However, there is the choice of larger storage with the Pro version that features a 500GB HDD. There’s a stand on offer that lets you orient the Android box vertically.  

Turn to the back of the box, and you got two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI out and an Ethernet jack. They have dropped the SD card and micro-USB slot. Instead, there is an option to utilize one of the USB ports as an input port to connect your PC if the need arises. Also worth mentioning is the non-inclusion of an HDMI cable in the package.

The included Shield controller has gone through some structural overhauls: its much smaller; sports a geodescent pattern and overall feels like a better version of the Xbox One S controller. The controller still charges via micro-USB and NVidia claims that it can withstand 60-hours of game-time.

One thing we did notice is that the navigation buttons aren’t capacitive but proper physical buttons. This is a welcome change given the finicky aspect of the last NVidia controller which would inadvertently pause in between games only to realise that you had accidently flicked on the pause button.

With the previous model, the remote controller was sold separately for $50. Thankfully, this time around, they have included the nifty controller with the package. Its got a simple design that lets you work with the non-gaming menu, thereby making the Shield TV a true hybrid between a console and set-top box.   

Software

The 2017 Shield runs on the new Android 7.0 “Nougat” thus giving us a look at how well Google has planned the UX for the big screen. One useful tip we learnt straight off the bat was the double-pressing of the home button to drop back into the home screen.

Also, the picture-in-picture support of Nougat means that developers can include this as a feature in their apps thus letting a user browse the Android TV interface while having the media content play on a mini-screen.

NVidia has announced an ambitious strategy for the Shield in terms of making it a true smart-home appliance by integrating it with Google Assistant. However, we couldn’t test that feature since the update for that isn’t going to be out until later in the year.

Theoretically though, it should make for an intriguing and perhaps inspiring partnership with NVidia’s in-house voice-command feature ‘Spot’ which lets you bark commands at Google Assistant from anywhere in the house.

Sadly, all that we could achieve at this point in time was ask simple questions by tapping the microphone button about sports update, which would show up on the TV screen in a very Google Now type card.

Streaming Capability

We noticed a pretty solid collection of media-centric apps on Shield’s Android TV and while some did display performance glitches from time to time, the overall experience wasn’t so bad. There’s also the Cast support from Google using which we could cast apps from our android phones.  

Media streaming performance is perhaps where the Shield makes a giant killing. Be it Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, we were able to stream 4K video content seamlessly. The fact that we could access 4K HDR from Amazon’s video platform was quite amazing since Amazon’s own Fire TV box struggles with it!

Gaming Capability

A big change from the previous model is the revamped game streaming service otherwise known as GeForce Now. With the new servers powered by GeForce 10-series GPUs, that opens up a whole new dimension for enjoying high-end, graphic intensive games, especially when they are being rendered remotely and then streamed to the Shield device over the internet.

For instance, our gaming rig featuring a twin GeForce GPU takes around 5-7 seconds to load The Witcher 3 and that’s about the same time it took for the streamed version to load on our TV screen. We could play the game at the highest available resolution (1080p @ 60 FPS) and ‘ultra’ graphic setting and were hard-pressed to find any noticeable lag or compression artefacts.

We feel its important to mention about the quality of GeForce Now experience which will vary depending on the speed and bandwidth of your internet setup. So, a flaky internet connection would naturally encourage more issues with the overall rendering, lag and compression artefacts in streamed games.      

Potential Competition

In terms of game streaming, the NVidia faces stiff competition from the likes of Steam who have released their own version of a remote game streamer. And when it comes to media streaming, there’s just too many players to name.

Where NVidia’s Shield TV takes the gallop is that it is a single-point device for both game and media streaming, and this it does quite admirably.

Our Verdict

If you already own a Shield TV box then the NVidia’s 2017 Shield TV will feel like the same offering with a few new tricks. However, for the many who don’t, it is the perfect media streamer/micro-console hybrid out there in the market right now.

 

Windows 10 Game Mode – Gaming Revolution Or Storm In A Teacup?

Sometime towards the final week of December 2016, a few users who were testing out the latest Windows 10 developer build noticed a ‘gamemode.dll’ in the operating system’s DLL list. Once the word came out, the PC gaming community was abuzz about Windows finally doing more than paying lip service to hardcore gamers.

Microsoft too officially announced that it would reveal more details of Windows 10 Game Mode’s prowess over the coming weeks in the form of previews. The first bit of information that did come straight from Microsoft was that the new Game Mode was designed to finetune your PC and therefore push the performance parameters of the games being run on your system.

Furthermore, the feature would help both legacy Windows (Win32) games as well as the modern titles so that you can play them all without having to choose one over the other. And…end of transmission. Oh and this improvement won’t be immediately visible but instead will be pushed through when future releases of the OS come out.  

Sounds great, right? But then, we PC-gamers have already found turnarounds to these problems. So, is there any genuine reason to be celebrating this not-yet-released update? To answer that question, we need to take a more incisive look at Windows 10’s game-related attributes thus far.       

Windows 10 Game Mode vs GeForce Experience And Radeon Software

Any gaming rig features one or more graphics card(s) from either GeForce (NVidia) or Radeon (ATI). That means you automatically get the option to download GeForce Experience or Radeon Software depending on the GPU to maximize your gaming experience.

The question then arises that if GPUs already came with their own game performance optimizers then what is it that Windows 10’s Game Mode wants to add to the existing setup?

The answer lies in the long-drawn tales of Windows 10’s incompatibility issues with the aforementioned game-tuners. In fact, one common gripe with gamers who owned NVidia cards and had upgraded to Windows 10 was that the GPU drivers kept crashing frequently, to which NVidia responded by releasing a slew of driver updates (for older cards) and how-to hacks.

To be fair, Windows too did its part with the reconciliation bit but not before throwing another curveball. The OS would clash with either GPU’s customization software. So, while you could tweak the settings in-game, you weren’t able to optimize your games from the desktop screen.

Perhaps the ‘Game Mode’ could be the solution from Windows to customize game settings beforehand, just the way most of us gamers like it. Fingers crossed.

Windows 10 and Gaming

In terms of running games, Windows 10 isn’t that much different from its predecessor, Windows 8.1 apart from the introduction of DirectX 12. As for performance, Windows 10 provides as good if not better a performance as Windows 7 did.

But the great thing about Windows 7 was that you could run really old PC games over administrator mode. Similarly, in Windows 8.1, you had the compatibility mode that you could enable by right-clicking on the game icon and choosing the said option. The same is on offer in Windows 10 too.

So what’s the difference? Nothing and that’s exactly our point. While Windows 10 promised to be this lightweight, resource-intelligent OS, and it did too but mainly for main-stream applications. That bonhomie was absent when it came to games. To make matters worse, there was a dip in frame-rates when dual-GPU (Crossfire and SLI) setups came into the picture. Talk about spending a fortune to build a beast only to be hamstrung by the OS!

Thankfully, third-party candidates like GOG, who have in the past battled hard for DRM-free game environment. They have taken the pain to ensure that all those classic titles in their library run on Windows 10 without a glitch.

From its side, Windows 10 too has went ahead and asked testers to seek out incompatibility issues with games, both new and old. A list was compiled for each game and their respective compatibility verdict. It can be found here. But that has really been the extent of Microsft’s support for games.

Quite frankly, we don’t expect much from Windows 10 or its ‘Game Mode’ in this department, because lets face it, Microsoft was never historically interested in taking that responsibility. But then it never limited game and graphics hardware developers from running their own micro-environment within the OS ecosystem, the way Windows 10 has done and that too so vigorously.

Beam Live-Streaming: Is It Worth It

Beam was this start-up streaming service that allowed viewers to engage actively instead of just viewing a broadcasted game passively. That meant viewers could choose a feature like the next weapon that the player would use.

Microsoft having purchased Beam earlier this year, is showing it off as its central streaming platform for Windows. Looks like Window Game Mode is following on the footprints of its more successful Xbox One UX. And that’s excellent news for someone who’s new to the whole PC gaming scene.

However, these features were already available from both NVidia (ShadowPlay) and ATI (Radeon ReLive). What’s even better is that they directly interface with the hardware to optimize and prioritize resources. So, from an experienced gamer’s perspective, its really nothing new that Windows 10 is trying to offer in this department.

Final Verdict

So, there already existed this live capture feature called Game DVR on Windows 10 which by default remained on. Now if you wanted better frame rates, then you simply had to disable this feature. With the upcoming Game Mode, what we feel is that Microsoft aims to cut down on that resource loss when Game DVR is turned on.

In simple terms, this ‘feature’ isn’t exactly improving gaming performance but rather looks to stop another Windows feature from fiddling with your game-intensive resources. And it begs the question as to why Microsoft is so hell-bent on doing everything from the scratch. It could as easily team up with NVidia and AMD to make their existing ‘in-game optimizers’ compatible with its OS. We guess that’s something only Microsoft can answer!                     

  • Jonas
  • January 26, 2017
  • PC

Rovio, Makers Of Angry Birds Game Look Towards London For New Beginnings

Rovio Entertainment Limited, the makers of the Angry Bird franchise, is all set to open up its studio in London. Despite experts discouraging companies in Europe from shifting to the UK due to Brexit, Rovio however, seems pretty determined on going ahead, because they see this move as the next logical step in their road map to progress.

The Nordic studio already employs more than 10% of the elite gaming workforce in Finland and setting up the London studio is a great way of exploring and hiring new local talent who come with a fresh perspective into the company.

This was a much-needed revival given how the ‘Angry Birds’ firm almost hit rock-bottom in the past few years. But ask Rovio, and they seem to be singing from a different hymn-sheet. Their take – this is the right time to migrate.

The Rovio Report Card At A Glance

Angry Birds, the game, the company and the controversies – These have been the talk of the town for a while now. The Finnish studio, which shot to fame in 2009 with the unmatchable success of the Angry Birds game, had a dream run for a certain time period.

However, with the failure of games like Amazing Alex in 2012, Angry Birds Epic and Go! in 2013, combined with the dip in the growth of the Angry Bird licensed merchandise, Rovio had to lay off more than 300 employees between 2014 and 2015. It also saw the stepping down of two CEOs Mikael Hed and Pekka Rantala during this phase.

It suffered financially with net profits falling by 50% in 2013; a further decrease in profits by 73% and total revenue drop by 43% ensued in 2014. By 2015, estimated losses stood at more than 13 million Euros.

Yet, the Nordic studio did everything they could to dig their roots deeper and trudged on unfrazzled. Their recent success with games like Blast and Angry Birds 2, along with the massive success of the 3D animated comic adventure Angry Birds Movie by Sony Pictures, shows that they are here to stay.

According to Mark Sorrell, the head of Rovio studio, the company has to go beyond Angry Birds and create more new games that can become successful, if they wish to stay in the running for more than 100 years, which they intend to.

The Successes

Angry Birds, the 52nd game of Rovio was designed for the iPhone platform in which the gamer had to solve a puzzle, save eggs by throwing birds and defeat pigs using slingshots. The game took the mobile gaming industry by storm and reached the top-most spot of paid applications within six months of being on Apple’s App Store.

Rovio raised 42 million dollars in March of 2011 through Felicis Ventures, Atomico and Accel Partners, and Angry Birds reached its one-billionth download in 2012; its two-billionth download in January 2014. Its YouTube channel had amassed two billion views by June 2015.

The Financial Struggle

The strategy then was about churning out as many games as possible all the while juicing the popularity of the Angry Bird franchise. However, this was neither sustainable and nor could it fuel the growth of Rovio Entertainment. The result – the company had to endure a dark phase where revenue and profits took a nose-dive.

In response, Rovio went into major course-correction mode. It put an end to games that were not doing well, taking a step back to analyze what went wrong and how. The 400-member strong Finnish studio understands the value of keeping the gamers interested and accepts that they do not make products, rather provide services. Hence, a strategy to reflect those thought-processes had to be put in place.

The Revival

With the new thinking and giving importance to quality over quantity, Rovio has seen an encouraging operating profit in 2016, which means good things are in store for the studio. The box-office success of the Hollywood movie Angry Birds 3D has got them new licensing deals and added to the revenue bringing Rovio to a stable stage, where they can look at growing their numbers.

Thus, already having a premise for setting up an office at London because of their existent consumer products department, Rovio studio head Mark Sorrell, told that this was a natural step of succession during his announcement about the London office in the Pocket Gamer Connects London earlier in this week.

The London studio is open now and aims at recruiting high quality talent to stand up to the high level expectations that the industry has with their brand. Mark made a point by telling that they are not a startup and they are not pressurizing themselves to produce quick games at the moment.

Rovio is willing to take it slow and steady and hire not more than eight people in 2017. They are not looking for mavericks, rockstars or ninjas, rather mature minds and a diverse team that can settle and flourish in a Finnish work environment.

The Future Planning

The year 2019 is when Rovio London plans to launch its first title as they want to take these two years in developing, testing and ensuring that the new game is just the touch of perfect. Although, most new studios are under tremendous pressure to prove a point by rolling out their first game within six months of setting up shop, Rovio is not in that rat race.

This London studio is going to concentrate on developing multiplayer mobile games and they understand that this genre takes time to develop, irrespective of how amazing and experienced the team handling the project might be. Rovio also believes that the entire team has to put in their heart and soul into coming up with the new game, and they are willing to invest that much time into the mobile MMO.

The strategy Rovio London studio will follow is to ensure not to repeat old mistakes. They want to focus on making fantastic games, might be less in number, but great enough to match, if not surpass, the success of their all-time popular franchise of the Angry Birds.

GTA V Releases Its First Major Update For 2017

Grand Theft Auto is the real reason why people even know of Rockstar Games. These bad asses have given us titles that are gory, catchy and packed to the brim with hours of endless fun and mayhem. With GTA V, Rockstar managed to build on its reputation for endless gaming and RPG action when it announced that this would have an online multiplayer universe above and beyond its story mode. Nice move Rockstar, no wonder you guys currently top the charts worldwide for the most played RPG game at present.

In fact, if current reports are true then Rockstar Games has managed to sell over 70 million copies of GTA V. Instead of sitting on their laurels and working on future game title releases, the production house continues to toil away the hours building upgrades, new vehicles, expansion packs and what not. Latest in its series of rollouts is the new vehicles that just hit the GTA universe. This has already created a buzz around the GTA community with many even saving up virtual mullah just so they can get their shiny new dream machine.

The newest content available for download in the GTA 5 universe is the final piece of the 2016 packs and it is available on all platforms. The Dewbauchee Spectre sports car is now open for sale at Benny’s Original Motor Works shop with a price tag of $599,000. This is a two-door coupe that boasts of exclusivity and Benny will strip it down to the core and reassemble it into a super beast as per the player’s liking – as Rockstar describes the Dewbauchee Spectre on its official website.

Along with the release of this sports car, Rockstar has also added another game mode in the Adversary Mode, which they are calling Collection Time. The objective of this brand new mode is to pick through opponents in a defined sequence within a given time frame. This particular mode was long awaited but it was called “Pointless” at the time, or so the gossip columns suggest. Benny’s shop will now offer till 30th January a discount of 25 percent on any upgrade done to a new or old car. Finally, the Executive Upgrade will dole out more discounts on upgrades that players make in their personal garage.

Seems that the holiday spirit is lingering at the Rockstar studios. The developers aren’t happy with all the shiny new things they just gave us so they have decided to double the GTA$ and RP for Special Vehicle Works and Online Biker Clubhouse Contracts. This too will last till January 30th. A few other items too received a markdown such as Biker Business Properties, any import/export tattoo, Executive Garage renovations and also the Custom Auto Shop renovations.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Rockstar ended its tirade of upgrades and discounts by announcing yet another premium race that it dubbed, “Chiliad”. This being a stunt race, allows players to generate a whole lot of GTA$ by simply finishing in the top three. Outside the top spots though players don’t get any GTA$ but have to make do with RP.

Why Is Rockstar Actively Supporting GTA V

It truly is astonishing how hard the developers are working at keeping GTA V relevant. No wonder then that the fan base just keeps on growing. As per current estimates, the growth does not seem likely to stop for at least a couple more years even with the new titles, “Red Dead Redemption 2” and “GTA 6” scheduled for launch in the near future. If the folks at Rockstar had their way, they would continue keeping GTA 5 alive for another decade. All this is possible thanks to the online multiplayer mode. In fact, 95% of the updates rolled out periodically are aimed towards the multiplayer arena, some debugs while most giving level updates, add-ons, new vehicle packs and much more.

It makes a lot of sense too as to why Rockstar Games continues to invest in the upkeep of a released title. First, GTA V is still its major money spinner. Second, if it can keep the profits up from this title, the risks of its future title’s uncertain income are mitigated in the long run. In fact, current fan following for “Red Dead Redemption 2” isn’t all that great if you compare it to GTA V though there is a lot of hype surrounding this particular title. According to GTA 5 Cheats, the gaming community doesn’t seem that excited with the upcoming title and the chances of it ever overtaking GTA V in terms of popularity is slim.

Just recently GTA V Online was scheduled for a crucial update across all platforms. While this wasn’t particularly advertised, some players who witnessed a few glitches reported the servers showing them an “update is coming” screen. If it refers only to the vehicle pack that just came out, or if it is for a major overhaul/addition – only time will tell.

One thing is for certain though. Cross-platform popularity is priority for the developers as they have promised a final DLC content release this year. Take for instance the background scripts which are being tweaked by Rockstar Games. This has caused many players a lot of pain as they get booted out from the system and notified of a critical update which would be taking care of the issue.

samsung notebook odyssey

Samsung Makes Foray Into Gaming Laptop Segment, Announces The Notebook Odyssey

A week back, Samsung Electronics announced its Notebook Odyssey, a brand new entrant in the world of portable gaming PCs. Available in two models, Samsung provides the option to buyers of either a smaller screen of 15.6 inch or a larger screen of 17.3 inch. As of now though, the 15.6-inch model has its specifications clearly laid out by Samsung and it seems this unit will ship with a GTX1050 GDDR5 4GB graphics card.

As hardware differences between laptops and desktops begin to disappear, demand for portable gaming machines grows. Customers today are just as much interested in laptops with gaming capabilities as they are in building their own PC from scratch. The latest generation of graphics cards from NVidia has made it easier for laptop makers to market their gaming products as cutting edge. This was earlier a problem since laptop versions of graphics cards always underperformed as opposed to their desktop variants.

Samsung has taken this opportunity and the power of the 10 series GTX NVidia cards to enter the gaming market with its Odyssey segment. The Samsung Odyssey Laptop just won the innovation award at CES 2017 Las Vegas and is reported to sell for 1.8 million won, which is around $1528. Considering, the rave reception it received at the Las Vegas show, maybe it truly is worth the steep price on its head.

In the words of YoungGyoo Choi, the Senior Vice President for the PC Business Team at Samsung Electronics, “The Notebook Odyssey is exclusively designed keeping gamers in mind. It is equipped with features that will give users the best ever gaming experience from a notebook”. In the current age, gamers prefer a stylish, powerful and portable solution rather than a premium bulky and fixed unit. Samsung is confident that its newest entrant will be able to steal some of the market from existing big punters such as Alienware, MSI and the lot.

High Performance and Power

Keeping the desires of casual and intense gamers in mind, the engineers at Samsung have produced the unique body and cooling system for the Notebook Odyssey. The outer casing of this laptop features a HexaFlow Vent that basically provides better ventilation and cooling by guzzling in a lot more air and improving the airflow through the inside of the laptop. Additionally, if the customer wants to upgrade his machine, he can open the HexaFlow vents on the bottom panel to switch out the memory and storage device.

To ensure performance without a compromise in power, the Samsung Notebook Odyssey will come equipped with 7th Generation Core i7 Intel processors 45W. These processors will operate on both the smaller 15.6 inch and larger 17.3 inch models and shall use actual four cores rather than hyper threading.

Superior Display With Vivid High Quality Images

On the display front, these performance machines boast of a beautiful display that offers backlight as high as 300 nits on the 17.3-inch model and 280 nits on the 15.6-inch model. The high brightness should help gamers get superior clarity and crystal clear images. The screen is also treated to remove glare and reduce reflections as much as possible. As for viewing angles, the Samsung Notebook Odyssey brings life-like color contrast regardless of the angle you view from thanks to the wide-view angle display. Overall, the screen performance of the Odyssey series will outmatch any ever made by Samsung and knowing this company’s history with television panels and screens, it should be a real treat for the eyes.

Design Meets Function Through Usability

How can you provide superior functionality without compromising on the design aspects? The designers at Samsung must have spent several sleepless nights trying to pack the innovations, power and performance into a casing that won’t just look attractive but also justify its gaming ambitions.

The end result is an innovative design refined for optimal usability, stylish and yet highly functional. One key aspect where Samsung seems to have made improvements is in the portability. Up until now, most gaming laptop makers gave a lot of features and performance but failed in portability by making the machines big and bulky. Samsung has gone the opposite way by ensuring ergonomics is maintained as well as the weight of the complete package.

Samsung promises ergonomic curved keycaps that will provide better tactile performance and response in gaming scenarios. The keys are 0.5mm volcano keys on the 17.3-inch unit while the 15.6-inch unit will feature 0.3mm crater keys. Keys on the Samsung Notebook Odyssey 17.3-inch model will come with individual backlit color for keycaps thus providing customers the chance to customize their keyboard experience.

Moving away from the hardware and gaming features, the software package seems rather sleek too with the ability to share files with compatible smartphones, PC Gallery, PC Message and more.

The Inspiration

As seen in the teaser trailer for the Samsung Notebook Odyssey, the notebooks draw their styling and inspiration from the legendary dragon. This is in fact noticeable in the device features such as the front logo that bears close resemblance to the eye of a dragon while the vents instantly appear as scales of the magnificent beast.

While the teaser doesn’t reveal much else, what is evident is that the gaming laptop will be cutting edge in design and features. As seen in the recently held CES 2017, both models come feature packed and cleverly designed. As standard both will ship with 8GB DDR4 memory, 256GB SSD and Windows 10 as OS. The exact dates haven’t yet been revealed by Samsung but when they do finally begin commercial production, the Notebook Odyssey is sure to give stiff competition to existing market leaders.

  • Jonas
  • January 18, 2017
  • PC
overwatch nuking

Overwatch ‘Nuking’ Cheats Are Now Actively Hunted And Banned

Back in July 2016, Blizzard proudly reported over 15 million players worldwide with 500 million hours already been registered on its global servers. A runaway success, Overwatch continues to go strong across the globe and while the masters of online multiplayer gaming, Blizzard made a game that was enjoyable and easily acceptable beyond global borders and boundaries, it has recently landed itself in a bit of soup thanks to a new breed of players, more appropriately cheats who engage in the black arts of ‘nuking’.

As with any massive community based online game, the potential to exploit new updates, patches and releases is ever present. Blizzard only recently realized the phenomenon of nuking thanks to several official and unofficial message boards for Overwatch where players described a game behavior that eventually came to be called – ‘nuking’.

What Is Nuking

Imagine playing a match and suddenly you realize all your controls are lagging, you simply cannot do anything and it feels like your connection has either slowed to a halt or the server is facing an overload of requests. First few times, it is understandable as this happens periodically in almost all online gaming titles with servers suddenly getting overloaded with requests or your own internet connection bottoming out. However, when it happens too often and then you notice the frequency is directly proportional to the presence of specific player profiles – you know it isn’t natural. That is how nuking was discovered in overwatch.

In the practice of nuking, you bombard the opposing team’s IP with large number of packets. This basically brings the victim’s game down to a crawl allowing you to exploit the game and notch up kills and points while the victim team desperately tries to get back control over their match. With regards to the mechanism of Nuking, it is pretty close to DDoS attacks conducted on websites. In fact, if you look at the anatomy of nuking, it is practically the same thing except you are targeting specific user IPs rather than server IPs.

Why Does Nuking Suck

The problem with nuking is that it is difficult to report since your entire game has now crippled to a slow crawl. Those who notice the hack and are certain of it cannot report in-game because their system is now unplayable for the match. While almost all previous hacks were easy to report, nuking is difficult to report.

Other Dangerous Hacks

Aimbots is yet another dangerous hack but it is not limited to only Overwatch. Any multiplayer shoot’em up title suffers from this hack. Aimbots are automated scripts designed for Overwatch that help a player get kills quicker because they are automated and not user controlled. The fact is that while Aimbots exist, majority of complaints against users using aimbots boils down to sore losers who just cannot handle getting outplayed. Nevertheless, this hack is continuously being dealt with and it is much easier to tackle than Nuking because, it is easier to investigate such instances and more importantly, victims can instantly report the abuse to the game mod.

The Nuking Ban

After repeated complaints on various forums and discussion boards, Blizzard took the drastic step to ban over 10,000 players from South Korean servers who engaged in the black arts of nuking. Henceforth, Blizzard has also promised to keep a watch on the practice of nuking and ban any player or account that participates in this act.

According to Blizzard, the need for a pleasant gaming experience is key to ensuring longevity of Overwatch and thus increasing its player base. However, practices such as nuking and aimbot are detriments to their objectives as they turn away new and intermediate players as it is always impossible to compete against gaming cheats.

The Impact of the Ban

Some proponents of the ban suggest that it is impractical to impose such bans especially in a South Korea because it does not address the root of the problem. In South Korea majority of gamers do not invest into games. Instead they hop over to PC bangs, which are basically internet cafes where a customer can pay $1 per hour and enjoy any online game. PC bangs use special versions of Battle.net such that all Blizzard games are almost free to play.

Unfortunately, this method of gaming in Korea is the reason why a ban on profiles involved in nuking will not work. A banned player can simply create a new account and start playing from the beginning. He or she can then continue to practice the nuking hack until his account is once more banned. In fact, it is widely believed that several PC bangs in South Korea actually encourage their customers to engage more in the dark arts of nuking by pre-installing cheating clients on their systems!

Reddit user, TISRobins311 suggests that nearly 10% of all Overwatch Grandmasters use nuking and other hacks to maintain their position. While this is more of an educated guess, it isn’t hard to imagine this being true. With the numerous loopholes the ban presents, why would someone not indulge in this activity along with aimbots, especially if they happen to have access to PC bangs?

The good news for now though is that nuking as a practice hasn’t yet spread beyond South Korea but the popularity of this hack makes it only a matter of time before it does cross borders.

If You Are Nuked

If you are ever nuked in a match, stop trying to press the report button. Instead, immediately take down the name of all opposing players and then try to press the report button. Once you get back control of your game, immediately open a ticket to Blizzard and mention the match, opponent names and exact time that you experienced nuking.

Fact is, the ban is only a temporary solution from Blizzard to help control the outrage on forums and discussion boards worldwide. It is really only a matter of time before they come up with a permanent solution that prevents nuking. But, until then it is best to stay aware of what Nuking and Aimbot is, how you can help Blizzard and what to do if it happens to you.

  • Jonas
  • January 17, 2017
  • PC
PC gaming improvements 2017

6 Simple Improvements For PC Gaming in 2017

While 2016 saw many huge titles release, there was still a lot of room for improvement. Here’s 6 areas where we believe PC Gaming should improve in 2017.

Properly Testing Out Titles

Several major releases in 2016 left PC gamers wanting thanks to bugs, glitches and downright lack of PC testing. Major offenders for the past year include Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Forza Horizon 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Dishonored 2 and Mafia 3. The biggest though according to us was XCOM 2. The final mission for some reason kept on degrading graphics performance the further you went towards the end of the game. At the end, it was barely running at 15 fps. A patch came much later that eventually allowed gamers to finish the stage but this could have been avoided with appropriate testing before release.

Yes, developers today have to account for several hardware configurations, consoles and what not but with the resources at their disposal plus the experience of making massive game titles in the past, this should no longer happen in 2017.

Why Go Exclusive?

Over the years, the allure for PC gamers has been the lack of exclusivity. Any game that launches for a PC is playable as long as your hardware meets minimum requirements. Unlike games that are made solely for Xbox or Playstation, majority of games are actually made with PC as an eventual platform if not the first. Even your choice of OS on a PC does not matter since now most games are released eventually to operate on the Mac or Linux.

Unfortunately, the exclusivity war has reached PC Games too with a huge divide going up between users of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. While the latter relies on timed exclusives to allure users its way, the fact remains exclusivity is becoming commonplace. Take for instance the VR game, Arizona Sunshine with two game modes locked unless you had an Intel Core i7 CPU. The outrage on such exclusivity eventually forced the game developers to unlock the modes for all players but if this is a glimpse of what to expect in 2017, then we are all against exclusivity.

Allowing Modding in UWAs

As it currently stands, Microsoft’s Universal Windows Applications are safe from modding in any way. Basically, the API calls are completely secured and they cannot be modified in any manner. Unfortunately, because of this games cannot be modded after their release by developers. Players cannot create mods like before and this is a huge concern because it limits the life of a game. The moment a game stops making money, it has lost its place in the marketplace because of the lack of modding ability.

Previously on Win32 platform, players could tweak their games and make maps that kept the game alive much longer than its lifetime. We hope this comes back in 2017.

Thankless Roles in Team Cooperation

Ever since multiplayer gaming made its appearance, the onus has been on playing offensive. Hardly any player wants to be the defensive person. Why? Because game developers reward offense more than they does defense. Good to see though that Overwatch has made changes and Blizzard, its developer has downplayed the importance of kills/death ratio thus bringing in more value to support roles. This is evident from the number of players willing to take up support roles of Lucio and Mercy. If games are developed intelligently and reward more than just kills, they will become more community based and stay for longer. We just hope games of 2017 take cues from Blizzard’s Overwatch.

Preserve Dying Games

Games are dying a slow death and there is no way to preserve their legacy thanks to almost all titles going zero media route. Just recently Daybreak Games shutdown PlanetSide and soon Lineage’s western servers too will receive the same treatment. How then will these games be remembered? Only passionate hackers who build private server emulators will keep the names alive.

Best example of this problem is Diablo 2. If you ever feel the need to take a trip down memory lane, just throw in the disc and start playing but this won’t be the case with Diablo 3 when the day comes for it to get scraped. Because Blizzard does not allow offline play on it, it will simply be lost in videogame history.

In 2017, we hope to see more developers and publishers doing more to safeguard videogame history. Just because a game stopped churning in money does not mean it needs to be scraped forever. Take for instance the Everquest private server Project 1999 by Daybreak Games, why can’t more publishers go this route to preserve some gaming history?

Online only games should not be lost in oblivion once their craze dies down. They should allow players to build their own private servers, so that their history lives on.

Treat Workers Better

Contractors are always preferred by game developers and publishing houses because they need not be paid more. Besides, you don’t give benefits to contractors and they can all be fired easily the moment a contract is up. Unfortunately, this practice is so rampant in the gaming industry that employees are far and few in between. Those that exist have to suffer through unpaid overtime, which is just as rampant in the game development industry.

The film and television union has managed to overcome such situations but the game development world has yet to build its own union. It is appalling to see that publishers such as Electronic Arts, which rakes in millions per title will not agree for secondary payments or even options to SAG-AFTRA performers. The truth is that big name companies do not want employees to know just how much of the billions they make are actually owed to them.

Games in 2017 should begin sharing prosperity among employees and reduce the number of contractual employees rather than hoarding all the profits they make over the life of game titles.

  • Jonas
  • January 17, 2017
  • PC
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