It took us nearly 5000 words to cover the first half of our two-part interview with Cloud Imperium Games CEO Chris Roberts, who joins us now for the second half. In the first part, we dove straight into discussion on Alpha 3.0, plans for unveiling procedural generation V2 at CitizenCon, and Star Marine & Arena Commander A2.6 updates. Roberts' procedural generation plans initially disclosed to GamersNexus in 2014 have mostly been realized, and the team is now working on a second iteration of the internally built Planet Ed[itor] toolset. Much of the new procedural generation technology will be shown at CitizenCon on October 9, but Roberts also teased to us that new character technology would be on demonstration at the event.
This is the second and final half of our interview with Chris Roberts, CIG CEO & Chairman, but not the final interview for our trip. Technical Director Sean Tracy joined GamersNexus to discuss deeper engineering solutions to technological challenges faced by the team, offering some insight to game development that we think our 'regulars' will enjoy from an engineering standpoint. The first half of that content will post on Friday, September 30. The second half will be announced alongside the publication of the first half.
Both interviews – with Roberts and with Tracy – ran about forty minutes in length, and contained a trove of new information related to the title's immediate future. With Tracy, we'll discuss engine architecture, what it actually means to “refactor for 64-bit,” authoring tools, and more.
NZXT's presence at the recent UCI eSports arena opening made for a silent unveil of new CAM software functionality, when coupled with the company's HUE+ RGB lighting controller. The software update ties Valve's official game state API to NZXT's CAM software, theoretically circumventing any potential anti-cheat concerns by nature of plugging straight into an official Valve programming interface.
At least a dozen game states are made accessible to developers, and NZXT may pick-and-choose which game states cue a visual reaction through attached HUE+ devices. For now, NZXT supports player health, grenade interactions (flashed, in smoke, on fire), and the C4 count-down. Users may customize individual colors of these events, but the demo offered a standard green/red for health, then used a white-ish LED illumination for flash bangs and a similar white-blue for smoke effects. Standing atop ground hit with incendiary grenades offered an orange hue from the HUE, and C4 instated a binary LED pulse – on and off – that matched the count-down timer.
1080p remains the most popular resolution in use today, with more than 80% of the market sticking to existing 1920x1080 displays. Just a few years ago, a fairly beastly rig was needed to run games at 1080p with High to Ultra settings. AMD and nVidia have released new video cards nonstop this year, each enabling 1440p gaming at the entry-level market, or bolstering 1080p to max game settings. These new releases include the RX 480 and the GTX 1060 $200-$250 options, both of which we've reviewed.
You no longer need a $1200 gaming PC to game at 1080p/ultra, and 1440p now comes as a "free" add with these mid-range GPUs. This $800 gaming PC build targets ultra settings in Overwatch at 1440p, and will be capable of high settings in Battlefield 1 (and likely Titanfall 2).
In the paragraphs below we’ll go over our parts list and why we chose the parts for this rig like we did:
System integrator iBUYPOWER, peripheral maker Logitech, motherboard maker ASUS, and Riot games joined forces to aid UCI in opening its new eSports arena. The venue makes UCI the first top 200 public school with an eSports program, and opens the door for its participation in collegiate eSports tournaments. To our knowledge, there are presently nine other US universities with eSports programs that may allow for future 10-way contests at a collegiate level.
The university's arena hosted CLG Red & Blue teams, Immortals, and Selfless this weekend, alongside manufacturers nVidia, NZXT, ADATA, and iBUYPOWER. The venue contains sixty systems – a split between mITX Revolt 2 boxes and ATX NZXT N450 boxes – with Intel i7-6700K CPUs and GTX 1080 FE GPUs. Logitech has equipped each box with a G410 TKL keyboard, G303 mouse, and G430 headset, ASUS provided the Z170 motherboards, and iBUYPOWER did the system assembly (and provision of the Revolt 2).
It's been three years since we first visited the Cloud Imperium Games studios in Santa Monica, though we've conducted a dozen interviews with CIG CEO Chris Roberts in the time since. Now, taking a victory lap through Southern California's hardware manufacturers, we stopped over at CIG's offices for a second in-person visit.
A lot has changed. The studio, for one, is now in a new location that's farther from the Santa Monica beach, but in a larger space. The team has grown significantly in both organization and team size, and challenges faced, and Roberts has adjusted his interview technique just enough to ease off on providing release dates.
Our latest visit had us focusing on the new planetary procedural generation tech, version 2.0, the predecessor for which we originally detailed two full years ago. Roberts talked us through the start-to-finish plans for CitizenCon's presentations, additional Alpha 3.0 launch details, Star Marine, procedural generation, character tech, and engine refactoring in a forty-minute interview. We've split the interview into two parts, the second of which will go live on Monday (September 26). Our time spent in the office was doubled to accommodate a second interview with Technical Director Sean Tracy, responsible for answering our deeper hardware and software engineering questions. That content will go live next week, after the first two parts of the interview with Chris Roberts.
MSI and system integrator CyberPower are selling the new GT83VR Titan SLI notebook, which sells with K-SKU Intel CPUs and dual GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 GPUs. The move away from M-suffixed cards means that these GPUs are effectively identical to their desktop counterparts, with the exception of the GTX 1070's core increase and clock reduction.
That difference, just to quickly clear it away, results in 2048 CUDA cores on the notebook 1070 (vs. 1920 on the desktop) and a baseline clock-rate of 1645MHz on the notebook (1683MHz on the desktop). Despite talk about the 1060, 1070, and 1080 model notebooks, we haven't yet gotten into the SLI models for this generation.
Implementation of liquid coolers on GPUs makes far more sense than on the standard CPU. We've shown in testing that actual performance can improve as a result of a better cooling solution on a GPU, particularly when replacing weak blower fan or reference cooler configurations. With nVidia cards, Boost 3.0 dictates clock-rate based upon a few parameters, one of which is remedied with more efficient GPU cooling solutions. On the AMD side of things, our RX 480 Hybrid mod garnered some additional overclocking headroom (~50MHz), but primarily reduced noise output.
Clock-rate also stabilizes with better cooling solutions (and that includes well-designed air cooling), which helps sustain more consistent frametimes and tighten frame latency. We call these 1% and 0.1% lows, though that presentation of the data is still looking at frametimes at the 99th and 99.9th percentile.
The EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid has thus far had the most interesting cooling solution we've torn down on an AIO cooled GPU this generation, but Gigabyte's Xtreme Waterforce card threatens to take that title. In this review, we'll benchmark the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force card vs. the EVGA 1080 FTW Hybrid and MSI/Corsair 1080 Sea Hawk. Testing is focused on thermals and noise primarily, with FPS and overclocking thrown into the mix.
A quick thanks to viewer and reader Sean for loaning us this card, since Gigabyte doesn't respond to our sample requests.
Samsung's 900-series SSDs marked the arrival of VNAND (NAND Flash explained here), a new NAND type that expanded capacity vertically to theoretically drive down the cost per gigabyte metric. Today, the company officially announced its 960 series SSDs, including the Samsung 960 Pro and Samsung 960 EVO. Both devices modernize their architecture by supporting NVMe on their new VNAND-based SSDs.
We think NVMe is one of the next big standards, as the standard SATA interface has reached its cap with data transfer rates. Intel and Samsung have both made moves to build the NVMe market and achieve higher throughput than was possible on a SATA bus.
As we board planes for our impending trip to Southern California (office tours upcoming), we've just finalized the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force tear-down coverage. The Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force makes use of a similar cooling philosophy as the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW Hybrid, which we recently tore-down and reviewed vs. the Corsair Hydro GFX.
Gigabyte's using a closed-loop liquid cooler to deal with the heat generation on the GP104-400 GPU, but isn't taking the “hybrid” approach that its competitors have taken. There's no VRM/VRAM blower fan for this unit; instead, the power and memory components are cooled by an additional copper and aluminum heatsink, which are bridged by a heatpipe. That copper plate (mounted atop the VRAM) transfers its heat to the coldplate of what we believe to be a Cooler Master CLC, which then sinks everything for dissipation by the 120mm radiator.
Rosewill's Cullinan PC case is the company's most modern endeavor since the R5, and manages to get to the front of the case industry's current trends. It's a mid-tower with a PSU shroud and a full tempered glass side window, which is checking almost all the boxes created by NZXT's H440, In-Win's more expensive cases, and Corsair's 760T. The only 2016 trend missing from the Cullinan is a set of RGB LED fans, but they've still got blue LEDs.
We first saw the Rosewill Cullinan mid-tower at Computex 2016, but the case was impacted by shipping delays (and other internal delays) that pushed back its launch until now-ish. In theory, the ~$150 Cullinan will begin availability just before October, and should begin shipping to customers by the first week of October. That long lead-in to production has allowed competitors to enter the growing market of cases with tempered glass side panels, including Corsair with its brand new 460X, In Win with its 303, and Anidees with its identical AI Crystal ($150).
The Anidees AI Crystal and Rosewill Cullinan enclosures both boast 5mm thick tempered glass side windows and a 4mm thick tempered glass front panel. The enclosures target the front edge of a trend in the industry to adopt tempered glass on affordable cases (read: ~$100 to ~$200), replacing the cheaper acrylic that's found in almost all windowed panels. Rosewill and Anidees both use Chinese OEM designer Jonsbo, whom we believe to be a customer of case factory God Speed Casing. If that name's familiar, it's because God Speed Casing is the manufacturer used (and effectively grown) by NZXT; we've even toured their factories in China.