Gaming Features

In this sixth episode of Ask GN, we're addressing user concerns regarding the recent Star Citizen & Escapist engagement, the relevance of RAM speed and density, PCI-e lane differences (chipset vs. CPU), and 4K gaming bottlenecks.

Our thanks to the engaged fans who have continually, for six episodes, submitted high-quality, thought-provoking questions.

You can find the full Ask GN episode below:

Our most recent interview with Cloud Imperium Games' Chris Roberts became a two-parter, following an initial discussion on DirectX 12 and Vulkan APIs. Part two dives deeper into the render pipeline, network and render optimization, zoning, data organization, and other low-level topics relating to Star Citizen. A lot of that content strays from direct Star Citizen discussion, but covers the underlying framework and “behind-the-scenes” development operations.

Previous encounters with Roberts have seen us discussing the game's zoning & instancing plans in great depth; since then, the Roberts has brought-up the system numerous times, expressing similar excitement each time. It is clear to us that the zoning and instancing architecture have required a clever approach to problem solving, evidenced to us by a previous pre-interview conversation with the CIG CEO. In a pre-shoot talk, Roberts told us that he “loves engineering problems,” and had considered the instancing system to be one of the larger engineering challenges facing Star Citizen. The topic of instancing was again revisited in this sit-down, though at a lower, more technical level.

We were recently joined by Cloud Imperium Games' Chris Roberts, known best for space sim Star Citizen, to discuss DirectX 12, Vulkan (OpenGL Next), and game engine pipelines. This content has been split into two pieces: This content and the second video & article, which will discuss game engine architecture and engineering solutions to development problems. The second piece will go live on Friday this week.

A truncated video can be found below. The remainder of the discussion goes live alongside the Friday content. Note that, unlike most our previous interviews with Roberts, this was conducted over Skype – that means occasional connectivity problems and reduced overall video quality, but the content is still strong. Highlights are in the below editorial content.

Following its unreasonably high-resolution 4K teaser trailer, Noio & Licorice’s Kingdom made its debut US convention showing at PAX Prime 2015. Kingdom is a side-scrolling, two-dimensional, mono-height kingdom builder game that utilizes a single mechanic for all actions. Players use coins to motivate filthy peasants into building walls, towers, castles, and shops of various types.

We gave Kingdom a short go at PAX 2015, having liked fellow indie game Mekazoo, and paid close attention to the two-button minimalistic input.

PAX is a microcosm of the gaming industry: Fraught with chaos and ambition, but terribly fun to take part in. The indie scene is the center of that chaos and ambition; its developers are often more open and willing to share or provide insight, it’s just a matter of finding the games worth seeing.

Mekazoo was one of those.

Activision allowed two of their most credentialed employees to host a PAX ’15 panel on the role users play in game development. PhDs Justin Shacklette and Spencer Stirling spent nearly an hour explaining how the company is constantly, intelligently collecting data referred to as "Smart Data."

The relatively new (~4 years old) Game Science Division is a group of physicists and mathematicians who also happen to be talented programmers. Their goal is to collect and analyze data to find ways to make the games more fun. Using metrics to make products better is nothing new, and marketing teams are doing this in almost every business in the world; however, as far as Shacklette knew, only Activision and one other company (Riot) have been doing this to improve games instead of just sales.

Space games have made a bit of a dent in the industry lately. Between Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Rebel Galaxy, Dreadnought, and others, we’ve seen the industry trend shift toward a revisit to one of the oldest genres. Dreadnought takes a different approach from its space sim counterparts, focusing instead on more FPS-styled obliteration of opposing teams.

We’ve previewed Dreadnought twice now. The first time – PAX South – the game had little competition in the way of other on-site booths, easily ranking it among the best games at the show. We then saw Dreadnought at PAX East about six months ago, where we reported on team elimination gameplay (see: Counter-Strike in space) and remarked that the game had gotten steadily better. That trend hasn’t stopped. Our PAX 2015 hands-on with Dreadnought reveals more gameplay, customization mechanics, and monetization avenues.

1999. That’s the year. I spent most of our meeting with Atari and Nvizzio trying to remember when I last went deep with Roller Coaster Tycoon – more than a decade ago. Yikes.

RCT was the product of an era infatuated with city builders, civilization management, and RTS games. The industry ebbs in cycles of these almost-episodic fascinations – it’s MOBAs today, it was MMOs in the early-to-mid years of the century, and it was isometric builders in the late 90s.

Enough of that.

Today, we’re looking at Roller Coaster Tycoon World – which I’m truncating to RCTW, for the sake of these PAX-worn fingers – the series’ first PC release since 2004. RCTW continues the game’s iconic theme park construction, management, roller coaster design, and visitor torture, introducing a number of era-appropriate features along the way. The game is developed by Nvizzio, published by Atari, and is confirmed for a 4Q15 release at price-points undisclosed.

Almost a year ago, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequal didn't fare well here at GN. Editor-in-Chief Steve Burke and I both disliked the game quite intensely. From that perspective, my preliminary outlook on Battleborn was neutral. It's not the same franchise, sure, but the game's look and initial reveals bore some familiar smells. This was on top an animated teaser trailer that made the game look... very violent. Violence in games isn't something we're particularly shy of here, but that trailer was brutal.

Time to sit down and play.

“Keegan Dies” was the name of my custom-tuned, rogue-killing Zombie I built while playing Sword Coast Legends at PAX Prime 2015, named affectionately for the team’s video producer. Other monster types were considered – demons, giant spiders, and drow – but a zombie seemed a fitting start for the dungeon.

We haven’t looked at Sword Coast Legends since GDC 2015, where we were limited to a hands-off presentation of the game’s DM and player modes. Since then, developers n-space have improved tremendously upon the game’s user interface and overall presentation.

Sword Coast Legends is a new PC RPG rooted in Dungeons & Dragons ruleset, borrowing inspiration from the likes of Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. The game is slated for a September 29 release date on PC, Linux, and Mac. This Sword Coast Legends gameplay preview looks at the (mostly) finalized DM mode, the campaign tools, and hands-on impressions of the mechanics.

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