During the GTA V craze, we posted a texture resolution comparison that showcased the drastic change in game visuals from texture settings. The GTA content also revealed VRAM consumption and the effectively non-existent impact on framerates by the texture setting. The Witcher 3 has a similar “texture quality” setting in its game graphics options, something we briefly mentioned in our Witcher 3 GPU benchmark.

This Witcher 3 ($60) texture quality comparison shows screenshots with settings at Ultra, High, Normal, and Low using a 4K resolution. We also measured the maximum VRAM consumption for each setting in the game, hoping to determine whether VRAM-limited devices could benefit from dropping texture quality. Finally, in-game FPS was measured as a means to determine the “cost” of higher quality textures.

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.

Benchmarking the Witcher 3 proved to be more cumbersome than any game we've ever benchmarked. CD Projekt Red's game doesn't front the tremendously overwhelming assortment of options that GTA V does – all of which we tested, by the way – but it was still a time-consuming piece of software to analyze. This is largely due to optimization issues across the board, but we'll dive into that momentarily.

In this Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt PC benchmark, we compare the FPS of graphics cards at varied settings (1080p, 1440p, 4K) to uncover achievable framerates. Among others, we tested SLI GTX 980s, a Titan X, GTX 960s, last-gen cards, and AMD's R9 290X, 285, and 270X. Game settings were tweaked in methodology for the most fair comparison (below), but primarily checked for FPS at 1080p (ultra, medium, low), 1440p (ultra, medium), and 4K (ultra, medium).

That's a big matrix.

Let's get started.

Windward ($15) is Tasharen Entertainment’s ode to Sid Meier’s Pirates!, inspired following a Meier GDC panel encouraging developers to reuse the elements of a game that they liked; Tasharen did just that.

Windward’s RPG, MMO, and real-time strategy elements are all wrapped-up in the knots of a sailing game. Players sail the seas of a randomly-generated map, controlling a single, upgradeable ship from an overhead view. 

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.

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