Category: Network Gaming

Game On HP!

Article

HP Just Built A Gaming Laptop Seriously | Gizmodo Australia

My Comments

With the arrival of the Razer Blade gaming laptop and Dell answering this model with their Alienware gaming laptops, things were starting to look up for this class of computer.

Now HP have joined in the gaming-laptop frag-fest by presenting the Omen series of 15” gaming laptops. This was based around HP originally taking over Voodoo who were floundering when the concept of gaming in a laptop form factor didn’t catch on. This machine takes on what Voodoo was about but places it under a popular computing brand name. Another factor that underscores this computer is the fact that HP have built the ZBook series of mobile workstations, including the ZBook 14 “Workstation Ultrabook” where there is emphasis on graphics performance.

Here, the computer, like the Razer Blade and the Alienware computers, is designed for portability yet has the performance abilities like the Intel i7 processor, 8Gb RAM and mid-tier NVIDIA graphics. HP have also tackled the cooling issue to enable the graphics subsystem to have that bit of extra “pep”. This will work at a more realistic 1080p Full-HD resolution and has a Mini Display port and a regular HDMI connection so you can plug it in to that flat-screen TV or that high-end computer monitor for full-on gaming.

Even the keyboard has gaming credentials such as RGB illumination and programmable keys. There is also a large trackpad to provide more responsive gaming. There are variants of the Omen with 4Gb display RAM and 16Gb system RAM along with solid-state disks for quicker performance options.

A good question to raise is whether other companies who make laptop computers will create or build out their high-performance product ranges that are pitched at games or advanced graphics users? It also includes whether these classes of computer would work well not just for performance but for reliability as well

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Using Skype for chat during your favourite PC games

Article – From the horse’s mouth

You can use a regular communications tool for in-game chat

You can use a regular communications tool for in-game chat

Skype

How to use Skype for desktop Gaming

My Comments

Some of us may want to use Skype or similar online communications tools to chat with fellow games players when we play games on our regular computers.

There are some reasons where the software for in-game chat functionality can be difficult to set up and manage and the conversations on most in-game text / voice-chat functions is like a simple party line where everyone and his dog can join in uninvited. This opens the door to Internet trolls and other miscreants who can upset your gaming sessions.

To my knowledge, Skype is the only program that can support group text and voice communication. On the other hand, other online-communications software like Viber, Lync and Pidgin offers varying levels of functionality to allow your gaming clan to chat together. Most will offer group-based text chat with some offering group-based voice chat. But what is common with Skype, Viber and their peers is that you chat with those participants whom you and your mates invite.

Skype with uncluttered Modern user interface

Skype – an important part of a gamer’s arsenal

For Skype, you would need to have the latest version of Skype running on your Windows, Macintosh or Linux computer. Then, set up and test your wired or Bluetooth headset to make sure it is working properly with Skype if you want to have voice calls. You do the similar procedure with Viber or other communications software. With your Bluetooth headset, you would need to use the “Hands Free Profile” function for the voice communications and if you are using a stereo Bluetooth headset or Bluetooth headphone audio adaptor like the Sony SBH-52, you may want to make sure that the sound device that your game uses for effects and music is the Bluetooth Headphones or A2DP device if you want others around you not to be hearing the game effects or repeated music loops.

Create a group-chat session by dragging the friends, teammates and others together. If you do want a group voice call, you can create this with Skype but avoid the temptation to create a video call because this takes up the bandwidth.

Then you minimise Skype or your other communications software and start your game. Make sure that other unnecessary programs aren’t running while you are playing so you can dedicate your computer’s resources to the gameplay and communications.  If you are running a multi-screen setup, you may find that you could run text-chats on one of the screens.

Using a regular Internet-communications service rather a game-hosted Internet service gives you that advantage to have better control over how the peer-to-peer games banter turns out so you can all get the most out of the game.

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The XBox One to be the first console to support home-developed games

Article Project Spark Editor screenshot press image courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft’s Project Spark Finally Out Of Beta | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft (XBox)

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Project Spark screenshot press image courtesy of MicrosoftOne item that Microsoft has had as its foundation stone was to allow people to develop their own computer software through the provision of the necessary tools to do this.

This started from Bill Gates writing a BASIC interpreter for the Altair microcomputer and effectively writing the BASIC interpreters for a few subsequent personal computers of the era like the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the IBM PC. In the 1990s, Microsoft had developed the Visual BASIC software to allow one cost-effectively develop software for the Windows platform that took off through that era.

Now Microsoft have fully released Project Spark which is a software-development kit to allow one to develop games for the XBox One games console along with regular computers running Windows 8.1 . People who have tinkered with the earlier beta versions of this software have used it to create extra game levels for their favourite games.

It may appear that you would have to work within boundaries when building a game or level but I would see this as a way for Microsoft to work on a games-development platform for both regular computers and the XBox One games consoles. This may also lead to a marketplace for “lean-back” console games which are developed by individuals and independent studios and, hopefully open up the console-gaming world.

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Lightweight and gaming agree for a new Alienware gaming laptop

Article

The New Alienware 13-inch Laptop Promises Pro Gaming Without Backache | Gizmodo

My Comments

Quite a few examples of laptops with enough “grunt” to satisfy tasks intended for desktop computers are appearing. These are typically showing up either as “mobile workstations” for serious activity like CAD work or as “gaming laptops” for core game-playing activity. This is also happening in a similar vein with “all-in-one” desktops like the HP Z1 Workstation.

The integrated screens that these computers have appeal to users who want to quickly set up a multi-display arrangement using an external monitor, flat-screen TV or a projector. This plays well with those of us who may want to move between different setups like a desktop setup with an external desktop monitor, a presentation setup with the projector or a quick-to-setup gaming environment in a common lounge area using the flat-screen TV located there.

Some of us may think of a games-focused high-performance computer as being fit for a “starter” workstation for tasks like multimedia creation or may consider a low-tier workstation as being fit for core-level game-play because both these activities demand the use of high-performance computers. The main issue there may be factors like the way the system is physically designed or the choice of graphics chipset which may be optimised to either professional graphics or fast-paced games.

In the gaming sphere, Dell’s Alienware brand is having to face Razer when courting mobile gamers and they have fielded a 13” gaming laptop which is considered lightweight as far as the product class is concerned. Most gamers may consider this a waste because of the small screen but I would see this work well for gamers who would use it for, for example, a dual-screen “regular-computer” gaming scenario in a lounge area like the living room at home or a common room in the college dorm using its screen and the ordinary flat-screen TV in the lounge area.

Like most computers under the Dell umbrella, this will be offered in a highly-customisable form that allows one to effectively tailor it to their needs. It is another example where Dell is attempting to push the boundaries of normal product-class-specific computer design to effectively “fill the holes” left in the marketplace by other computer manufacturers.

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Getting girls and women to develop computer games using the summer-camp model

Article

Inaugural ‘Girls Make Games’ Summer Camps Fight Industry’s Gender Gap | Mashable

My Comments

Women and girls are increasingly dabbling in computer games, especially the strategy and casual types on mobile platforms, as I have seen lately with the likes of Candy Crush Saga and Piano Tiles being played by them on iPads and similar devices. But a lot of games, especially “core” games are being developed by men for men.

Just lately, there is activity taking place to encourage women and girls to develop these games and this is taking place in the form of a “summer-camp” or “school-camp” model where groups of them stay at particular locations to work together on this goal. This is an attempt to fight an industry gender gap and increase interest in this activity amongst under-represented groups. One of the issues that was raised was creating interest in “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects amongst women and girls to have them show interest in programming and related disciplines/

It is also being cultivated through the existence of “indie” game development which is brought along with the rise of mobile devices, especially tablets like iPads and the Sony VAIO Tap 20, as a gaming platform along with the increased capabilities that these devices offer.

But could the participation of women and girls change the landscape of game content? Personally, I would find that they could provide games that appeal to more users such as middle-aged and older people along with other younger women. As well, they could work towards opening up computer gaming as a leisure activity for more people across the board. One thing to be aware of is to encourage the use of the platform’s abilities when it comes to graphics, sound and interaction rather than being “basic” with the games.

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It’s “Game on” for the two major mobile platforms

Article

Apple: New ‘Metal’ Platform to Improve iOS Gaming | Mashable

My Comments

Android has come a long way ahead with mobile games performance courtesy of the NVIDIA Tegra chipsets and similar high-performance chipsets being implemented in the top-end tablets. This has also be brought up with variants of that operating system being compiled and shoehorned to exploit these chipsets leading to tablets showing up with the kind of performance expected of by hard-core gamers.

Now Apple’s not leaving itself behind with their iOS platform. They have written in to iOS 8 some code that takes advantage of their latest A7 chipsets by implementing the “Metal API”. This allows the operating system to have the games work directly with the iPhone’s or iPad’s processor to yield smooth performance rather than using OpenGL for this purpose, which could allow game developers to target the latest iPads as a games platform for the “full-on” titles. There was even a “demo” of this being shown today at the WWDC Apple-platform developers’ conference based on the Unreal Engine 4 gaming engine to prove what this was about.

There are questions that have to be raised about the “Metal” API regarding battery runtime because some of the games may ask more of the iOS device when in full flight. Similarly, games for the mobile platforms may only be seen to work well for “short-play” casual or strategy titles where continual interaction may not be seen as important.

Could this mean that all of the main mobile platforms could come up with the kind of gaming expected of console and regular-computer platforms, where there is the high level of responsiveness being expected?

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Quality control to arrive for regular-computer gaming

Article

PC Gaming Alliance Launching Certification Program in March | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

PC Gaming Alliance

Program Page

My Comments

Sony VAIO Fit 15e on dining table

Quality is now part of the games experience on these computers

A major part of the personal computer’s history has been about integrating the playing of games on these computers and every personal-computer platform had ended up with many different game titles available in a retail context or, in some cases, available for download. This has been the basis for heroes like Leisure Suit Larry and Carmen Sandiego in the late 1980s and early 1990s let alone people practising flying and golfing or solving puzzles on these computers as a spare-time activity.

There are those of us who still like to game on with our regular computers, be they desktops, all-in-ones or laptops or that they run Windows, MacOS X or Linux. This is although mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, along with games consoles of the XBox One and PS4 variety are being viable alternatives to the regular computer. Similarly, newer tablet and touchscreen-equipped convertible computers have been showing up, working under Windows 8.1 which is still considered a “regular-computer” operating system. This has extended to the likes of the Sony VAIO Tap 20 and its ilk which have a strong gaming appeal.

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer – now to be a viable games machine

Of course, a significant amount of time on a regular computer is spent on various games whether they be conquering many worlds, setting up many empires, mimicking real life or engaging in car races or test flights. And I wouldn’t put it past flight attendants who work the long-haul flights to see these games being played on laptops through these flights.

But, unlike the games consoles and the mobile platforms where there is oversight through the companies behind these platforms, there hasn’t been a strong level of oversight when it comes to game quality. Some people have continued to raise issues about EA’s software quality especially in the light of the recent SimCity fiasco.

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer as a desktop

These “adaptive all-in-one” computers like the Sony VAIO Tap 20 are ending up as games machines

There have been a few quality-assurance programs out theire like the Microsoft “Games For Windows” program and Apple’s developer-assistance program for the Macintosh platform along with Valve’s Steam ecosystem. But the PC Gaming Alliance want to have a quality-assurance platform that is open and not bound to a particular developer in order to keep with the open nature of the regular-computing platforms.

One technical goal is to have a regular computer paint the graphics for a game to the 720p HD specification at 30 frames per second under load as a median requirement. This could allow the game to run on a modest processor like the Intel i5 processors which could typify a modest computer. Similarly, games titles that benefit from a console-style game controller as their user interface should benefit from these controllers and the games should take advantage of large-screen displays. The latter requirement would come in to its own with someone who wants to connect their laptop to a large-screen TV or projector to get the most out of their game.

Personally, I would like to see this apply across Windows, Macintosh and Linux builds of a game title so that no matter the platform, there is consistent software quality across the games. The companies representing these platforms could then be part of this alliance in order to encourage quality games development for their platforms.

Similarly, the games would have to be as though they are a part of the operating environment like what used to happen with Sierra’s and Broderbund’s output where these games worked smoothly with their host platform, exploiting what these platforms offered. It could also encompass network-game compatibility whether online or local-hosted and encompass multi-platform games where console players cam play alongside regular-computer or mobile-device players or play part of a game across different devices.

Could this be a chance for EA and others to lose their tarnished image when it comes to software quality for regular-computer gaming?

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Microsoft’s XBox One to satisfy the games-console reality

Articles

Microsoft unveils Xbox One as home entertainment hub | The Australian

Xbox One moves Microsoft closer to living room hub | CNet

Video of press launch

Click to view

My Comments

Just lately, Microsoft had launched the XBox One games console which underscores the role of games consoles as a device for watching content and playing games on the TV screen.

This console uses up-to-date computer hardware and software including elements of the Windows and XBox operating systems. As well, it implements up-to-date requirements like USB3.0 connectivity, Wi-Fi Direct wireless connectivity as well as a Blu-Ray optical drive. Similarly, the main unit implements design cues from premium consumer-electronics sold during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This underscores the fact that the XBox One is designed to work as a multimedia box for the TV as has occurred commonly with the XBox 360 and the PS3 games consoles. This includes an HDIM input for passing video from a set-top box through the console. At the moment, this functionality may have questionable support with various free-to-air and pay TV setups. Personally, I would like to see this function underscored with an add-on digital-TV tuner module in order to pick up digital broadcast TV services.

It also has Kinect which provides motion and voice control and the user experience for changing content is expected to be as quick as flicking between broadcast channels.

Microsoft underscores the use of cloud-hosted functionality for gameplay such as persistent worlds, multiplayer multi-machine play and content “drop-off” points. But they still allow users to watch video content from TV or disc and play games without needing to be online.

Questions have been raised about whether users can sell / give games to others and take games between consoles such as playing at a friend’s home. Another issue I would like to see raised is whether Microsoft will provide an on-ramp for small-time and independent games developers like what has happened with the XNA program for the XBox 360. If such a program existed for this console, it could allow Microsoft to keep their credentials as a company whose founding stone was small-time software development.

Similarly, there were issues raised about the integrated secondary storage that the XBox One came with. Some of the press were disappointed with the hard disk and would like to see it come with solid-state storage and the ability for users to add on extra hard-disk space by connecting or installing a hard disk.

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What was network gaming about before online gaming?

Before the rise of Internet-hosted online gaming setups, we saw the existence of multi-player multi-machine gaming setups that existed either peer-to-peer with a cable or a local area network.

What was valued about these setups was that you could establish ad-hoc local games challenges ranging from connecting up a pair of PlayStations to each other towards the huge “LAN party” frag-fests with players playing various games on many overclocked PCs connected via a business-grade Ethernet network to a games server in a large room that is hired for that party. In some cases, it could include a Bluetooth link between two phones or PDAs to play a game while on a train or over a coffee at that café/

There were advantages like being able to play against people you know well, through having the network game become a feature for a party to the ability for a venue to host their own challenges based on these games.

As we have moved towards the online games model, we have drifted from the localised multi-machine gaming model. But we can re-integrate the localised model with the online model if the game or situation allows for it.

One approach would be to create local teams, gaming challenges or play spaces for your immediate area. These would require users with the online accounts to be aware of and play with the teams, challenges or spaces. They could be locally authenticated using GPS, network discovery or manually through the user entering in a seat number or room number for the local challenge.

Another way of facilitationg these local challenges is to “go hybrid”. This is where you have the online gaming setup but you also have a local games server available to a local network, which could be the function of a high-end network-attached storage device. This local server can team with the online server either to cache activity when the online link is a slow link or to host the local challenges.

This concept of local-network gaming may go against the dream for the purely cloud-driven online lifestyle but can allow for increased opportunities for developing the network-gaming concept further. It doesn’t matter whether you are at home, run a public-access network or want to take gaming further than the online gaming services.

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The second screen is now becoming relevant for console-based video gaming

Article

PS4 to get companion social app for tablets, PS Vita |Engadget

My Comments

Just today (21 February 2013), Sony was premiering the PlayStation 4 games console at their press event in New York City. They were promoting advanced “polygon-free” graphics which yielded realistic game views as well as support for “cloud-driven” console gaming.

This included various social-gaming options including the ability for an experienced astute player to help a novice player by effectively adding “dual controls” to the novice player’s controller. It is a feature that could have come in handy during a time when a friend of mine brought around the original PlayStation and rented a cricket game to play on the console. A person who lived with us had very keen interest in cricket and showed interest in this game but needed assistance with the video-game implementation of the sport.

But this console supports the new trend of the “second screen”. This option, which is implemented using apps on mobile-device platforms, is being explored by broadcasters and others with regular programmes but is being taken further by Sony for the PlayStation platform.

Most likely this concept would be positioned for social gaming, persistent scoreboards / inventory lists, alternate views such as overview maps, and similar activities to gain more out of the game. Of course, there will be the doubters that will say that the second screen is irrelevant especially for first-person shooters and similar games.

It will also be interesting to observe how much “in-sync” with the gameplay the second screen hosted on a separate device connected to the home network would be especially if extra action is to be viewed on this screen. Personally, I would make sure that you have the proper bandwidth available to your tablet when you want this function to work properly with the PS4.

A good idea would be to make sure that the Wi-Fi is strong to the games room and this could be achieved through the use of an access point with the wired network backbone. For that matter, most of the HomePlug AV wireless access points also have the Ethernet connections which can make this task easier with the PS4 connected to an Ethernet socket on the HomePlug access point while the HomePlug AV segment serves as the backbone.

Of course, this new console has a lot to be expected for its role in the lounge room, or the games room.

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