Category Archives: News

Raptr and AMD evolving the desktop experience

In September Raptr and AMD released their dedicated build for PC Gamers, the app included automatic configurations aimed at AMD hardware per game and while limited it provided optimal settings per system. Flash forward almost 2 months and the gaming selection has increased greatly from that initial point.

The first thing to notice about the AMD Gaming Evolved Control Center is it uses a completely different interface from the standard Raptr affair. Delivering a game center, community, gallery and settings per title with dedicated fast access areas for rewards,  global community, profiles and free games. It’s a simple presentation but that’s what makes it impressive, users can use a slider to gauge settings or select optimal choices for their hardware to avoid overtaxing the card and it helps bridge that gap of configuration for those new to the platform.

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For classic Raptr users it may take a bit of time to avoid using the classic dock to navigate but the new UI and presentation do become familiar over time. For me, rewards, friends, game settings are the primary areas I use and they’re almost easy to reach, the friend option itself blends almost too well in the bottom, easily overlooked with bright red text or buttons elsewhere in the UI.

While the AMD branded app doesn’t support everything, they’re working hard to implement feedback and suggest the best possible settings for each product they do include.  A relief given past optimizations tended to massively reach over the recommended settings or dull textures so much it was painful to play just for performance sake.

Do the settings make a difference if you’re adept with hardware? Somewhat, there are certain assumptions made with game settings that might not apply to a specific title and only incur minimal frame loss, by default I tend to disable any AA period for the extra gains at higher resolutions, often with the AMD Raptr application it turns it back on and I’m unable to feel the impact at 1-2fps lost. It’s a reminder in gaming that it always pays to experiment and in this case, it does it for you with a slider and a click of a button.

Personally, I now use Raptr much more than I used to, I explore the community pages, rewards, profiles and have a longer immersion in the community and offerings than I ever did in the past. As a revised presentation I enjoy it and think newbie PC gamers and even veterans might enjoy the quick flip of a switch to adjust performance as needed and get into the game. It’s one thing to play casually but often it’s the performance setting that helps gain any extra FPS possible in competition.

I look forward to continued adjustments to the app (more game custom configurations please) there’s certainly room to continue tweaking for the masses, one can only imagine the day when players will be able to save custom configurations they’ve made to activate on the fly.

Check it out for yourself, if you already have Raptr there’s no additional login needed, just write over your existing install and voila. Also if you’re running AMD video hardware you can enter the ongoing Gaming Evolved Sweepstakes for games each day, although you do have to game for an hour on a supported title.

MIX LA 2013 – Bringing a flood of Indie for one night

A limited engagement opportunity was available during GDC Next, it was in fact, MIX LA being held just off-site from the convention. Taking press and independent developers and putting them on a stylish rooftop in the middle of downtown.  We were able to wait through some of the lines and check out some new titles coming to consumers in the future ahead.

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Escape Goat 2 – Magical Time Bean

Love solving puzzles? Using multiple modes of movement to maneuver the myriad of solutions to mind melting challenges? Did you love the excessive use of words with M in that last statement? Well Escape Goat 2 might be something you’re interested in, packing in tons of levels, challenges, environmental factors and a rat friend. Players save sheep, defy death traps and  take part in classic puzzle solving challenges through each space, the world offers multiple paths and the ability to return to old areas if left incomplete.

Personally I made a complete embarrassment out of handling the ice levels and minor gaps, instead of using the tools available I simply thought too hard around every challenge. It happens and it’s likely because there’s often much more to environments so we expect so it’s easy to use excessive movements. It’s still in the revision phase but Escape Goat 2 is something I really want to play more of, even if I horribly botched my initial shot.

Constant-C – IGS

Left to yourself to investigate and fix a damaged ship, that’s the objective for players in Constant-C. Now add gravity control sprinkle in magnetic fields for activity and environment rotation and we’re seeing something special. Constant-C isn’t a regular puzzle solver, it’s hundreds of levels of challenge balancing  the magnetic field of our hero, speed and gravity while trying to reach doors to advance.

Being a helper bot on an occupied ship it makes perfect sense to include lasers, spinning blades and other death devices throughout. It wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it was that easy, we did step in for a few rounds with the upcoming release for Steam (already out on Desura) and it was amazingly hard yet fun. If you’re in for a puzzle solving field day, just slap this and Escape Goat 2 together for the full range.

It’s incredibly simple to lose yourself in the rotation and field control as deaths mount but how it happens is what makes Constant-C a challenge I’d always come back to.

Videoball Videoball… Videoball… – Midnight City

There’s nothing to really say about Videoball, it’s all expressed as you play in heated frustration against your opponents and partner. Teamwork isn’t a natural element in most games, many have to train to operate with others and stop acting like the ultimate hero on the planet.  Videoball forces that cooperation in the wild, get on the same page and play as a group or get decimated, you can amplify the embarrassment depending on the skill of your opponents also.

It’s a game of timing, skill, shooting and defense. You don’t just try to score or move the ball in the step you’re taking, you’re anticipating the extra moves ahead because it’s almost a given your opponent is already plotting numerous ways to completely ruin those plans.  It’s frustrating, it’s magical, it’s Videoball and it will allow you to ruin souls or get yours trampled.

Personally, the leveled up shots bring in extra challenge elements as they cause different velocity levels if you can execute them. For players who always want to go big, you can create an array of blocks by holding in too long for that level 3 shot. Sure it’s almost an instant goal but if it goes wrong it’s just a massive joke when the match is heated. The reality is that a block defense only works if you block the entire goal grid and maintain it without being stunned. It’s not an easy task at all and it removes 1 player from being in the action to generate points. In it’s current state, Videoball is easier and more rewarding to play it on the live field for offense with a partner than it is with 2 stations.

Aztez – Team Colorblind

When I first sat in with Aztez my brain kept pumping “Mad World” constantly, the intense contrast, the bath of blood on the screen, Aztez strikes a comic like element that I can’t help but be drawn to.  We got our hands on the battle arena, while it’s not the primary focus of the game mechanics, it’s certainly one of the most brutal and appreciated of the group. Our goal was to last through the clock against incoming hordes of swordsmen and spear wielding angry fellows. The first run, well that went terribly, something about not dodging or blocking and being impaled by enemies because dancing around in a group of them is a bad idea.

The second round was much more rewarding, jumping, dodging, slashing, using melee attacks and surviving the hordes. While it wasn’t a total win in that 5 minute counter it was still something that felt like a victory to last more  than a few minutes. Hopefully it’s just as challenging when it hits in early 2014, it’s always nice having a game that absolutely shuts the idea of an easy victory down. If you want to win you need to earn it and Aztez lives by that example.

The evening was packed with indie developers, while we saw many games we selected this group to showcase in our impressions from the casual night up on top of 1010 Wilshire. We hope to see more from these devs in the future and bring more highlights as they near their release.

Valve reveals SteamOS as part 1 of 3 major announcements

Last week a mysterious word went out about upcoming Valve announcements, today we see the first of those coming to light. SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system developed strictly with a gaming focus, allowing users to harness titles developed specifically for SteamOS or stream their existing library from their Windows or Mac machine to their Steam box. Users may recognize a similar setup with the Vita and PS4 using Gaikai technology, we’re not seeing it with PC’s within the home network.

Part of this push brings Big Picture mode to the forefront as a HTPC GUI, Valve plans to supplement this push by including music, tv and movie services within SteamOS to allow users a seamless experience as they dive within the offerings. No jumping to a new browser or switching inputs, just one massive entertainment OS for all.

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We also found out about Steam and Family Sharing, SteamOS will include that feature out of the gate, allowing family to share games from their libraries with no hassle, allowing full functionality including individual save games and cloud storage. As a living room centerpiece it’s a bit of a worry to have everyone seeing everything available to each member, family options will also allow users to control visible games, features and other personal details from being widely displayed to everyone.

We still have 2 more reveals, we’ll just have to hold tight to see what Valve has up their sleeve next. Many were aware Valve would explore Linux as an open platform for computing after their statements on Windows 8, if it was to this extent is entirely in the air, using Big Picture and a heavy focus on developing a performance environment for gaming is a huge task and they’ve excelled at it as we’ve seen with performance reports on in-house titles they’ve ported in the past year.

Preview – SUPER HOT + Youtube Playthrough

It’s the end of the summer, its blazing and Bricky Blues drops an update to their 7dfps time based shooter using the Unity engine on everyone. It’s called Super Hot and honestly, it’s a change of pace and a challenging one at that.

Super Hot places players into a world where almost all time is controlled by the host, I say almost as bullets and general enemy gestures seem to still carry on at a reduced speed as things get moving. Overall it challenges those used to run and gun to calculate paths, counterattacks and examine their surroundings carefully. One ill-timed shift can restart the level and that bridge stage is relentless on the nerves if a stray bullet lands.

I did jump into the web demo and record it (poorly) although it seems to be a limited resolution build right now. The game looks great for what it is, reminiscent of old training simulators in presentation while coming in with a pounding SUPER HOT SUPER HOT every time a level is completed in a subliminal styled push. It’s a unique experience and there is the desire to complete the level at a faster rate each time because inherently you know you can do it better.

There’s a growing trend of art taking place in high contrast environments with gray-scale environments. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that in Super Hot, in fact it offers less visual conflict when a faint red hue illuminates a wall, signalling incoming doom. Personally I don’t mind the usage of it as it forces creative use of space and placement of enemies and components.

There isn’t much else to the game at the current stage, I’m currently enjoying the use of the time mechanics to pace out a rapid succession of kills while picturing some random bass line to eventually compliment the SUPER HOT pattern after a job well done. I’ve subscribed to the newsletter and I think it’s worth a shot by anyone to give the game a spin right now. It has great appeal and that repeated chant seeps into your brain after playing through.

Super Hot [Web / Unity Based]

GRID 2 Demolition Derby DLC arrives but is anyone home?

So the online community on GRID 2 is a bit hit and miss, and by that I mean it misses… often. Players when you find them tend to love crashing, other times they’re not around at all.

Demolition Derby is a revival mode for fans, hoping to bring back some of the enthusiasm and appease those who prefer to wreck cars instead of racing them. It’s a good mode, don’t get me wrong but the absent player base really doesn’t help the situation. I ended up opting out of a 30 minute wait cycle for players and instead jumping into custom events to get a taste of the carnage. It’s not overly brutal and the AI is a bit bossy but I think there’s another level waiting to happen by playing with human opponents that have no intent to finish the race with a functional car.

Check out the video demo for custom event Demolition Derby, hopefully I’ll see more people online in the coming week or this is really just a dead release.