Archive for the ‘PC gaming’ Category

In praise of ultra-short games

May 29th, 2019
Is falling in this hole going to take long? I have a meeting at 2...

Enlarge / Is falling in this hole going to take long? I have a meeting at 2...

These days, the game industry at large seems to be focused on games that can keep players playing, and paying, indefinitely. This overarching genre of "forever" games encompasses esports like Hearthstone and Overwatch, social hangouts like World of Warcraft and Fortnite, and endlessly repetitive grinds like Destiny 2 and even Candy Crush Saga. The idea in each case is to create an experience that can engage a critical mass of players for hundreds or even thousands of hours over a span of years.

There's something to be said for these kinds of endless experiences. These days, though, I'm frequently more fascinated by games at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. This class of "lunch break" games—single-serving, single-player narrative experiences designed to be played once, in about an hour or less—will never be as big or as popular as games that can demand thousands of hours of player attention. But there's also something to be said for a game that makes its impact quickly and lingers with the player for much, much longer.

The latest fine example of the form is Kids, a "game of crowds" that "allows you to move with and against crowds until everyone is gone," as its Steam page puts it. I don't really want to spoil the entirely unique experience by saying any more than that, but this 30-second trailer gives a good feeling for how the game's smooth animation and striking, minimalist, black-and-white characters create a creepy, claustrophobic aesthetic that's hard to shake.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, kids, lunch break, PC gaming, short | Comments (0)

Xbox, PC get a little bit closer with the latest Xbox updates

May 17th, 2019
Xbox, PC get a little bit closer with the latest Xbox updates

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

The May 2019 update for the Xbox One's system software is now rolling out, bringing some small refinements to the friends list, messaging, and game/app list.

Starting with the last one first, the app list will now ignore "a," "an," and "the" when sorting or grouping alphabetically. This is the kind of change that makes me amazed that they weren't already doing this, as it almost always makes for easier-to-use listings. Video games don't even have The The to contend with.

The Messaging change is rather inexplicable. There's a sensible change: incoming messaging requests from your friends are now prioritized, with requests from non-friends put in a separate category. But for some reason, Microsoft is going to wipe all group messages as a result. You can save backups of the messages for a limited time at, and messages with individual users are safe, but the group messages are all going. There's no obvious justification for this change, as even if there were some significant change being made to group messaging, one would expect Microsoft to handle migrating the messages from old to new.

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Posted in console gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, PC gaming, Windows, XBox | Comments (0)

Windows Solitaire inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame

May 3rd, 2019
Windows Solitaire inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

The classic Windows game Solitaire has joined such landmarks as Doom, Tetris, and World of Warcraft in being inducted into the Strong Museum of Play's World Video Game Hall of Fame. The award recognizes Solitaire's role as a significant part of gaming's history.

Solitaire was first bundled with Windows 3.0. Much like the other notable bundled game, Minesweeper, Solitaire was there to serve as a secret tutorial: in a time when the mouse was still regarded as a new and exotic piece of computer hardware, Solitaire honed clicking, double clicking, and drag-and-drop skills. As a computerized version of a familiar card game, it was instantly recognizable. It was bundled with every subsequent Windows version, up to Windows 7. Windows 8 replaced it with a much more varied set of card games.

The combination of approachability and bundling means that the game has been installed on more than a billion PCs, and it has likely been played by many billions of people.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, hall of fame, microsoft, PC gaming, Solitaire, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Game Pass “Ultimate” and Game Pass for PC rumored to be coming soon

April 5th, 2019
The arrow is pointing to a PC that's just off-frame to the right.

Enlarge / The arrow is pointing to a PC that's just off-frame to the right.

Microsoft is reportedly planning a couple of new subscription services for gamers, per Brad Sams and WalkingCat.

First up is a "Game Pass Ultimate" that combines an Xbox Live Gold subscription with a GamePass subscription. Xbox Live Gold is routinely on sale, but it typically costs around $60 when bought annually, $10/month when bought month-by-month. Game Pass is a flat $10 per month (though there's a special offer at the moment giving one month for one dollar). The Ultimate subscription is going to be $15/month, making it a break-even proposition for annual subscribers (or even a slight price increase, if you can get Gold for less than $60) but a nice discount for monthly subs.

Second, it's claimed that Microsoft will soon have a Game Pass subscription for Windows, too. Details are thin to non-existent at the moment, but with Microsoft's increasing efforts to unify Xbox and Windows gaming and plans to bring the previously Xbox-exclusive Halo: Master Chief Collection to Windows, a Game Pass for Windows would make a lot of sense.

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Posted in console gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, PC gaming, subscriptions, Tech, Windows, XBox, XBox Live | Comments (0)

Any Steam game can now use Valve’s low-latency, DoS-proofed networking

March 15th, 2019
Any Steam game can now use Valve’s low-latency, DoS-proofed networking

Enlarge (credit: massmatt)

Valve is opening up its latency-reducing, DoS-protecting network relay infrastructure to every developer using its Steamworks platform.

A few years ago, large-scale denial-of-service attacks against game servers were making the news and becoming a frustratingly frequent occurrence in online gaming and e-sports. To protect its own games, Valve has for a number of years been working on developing a networking infrastructure that makes the system more resilient against denial-of-service attacks and lower latency to boot, and the company is using this system for both Dota 2 and CS:GO.

At 30 different locations around the world, Valve has established relaying servers that route networking traffic between clients and servers. These relay points provide DoS-resilience in several ways. They're equipped with an aggregate of several terabits of bandwidth, so they can handle a certain amount of flooding in any case. Games can also switch from one relay to another without necessarily interrupting their connection. This switching can be to another relay in the same location or even to another point-of-presence entirely.

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Posted in APIs, development, Gaming & Culture, networking, Open Source, PC gaming, Tech, Valve | Comments (0)

Love, death, and spaceships: Lee Hutchinson’s Fangs concludes

March 9th, 2019

I've never made any secret about my love for (and occasional frustration with) Frontier Development's space combat/trading/exploration sandbox game Elite: Dangerous. In my 2015 review I called it "the best damn spaceship game I've ever played," and four years later, it's an opinion I still hold. Although it's taken literally years for the developers to flesh out some of the game's mechanics, there's always been something special about Elite, even going all the way back to the beta when it was barely a game at all.

I love it so much, in fact, that a few years ago I started up an Elite: Dangerous Web comic called Fangs (many of the ships in Elite are named after snakes, so the title seemed appropriate). I can't actually, you know, draw anything, but a couple of posts on the official subreddit gave me a neat idea: instead of illustrating panels, I could simply take screenshots directly from within the game and run them through a threshold filter to achieve a very distinctive film noir-esque feeling. Couple that with some clever framing and some snappy dialog, and I was in business.

Fangs originally started out as a series of short self-contained vignettes about various aspects of the Elite universe—I did a comic on exploration, on ship names, on smuggling, and a bunch of others.

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Posted in comic, console gaming, elite dangerous, Gaming & Culture, noir, PC gaming, web comic | Comments (0)

Video: Inside the artistic mind of Dead Space designer Glen Schofield

January 16th, 2019

Video directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript.

Our recent visit to Dead Space designer Glen Schofield's home to discuss the challenges of developing the horror classic left us with an enormous amount of footage to sort through. Glen was very generous with his time and allowed us more than simply a peek behind the curtain—we got a full tour through the man's artistic mind and processes.

This video is perhaps not as directly game-focused as our previous one, but Glen was brimming with words of wisdom for aspiring game artists—and aspiring artists in general. He tells of his professional beginnings, dutifully toiling away in the Barbie mines at Absolute Entertainment and getting the last laugh when he was promoted over other Barbie-eschewing coworkers. He discusses the artist's eye and how immersing oneself in art alters the way one perceives the world—an engineer might look at a machine and see in their mind the way the parts mesh and the gears turn, while an artist sees the machine and thinks of how to represent it on a canvas in terms of light and shadow. Both disciplines see things that are hidden or non-obvious to everyone else, and both require a blend of talent and training.

My mother is a painter and illustrator, and I hear many of the things she told me growing up echoed in Glen's advice. Artists see the world in a way that other disciplines do not, and the best artists—artists like Schofield—are able to create compelling images that draw the viewer in and allow them to experience some of the artist's own emotions.

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Posted in Ars Technica Videos, console gaming, Dead Space, Gaming & Culture, Glen Schofield, PC gaming, war stories | Comments (0)

Video: Dead Space’s scariest moment almost dragged down the entire project

January 8th, 2019

Video directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript. Special thanks to Glen Schofield and Chris Stone for assistance gathering footage.

I need to get this out of the way right up front: the War Stories video crew here at Ars loves Dead Space. The game turned 10 years old this past October, and it's a near-perfect execution of the survival horror genre—the world, the sound design, and the mechanics are all spot-on, even after a decade. It's also one of the games we've had on our War Stories to-do list since the very beginning, and we're excited to finally have this video to share with you all.

Executive producer/creator Glen Schofield was fortunately just as excited to talk about the game as we are, and he invited us into his home to tell us the tale of how Isaac Clarke and the USG Ishimura came to be. Creating Dead Space required Schofield and team to create not just an entire original IP (complete with lore and world-building) but new game mechanisms and new ways to tell a story. The focus of putting the player directly into protagonist Isaac Clarke's somewhat clunky shoes affected every decision, and the resulting game managed to be refreshingly original while also paying respectful homage to other horror movies and games (most notably Event Horizon and Resident Evil, respectively.

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Posted in Ars Technica Videos, console gaming, Dead Space, Dead Space 2, Features, Gaming & Culture, Glen Schofield, horror, PC gaming, videos, war stories | Comments (0)

Samsung sticks Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU inside new Odyssey gaming notebook

January 7th, 2019


Samsung is making news at CES 2019—but not for an obvious reason. The Korean manufacturer announced its first new gaming laptop in quite some time: the Samsung Notebook Odyssey. While Samsung has made gaming devices with the Odyssey name, this new notebook appears to compete with similarly powerful and portable gaming PCs from the likes of Acer, Alienware, and Razer.

Most noteworthy is the graphics card inside the Notebook Odyssey: the new Nvidia RTX 2080. Nvidia just announced these new graphics cards, which will come to at least 40 laptops soon. The RTX 2080 and RTX 2060 cards promise big performance and efficiency gains over their GTX counterparts, with the RTX 2080 serving up 20 percent more performance when compared to the GTX 1080 GPU. They also bring ray-tracing abilities to the PCs they power, a process used in films to make live-action graphics look hyper-realistic.

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Posted in CES 2019, Gaming & Culture, gaming notebook, laptop, notebook odyssey, PC gaming, Samsung, Tech | Comments (0)

You can now download the long-lost (and unfinished) SimCity NES port

December 26th, 2018


This year, we learned that a long-lost version of the classic gaming series SimCity, originally meant for the NES, had found its way from Nintendo's archives to the hands of collectors. That story got a tidy Christmas update this week in the form of a comprehensive data dump, complete with stories, videos, and—perhaps most important—a ROM download of the working, incomplete game.

Frank Cifaldi, founder of the non-profit Video Game History Foundation, posted the complete story on Tuesday. There's a lot of catch-up to be done about how the heck this SimCity version came to be, and Cifaldi breaks down some important tales, including the origins of SimCity, how Nintendo got involved, and the working relationship of game-industry legends Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright.

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Posted in console gaming, Gaming & Culture, maxis, NES, nintendo entertainment system, PC gaming, retrogaming, SimCity | Comments (0)