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Wednesday, Jul 26, 2017

New AMD ReLive Drivers

AMD now offers new version 17.7.2 Crimson ReLive drivers for AMD graphics cards. From the sound of it this is a big update, promising performance improvements, reduced latency, smaller framerate variances, power savings, faster load times, and a new Enhanced Sync feature, which they outline in more detail in a separate article. There's a lot to digest in that article and the patch notes. Here's the intro to the enhanced sync dealie, which is separate from, and in addition to their FreeSync tech:
Since the beginning of PC graphics, one of the biggest problems on this front has been synchronization between the game’s animation and the display’s update rate. Most displays update themselves at a fixed rate, typically at 60Hz or 60 times per second, in fixed steps. Meanwhile, games and other 3D graphics applications can produce new frames of animation at different rates, and those frame rates tend to vary over time. Often, much of what we perceive as slowdowns or sluggishness when gaming involves poor interactions between these two timing loops.

In fact, on a 60Hz display, animation can look more uneven when a game is running at 40 FPS than at 30 FPS, because at 40 FPS, the display is updated in an elliptical pattern:

You’re seeing a less pleasing pattern of animation, even though the GPU is cranking out frames at a higher rate, thanks to a timing sync issue between the game and the display.

We’ve come up with some outstanding technology to address this problem, most notably Radeon™ FreeSync technology for compatible monitors with variable refresh rates. I could talk about the theory all day, but you have to see FreeSync in action in order to appreciate it properly. Once you’ve experienced it, you won’t ever want to go back to gaming on a fixed-refresh display.

MS on PC Gaming

There's an interview on PCGamesN where Microsoft once again expresses their alleged love for PC gamers, talking about Windows 10, remasters of older MS PC games, and their Play Anywhere program. Mike Ybarra, president for Windows and Xbox gaming, tells them they want to make Windows 10 "the best operating system for gamers," talking about non-Win10 specific features like support for 21:9 resolution, SLI, and AMD Crossfire. Adam Isgreen is the creative director at Microsoft Studios Publishing where they are working on an Age of Empires remaster, and he tells them: "We want to treat PC like a first-class citizen." It's hard not to be cynical about this, as they've hyped PC gamers with similar raps in the past, but have never shown a lot of substantial results. And frankly, saying you want to make Windows 10 the best gaming OS seems an admission that it isn't already, and wanting to treat PC like a first-class citizen suggests that it has gotten second-class treatment in the past.

Final Lawbreakers Open Beta Friday

Boss Key Productions announces one more open beta session for Lawbreakers will begin on Friday, before the first-person shooter launches on August 8th. This will include PlayStation 4 this time around, and both and gamers can get a headstart on testing by downloading the beta now for Steam or PS4. Here's the plan:
Days before LawBreakers launches on Aug. 8, Boss Key Productions is challenging gamers to bring their skills and join the final open beta on PlayStation®4 for the first time, or one last time on PC. Starting on July 28 at 7 a.m. PT, players will have the opportunity to play all of the content from each previous beta to date, including eight roles, six maps, and four modes. Visit Steam or PlayStation® to start pre-downloading the build now. The open beta event ends July 31 at 7 a.m. PT.

This is a last call for those players who haven’t experienced the groundbreaking, gravity-defying combat of LawBreakers to test their skills and allows those returning players eager for an edge on day one to come back and prove their dominance. LawBreakers’ thrilling omni-directional gunplay is guaranteed to challenge even the best players to bring their skills, get off the ground and deliver death from every angle with innovative movement systems and combat abilities.

The final open beta delivers on Boss Key Productions’ tradition of iterating on the game’s balance and design based off community feedback along with giving players an opportunity to check out the near final game. Following is a rundown of what players can expect, and more reasons to jump into the beta this Friday:

  • The ability to unlock and equip any of the launch Stash Drop contents during the beta, including all skins, stickers, and profile pics
  • A first-look at the Wraith and Assassin’s Kinetic Blades, a special one-week exclusive item that all players can get when logging into the full game during Aug. 8-15
  • Check out all the balance changes and fixes made based on community feedback from previous beta periods
  • Experience the improvements made to matchmaking
  • On PC, test out the game’s Twitch features including account-link, Broadcasting LIVE icon and more

LawBreakers is a multiplayer FPS in which the laws of physics are shattered, creating intense gravity-based combat across the ground and air of futuristic landscapes. Players either fight to uphold the “Law” or go out for blood as a “Breaker,” as they jump into competitive team-based matches that take place across iconic locations including the boiling oceans off the Santa Monica coastline to a gravity-ravaged Grand Canyon.

Need for Speed Payback Car Customization Details

EA offers details on car customization in Need for Speed Payback, the upcoming installment in their hard-driving motorcar series. This adds a new feature where players can search for derelict cars and hunt down the parts to restore them to their former glory. This trailer offers a look at car customization, and here are some details:
EA and Ghost Games have released a brand new trailer for Need for Speed Payback, the latest action driving blockbuster from one of the world’s best-selling videogame franchises. The trailer reveals more details on one of the franchise’s most popular features: a deep and robust car customization system. For the first time in the history of Need for Speed, the developers are introducing “derelicts” in the game, allowing players to discover classic vintage vehicles and build them from scrap, to stock, to one-of-a kind supercar beasts.
Continue here to read the full story.

Overwatch League Details

Blizzard offers details on the Overwatch League, discussing how this professional league will operate with the first season getting underway later this year. They say all 30 million+ Overwatch players are considered free agents, and the official signing window for Season 1 will run from August through October, so keep an eye on your inbox. They also outline strict requirements for how participating teams will pay and house their players. Here's are some of the fine points:
To offer a better understanding of what players can expect from a career in the Overwatch League, here are a few key benefits included in the Overwatch League Player Agreement:

  • Teams will sign players to one-year guaranteed contracts with the option to extend the contract for an additional year.
  • The minimum salary for players is USD $50,000 per year.
  • Teams will provide players with health insurance and a retirement savings plan.
  • Teams will distribute at least 50% of their team performance bonuses (i.e. money from winning playoffs and other League events) to their players directly.

The total bonuses available for Overwatch League teams in Season 1 will amount to USD $3.5 million, with a minimum USD $1 million awarded to the Season 1 champion.

Finally, we know there have been questions about roster requirements and team management, including region locking and housing. Here are a few important rules that will be in effect for Overwatch League Season 1:

  • Each team roster must have at least six players and no more than 12 total.
  • There is no region locking in terms of the place of birth or home country of any player.
  • Teams will provide player housing and practice facilities during the season which will meet professional standards set by the Overwatch League.

Team Racing League Early Access Next Month

The Steam page for Team Racing League says that August 11th will mark the early access launch of this three-versus-three racing game. This recent trailer offers the latest look at the game, though you can check it out first hand now, as it already has a playable demo. Here's word:
Developer Gamious is pleased to announce 11th August 2017 as the release date of their exciting and dedicated multiplayer, 3 on 3 racer, through the Steam Store http://store.steampowered.com/app/504460. With a price point for this 'race to the line' game of $9.99/£6.99/€9.99, fans of this genre will be captivated with this first ever team-based racing game. It leaves no circuits untouched to convey the mechanics and sheer sense of teamwork in a challenge to get to the top of the rankings.

Finishing first with a time to match is just the beginning. Players must master a plethora of skills, ensure on the track focus and total interactive bonding with your team, all of which are supported with great and responsive controls.

Once the action begins, be assigned a team, join the fray and show your mettle..be it 3 against 3, red v blue!

Connect with your teammates’ vehicle to improve their overall speed, and support them with extra boosts. The Co-Driver can also create roadblocks which sabotage your opponents perfect racing line. Torch the blocks of the opposition and their hovercrafts, but be aware: with every ploy or master tactic you undertake, this can always be countered by your rivals. Interacting with your fellow teammates is the key to crossing the finish line first.

With lots of different roles to fulfil in Team Racing League, you can never stop assessing what your team needs the most. Decide to race to the end, support your team mate or troll your opponent. In Team Racing League you can play in the style you want to and be thanked for it.

Pillars of the Earth Ep. 1 Next Month; Freebie with Preorders

The Pillars of the Earth game announced in 2014 is still on the way, as GOG.com announces preorders are underway for a first episode to be released next month. Those who commit to this adaptation of Ken Follett's novel will get a free copy of Chains of Satinav as a reward. They provide a Season Pass teaser trailer with a look, and here's word:
Just doing God's work.

Exclusive GOG offer: Pre-order The Pillars of the Earth Season Pass and get a FREE copy of Chains of Satinav added to your account.
This offer will last until August 15th, 2017.

If you already own Chains of Satinav, contact our support team to get a copy which you can gift to a friend.

The Pillars of the Earth, an atmospheric choice-driven adventure based on the best-selling novel by Ken Follett, is now available for pre-order, DRM-free on GOG.com.

Amidst the darkness and squalor dominating 12th century England, three people undertake the monumental task of erecting a majestic cathedral in the village of Kingsbridge. Steer the fates of Jack, Aliena, and Philip, influence events from the novel, and unravel an epic tale of war, romance, and the trials of fate.

This season pass gives access to all three episodes, as they become available.

Episode 1: From the Ashes is scheduled to release in August.
Continue here to read the full story.

Into the Black

Link of the Day: Arrested Rebellion: Ron Howard’s Han Solo (Nerdist Presents) (spoilers). Thanks [H]ardOCP via RedEye9.

Play Just Cause 3 for Free

Steam is currently offering the chance to play Just Cause 3 for free until tomorrow afternoon, which includes the chance to check out the Just Cause 3 multiplayer mod that's now available on Steam (thanks DSOGaming). The game is currently on sale for those who enjoy their sample. If you aren't willing to try this just 'cause, here's a pitch on the game:
The Mediterranean republic of Medici is suffering under the brutal control of General Di Ravello, a dictator with an insatiable appetite for power. Enter Rico Rodriguez, a man on a mission to destroy the General’s hold on power by any means necessary. With over 400 square miles of complete freedom from sky to seabed and a huge arsenal of weaponry, gadgets and vehicles, prepare to unleash chaos in the most creative and explosive ways you can imagine.

Pyre Ignites

Pyre is now available on Steam, offering a party-based RPG from Supergiant games, the developers behind Bastion and Transistor. As Alfred once sagely put it, some men just want to watch the world burn. Here's a complete rundown on what Pyre offers:
Pyre is a party-based RPG in which you lead a band of exiles to freedom through ancient competitions spread across a vast, mystical purgatory. Who shall return to glory, and who shall remain in exile to the end of their days?

Key Features

  • A New World From the Creators of Bastion and Transistor
    Experience the biggest and most imaginative world yet from Supergiant! Get to know an ensemble cast of characters struggling to earn back their freedom as you make your way across the forsaken land called the Downside.
  • Action-Packed Three-on-Three Battle System
    Battle against a colorful cast of adversaries in pitched, high-stakes confrontations where each victory (or defeat!) brings your exiles closer to enlightenment. Choose three from your party for each Rite, and outfit them with mystic Talismans and powerful Masteries.
  • A Branching Story with No Game-Over
    In Pyre, you will never be forced to lose progress. Whether you prevail or you fail, your journey continues. The interactive narrative is expressed through a story that no two players will experience in quite the same way.
  • Challenge a Friend in Versus Mode
    On top of the single-player campaign, Pyre features a local two-player Versus Mode, where you can play against a friend (or CPU opponent) in one of the game's fast-paced ritual showdowns. Form your triumvirate from more than 20 unique characters.
  • Rich, Atmospheric Presentation
    Pyre once again showcases the award-winning talents of the team that created Bastion and Transistor. From the vibrant hand-painted artwork to the evocative musical score, every aspect of Pyre's presentation draws you into its fantasy world.
  • Accessible, Customizable Controls and 4K Ultra HD Graphics!
    Play with gamepad or mouse-and-keyboard using fully customizable controls custom-tailored to PC. The game offers a highly scalable challenge both in the campaign and Versus Mode. Experience it all in stunning 4K resolution (compatible display required)!

Overwatch Penalties Expand

A post to the Overwatch Forums from community manager Lylirra on changes coming to the Reporting & Penalty System for Overwatch, Blizzard's multiplayer shooter. They say they "believe that our in-game reporting and player penalty system is one of our most important features," and now they are giving some added teeth so hopefully players will someday begin to share that opinion. Here's word:
“Play nice; play fair” is one of Blizzard's core values. It’s something we took to heart in creating Overwatch and remains a priority as we continue to support the game and our players. This not only applies to the new content we develop and the balance changes we make, but also to the features we add or improve upon over time.

We believe that our in-game reporting and player penalty system is one of our most important features, and it’s something we want to invest in significantly over the next year. To this end, effective immediately, we will be issuing increased penalties to players in response to verified reports of bad behavior. In Overwatch, that means anything from abusive chat, harassment, in-game spam, match inactivity (being intentionally AFK), and griefing. If you see someone engaging in any of these types of behaviors, report them. Players in violation will be silenced, suspended, or even banned from the game as a result.

We know that making Overwatch a truly welcoming environment is an ongoing process, and this is only the first step. Over the next several months, we have plans to make additional improvements based on your feedback, including scaling competitive season bans, a notification system that will alert you when a player you’ve reported is actioned, and functionality that will allow us to more aggressively penalize players who attempt to abuse the in-game reporting tool.

We also remain committed to bringing a reporting system to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. As console players ourselves, we know it’s been frustrating to not have this functionality on your platform. We are actively working on the feature and have many elements of undergoing internal testing right now. Our goal is to implement similar reporting options as are currently available on PC, and any improvements made to PC between now and when it’s available.

Thank you for your vigilance, passion, and commitment to building a welcoming and enjoyable community and helping us make Overwatch the best game it can be.

Mafia III Sign of the Times Released

This post announces the Sign of the Times DLC for Mafia III is now available on Steam. Included is this launch trailer setting up the story for the DLC. Here's word on what they say is the final piece of DLC for the Windows and macOS crime game:
A new enemy: The Ensanglante is a drug-fueled, blood-worshipping cult operating in and around the city. They’re set on an inevitable collision course with Lincoln after he disrupts one of their macabre ceremonies taking place inside the walls of Sammy’s bar.

A mystery to solve: It’s a game of cat-and-mouse as you work to uncover the Ensanglante’s end-game. Along the way, you’ll investigate ritual sites for clues and signs of their whereabouts. Check bodies, take pictures of evidence and follow clues with your black light as you edge closer to the horrifying truth. You can read more about the cult and the Investigation experience here on the Mafia blog.

A new way to play: If you have deadly accuracy, you’ll get extra time to take down targets. “Sign of the Times” introduces a new slow-motion gunplay mechanic, similar to the slow-motion driving skill introduced in “Faster, Baby!”. Once activated, the world slows as you take aim. While the timer ticks down, snap off successful headshots and you can keep the meter going.

New weapons in your arsenal: Once you beat back the Ensanglante, you can order the Black Sacrament automatic rifle from the weapons van. And throughout the game, you’ll discover throwing knives that’ll let you silently slay your way through the city.

New threads: Ready to rip the roads up as if you were in a gang? Slap on the Motorcycle Club outfit. Playing “Sign of the Times” also unlocks The Wanderer and Tee Time outfits in Lincoln’s wardrobe.

New wheels for your fleet: Win the Samson Harrier hotrod in a race and you’ll fly off the line. Meanwhile, the Bulworth Harrow is a seriously grim set of wheels perfect for ushering your enemies to their very own funeral.

A “new” place to call home – Sammy’s: All the hard-earned cash earned from your side businesses and whatever you *ahem* get while on the streets can be put into refurbishing Sammy’s to its former glory. Rebuild the bar, get a new jukebox – put Sammy’s back together just like you remember it from the very beginning of the game. But you can also start adding more to it. This was a big request from the fans – and it’s something we really wanted to deliver in “Sign of the Times”.
Continue here to read the full story.

Galactic Junk League Launches

Galactic Junk League is now out of early access and officially launched on Steam, offering a free-to-play multiplayer game for Windows and macOS that developer Pixel Federation describes as a "bit of MOBA, bit of sandbox." The launch trailer provides a look at how this plays out, and there are more details in the announcement, including an outline of what's changed since the end of early access:
GAMEPLAY
Build your junk ships to literally any shapes and sizes and fight against the creations of other players in 7v7 PvP capture arenas across 3 new maps. The more you fight the better ships you can build. Pick one of the classes (Frigate, Cruiser, Battleship and Destroyer) and research all the blocks to build your ultimate junk ship. Every classs has its own role in the team.

FEATURES

  • 4 unlockable classes with unique fighting styles and build options
  • 3 unique multi-level weapon systems (Rockets, Lasers, Gauss)
  • class-specific abilities
  • 3 different maps, each with unique play style
  • infinite number of possible ship designs thanks to vast building options and mirror mode
  • high level of replayability
  • player profiles and top ladders
  • skill-based matchmaking with players from all around the world!

New with the full release (compared to Early Access):

  • brand new game mode: Galactic Conquest
  • reworked game mechanics and abilities
  • class system overhaul
  • Tactical Communication Interface
  • revamped game start
  • AI opponents
  • sales and new DLCs

Continue here to read the full story.

KryptCrawler Released

The Oculus store now offers KryptCrawler, saying this "brings classic first person, grid based Dungeon Crawler gameplay to VR." Here's the release trailer with a look at what to expect. This is a single-player experience, and requires an HMD, and supports Samsung Gear as well as Oculus Rift. Here are the details:
Descend into the unknown and explore the perilous depth of the sinister tombs and crypts you are thrown into, armed with nothing but a map and your wits. Find powerful weapons and wield mighty artifacts to fight off the undead remains of the warriors who have come here before you. Defend yourself against poisonous scorpions, hungry spiders and other creatures of the dark.

Features:

  • An unmatched VR dungeon experience: You'll almost smell the moss-covered stonewalls of the underworld
  • Survive vicious traps and solve challenging puzzles
  • Fight off enemies in real time combat: Swordfight, ranged bow mastery and more
  • Innovative battle and movement system using Gamepads or Oculus Touch as gamepad for maximum immersion.
  • Loot weapons and epic treasures: All over the dungeon are powerful weapons and treasures to discover

Continue here to read the full story.

Titanfall 2 Operation Frontier Shield

The Respawn Entertainment Facebook page announces the release of Operation Frontier Shield for Titanfall 2, new free DLC for the mech shooter. Here's the previously released trailer showing off gameplay, and this page has all the details on the new gameplay mode and content this includes. As previously announced, the game will be free this weekend, allowing everyone the chance to check this out. Here's word on the add-on:
Introducing an all-new way to play Titanfall 2: Frontier Defense, the PvE horde mode introduced in Operation Frontier Shield! Built for 4 player co-op, you and your team are tasked with protecting the Harvester through multiple waves of coordinated enemies all hellbent on taking it down. Build your team, optimize your Titans and adapt your strategies to survive the mayhem with all new weapons, gear, and progression.

Be sure to show off your skills with the new Frontier Titan Warpaints, which each feature an insignia that changes to reflect the highest difficulty of Frontier Defense you have mastered. These skins also grant an XP boost to you and your teammates at the completion of a Frontier Defense match, but these Warpaints are only available for a limited time!

For Pilots, we're also introducing Elite Weapon Warpaints, custom-designed Warpaints for specific weapons that drastically change the look of your favorite firearms. These Warpaints also grant bonuses to you and your teammates in-game. For each elite weapon warpaint you own, you gain a 10% chance to earn a 2x XP token at the completion of a match (max 30% total).

To round out Operation Frontier Shield, we've also introduced a remastered map from the original Titanfall: Rise. This map features towering, sheer walls and a system of convenient zip lines provide Pilots with the perfect means to get around quickly while Titans do battle in the long corridors below. Operation Frontier Shield also includes a new Live Fire map: Township, which models an idyllic small-town environment with open thoroughfares and small buildings with intense close-quarters combat.

Assemble your crew, Pilot! We'll see you out on the Frontier.
Continue here to read the full story.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns Living World Season 3 Finale

ArenaNet announces the release of One Path Ends, the concluding sixth episode of Living World Season 3 for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, their MMORPG sequel. They also make it easier to get into this, announcing a permanent reduction in the price of the game. Here's the news:
The finale Episode of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns Living World Season 3, “One Path Ends,” is live today. This episode promises to be a memorable one as players will experience the conclusion of an epic story arc.

Episode 6 also introduces Siren’s Landing, the sixth open world map released this season. Players will be able to build two new legendary weapons, battle their way through a brand new fractal, and begin their hunt for the treacherous god of fire and war, Balthazar.

With Heart of Thorns now permanently reduced in price, now’s a fantastic time to jump into Guild Wars 2 and experience the incredible storytelling from ArenaNet:

http://buy.guildwars2.com?cid=100:5::::Global:40:::

To access new Living World episodes, players must own Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns; by simply logging in, they can bank episodes to play later. They don't need to have completed the storyline in the expansion to enjoy Season 3. Season 3 content is intended for level-80 characters. Every purchase of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns comes with a Level-80 Boost, which will boost one character to max level and equip them to enjoy all the content available in Guild Wars 2, including Season 3.

Law Mower Demo

Steam now offers a playable demo for Law Mower, an upcoming top-down action/adventure that takes the act of mowing one's lawn even more seriously than that wacky neighbor of yours. This trailer shows off gameplay, offering a look at the game's throwback style. Here's word on the game:
Have you ever witnessed an unkempt lawn and felt the patriotic duty to mow it yourself? Me Too. A freshly cut lawn tells the world that you are in control. You make your own decisions. You are the king of your castle. In Law Mower, you stand up for those who can't, or worse, refuse to mow their lawns. From America's suburbia to the Russian tundra, you must make sure every blade of grass gets cut. Failure is not an option.

In Law Mower, you have one goal: Mow Every Blade of Grass in the World
Continue here to read the full story.

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

My topic today was going to be that we are still waiting for our missing painters to put the finishing touches on our home renovations. So of course I awoke to a message saying someone was showing up first thing. He (not they, unfortunately) is currently doing some prep work, and my hopes are quite elevated that we're going to be on track soon. Do I sound convincing? Do I sound convinced? I can't even tell anymore.

On Track Links: Thanks Ant and Acleacius.
Play: Burnout Drift: Hilltop.
Link: Meet Graham. "The only person designed to survive on our roads." Thanks RedEye9.
Story: Creepy Clown Motel for Sale.
Science: It’s High Time for Ticks, Which Are Spreading Diseases Farther. Thanks j.c.f.
111 N.F.L. Brains. All But One Had C.T.E.
Media: Freeman's Mind 2- Episode 3. Thanks RedEye9.
Ping Pong Sawblade.
McCain returns to Senate floor (full speech).
Follow-up: This swimming robot may have finally spotted melted nuclear fuel inside Fukushima.
The Funnies: Low Blow - Kat Swenski - 260. Thanks Kxmode.