Gaming Features

Not one recent triple-A PC title has launched without its share of crashing, flickering, mouse acceleration / smoothing, or other issues. In our time benchmarking the Witcher 3's PC performance, we encountered a couple of resolvable issues pertaining to the game's stability.

On April 25, Valve revealed to the public a collaborative effort with Bethesda and a handful of selected modders, aiming to bring monetized mods for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to the Steam Workshop. The concept was received with brutally negative feedback from the community and, less than a week after the release of the system, Valve and Bethesda decided to shut it all down.

When the issue was still hot and the outcome unclear, I made two albums regarding the quality of these mods. You can check them out on imgur here and here. We have rehosted just a few of the dozens of images.

It’s easy to see where Valve is coming from with the original concept: The company solely exists with thanks to mods. The GoldSrc engine was not the first to provide modding capabilities, but it stands as a significant milestone in the existence of this intensive and appreciated gaming niche. It was on GoldSrc that we saw the first cases of free community mods transcending their amateur roots and evolving into full-fledged, professional games. The list is long, but some of the best-known PC games are rooted in this background: Counter-Strike was a Half-Life mod, Team Fortress Classic was a Quake mod remade in the GoldSrc Engine (itself a Quake engine mod) then in Source, Dota was a Warcraft 3 map, Killing Floor was an Unreal Tournament mutator, and the list goes on. With the recent explosion of free-to-play titles with monetized User Generated Content, like Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, and – to some extent – CS:GO, it’s no wonder Valve decided to give Skyrim a shot of the same business model.

“There's a lot of focus on VR right now – a lot of people are pouring money and passion into it,” Epic Games' Chance Ivey told us in an interview, “it's getting rooted into the mainstream.”

Our last major virtual reality piece focused on the history of the technology, highlighting the profound advancement of this decade's sub-$1000 consumer-ready devices. VR has long faced location-based and monetary challenges, with original equipment costs ranking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not more, in some military applications – and consuming entire rooms for setup. As Valve rolls-out its impressive full-room VR experience and as Oculus nears the launch of the Rift, developers face a slew of unseen (to the gamer) challenges of integration.

If nothing else, we’ve learned one very critical item when working with Chris Roberts: Film everything. With most of our interview subjects, we go through a brief “pre-interview” process that provides a synopsis of the forthcoming questions and builds comfort between the presenter, the subject, and the camera. Every time we’ve done that with Roberts, we’ve accidentally dived into the actual content of the interview – I’m then forced to interrupt the CIG CEO and turn our cameras on.

This time, we did it differently.

“Just – just set the camera up right when we start talking and hit ‘record,’” I told Keegan Gallick, our camera operator and video editor. “Chris immediately starts talking about usable content items.”

This past week has been non-stop GTA V content, starting with GPU benchmarking and concluding with an unfathomable experience with phone support services.

Following publication of our investigative report that outed inexplicably poor call center performance, Rockstar reached-out to us with redoubled efforts to resolve uprooted support concerns. Yesterday's feature piece primarily highlighted a hangup policy – support agents claimed a “requirement” to hang-up on phone-in customers immediately after reading from a script. This occurred upon calling for status updates on tickets, which were consistently met with the same response:

Our most recent investigative consumer report set forth a goal to evaluate Rockstar Games' customer service phone and email support. The company has been under fire lately resultant of hacked GTA V social accounts, whereupon users have lost access to their GTA accounts (a $60 purchase) – and their ability to play the game – and have been placed on indefinite hold for a resolution. In the case of one reader who reached-out to us, we were informed that Rockstar customer support “hung up” on the reader, an action that we viewed as inexcusable if true.

We set forth in search of that truth. Our recorded calls (and this story) can be found below.

Following our GTA V benchmark from yesterday, we decided to embark on a mission to determine the impact of texture qualities on system performance and visual acuity. We took screenshots of identical objects at Very High, High, and Normal texture resolutions at 4K, then compared the textures in combined screenshots. During this process, maximum theoretical VRAM consumption and texture quality impact on FPS and tearing were also analyzed, resulting in a specific settings benchmark for GTA V.

The launch of GTA V ($60) saw the publication of our video card benchmark earlier today, which looked at the performance of various configurations playing the new open world game. In the process of testing video cards – and while speaking with others who've attempted to play GTA V – we found several bugs and crashes that require attention.

The game is better-optimized than most day-1 PC titles, something for which Rockstar deserves credit, but still falls short for a few users. This article looks at GTA V crash fixes, black screens, frame stutter / drops, and lag and offers some work-arounds and solutions.

Epic Games on Level Design Psychology

By Published April 10, 2015 at 8:30 am

The East Coast Game Conference often feels like the “Epic Games Conference.” The show is indisputably dominated by local heavyweight Epic Games of Unreal fame, leveraging its home-field advantage to offer paneled insights on the game development process.

In hot pursuit of Bioware's humbling keynote on storytelling and narrative, we attended an Epic Games panel on the topic of Unreal Tournament's symbiotic, community-based development endeavors. The panel was headed-up by Senior Designer Jim Brown, an industry veteran who agreed to an on-camera discussion pertaining to oft-untold level design tactics.

The term “MMORPG” did not always exist in the games industry; something had to catalyze the word's origin, and as legend tells it, that catalyst was the team behind Ultima Online. Renowned game designer Richard Garriott and his team at Origin Systems – the industry's most successful PC games company of its era – contributed substantially to the modern world of role-playing games. Had Garriott not instituted his vision of fantasy role-playing games in the form of Akalabeth and Ultima, there's no doubt that RPGs could have “grown up” vastly differently.

Page 1 of 9