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  • PC News

    by Published on August 23rd, 2012 13:25
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    ZOTAC International has refreshed the ZBOX nano with AMD Radeon HD 7340 graphics processing capabilities.
    The latest ZBOX boosts graphics and CPU processing capabilities while maintaining energy efficiency to create a palm-sized home theatre PC capable of high-definition video playback and lightning-fast system responsiveness.
    “Our ZOTAC ZBOX nano series is a user favourite as it enables full-fledged PCs in all rooms and locations. The palm-sized form factor is extremely flexible and with the new AMD E2-1800 APU, we are able to deliver more performance and additional connectivity in the ZOTAC ZBOX nano with AMD Radeon HD 7340 graphics while maintaining the same footprint,” said Carsten Berger, marketing director, ZOTAC International.
    New to the ZOTAC ZBOX nano with AMD Radeon HD 7340 graphics are high-amperage USB 2.0 ports capable of charging devices that require more power for quicker charges.
    A pair of front-mounted USB 2.0 ports provides easy connectivity to portable devices with the ZOTAC ZBOX nano with AMD Radeon HD 7340 graphics while supplying up to 1.5-amps of high-amperage power for easy plug and play charge and syncing with the latest smartphones and tablets.

    by Published on August 23rd, 2012 00:42
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    Archos has had its hand in the slate game since the early days of"internet media tablets," and while its products don't have quite the same brand recognition as, say, Samsung's, we've found the French company's devices to be some of the best-value tablets available. Budget-minded prices and innovation don't usually go hand in hand, but in the case of its new 101 XS Android 4.0 tablet, Archos has a few tricks up its sleeve. The slate boasts a keyboard cover and kickstand, along with a magnetic hinge allowing the lid to attach to the display. Arriving in November for $400, the Archos 101 XS is a productivity-minded take on slates, complete with a full set of keys and a bundled copy of OfficeSuite Pro. Do the hardware and software add up to a killer combo? Read on to find out.

    by Published on August 22nd, 2012 23:11
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    You know you've messed up big time when someone related to the development of one of the first graphical interfaces for computers thinks you've messed up. Usability expert Raluca Budiu has shared the common conclusion for many about Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8; it's definitely not as user-friendly as past versions. Quoting: 'The advantage of the overlaid menu is that it preserves context. Cognitively, there’s more of a burden when you have to switch context twice (desktop->start screen; start screen -> desktop). There are reasons to force users to switch contexts, especially in the tablet or phone environment, where screen real-estate is a lot more expensive and a menu is forced to use only part of the (already-small) screen. In that situation, a separate page makes better use of the small screen space. There are fewer reasons for a separate page on a desktop – the start menu is a cheaper interaction than the start page.'"

    by Published on August 22nd, 2012 23:09
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    The future of PC gaming is oft-debated, but one thing's for certain: modding has always made it better. With that, wouldn't it make sense for developers to focus more on giving the community the modding tools it needs? Further, couldn't publishers look to modding as a way to increase revenue, by allowing modders to sell their sanctioned creations? Valve already offers robust community options in its Steam platform — and already has payment processing in place. Is this the natural next step for PC gaming?"

    by Published on August 22nd, 2012 22:53
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    Microsoft recently caused quite a stir in the industry when it unveiled its Surface tablet. Much of the media rushed to make comparisons with Apple’s dominant device, the iPad, while others speculated on a possible rivalry between Microsoft and its various partners.
    In fact, according to Microsoft’s director of partner strategy and programmes, Janet Gibbons, the device is intended to be a showcase of the very best that Windows 8 can offer.
    “We announced it just to put the design point out there and to show what’s possible,” Gibbons told PCR. “It really opens up the opportunity for people to think differently about PCs and what PCs have to look like.”
    GfK’s business group director, Carl West notes that this policy of using a single showcase device to excite the market is one that could pay off.
    “As a proof of concept I think it’s a good move,” said West. “I think it’s an opportunity for other vendors to see and test the reaction of the markets based on what Microsoft has done.”
    Meanwhile, Ronan de Renesse, principal analyst at Analysys Mason’s research division, dismisses the idea that Microsoft would be creating rivalries with its other vendor partners.
    “It’s about showcasing Windows 8 rather than really being competitive in the tablet market against its partners. I think that when you look at other PC markets, if Microsoft lost those partners in other markets there could be a detrimental impact for it. Even though it’s quite comfortably settled in those markets, there’s still some risk.”
    Regardless of whether or not it will create rivalries, the fact is that the tablet market is now too big to ignore. Figures from Analysys Mason predict that the market for tablet and e-reader devices will grow to see 140m units sold in 2017 compared to 33.5 million this year.
    This trend is reflected in GfK’s sales figures, which track volume going through indirect channels.
    “Just looking at the year to date in volume terms, this market has doubled,” explains West. “We only look at retail sales, which account for around 55 per cent of the tablet market and around 85 per cent of the notebook market, but we still see that tablets outstrip notebooks in sales volume. It is a major form factor. It’s already overtaken both notebooks and netbooks combined. Mobility is tablets.”
    These figures are corroborated by Entatech’s commercial group vice president Jon Atherton, who has recorded strong growth in the tablet category: “There’s been a massive growth spurt over the last couple of years, obviously mainly due to the iPad. I think the Microsoft Surface product will be unique and a real contender against the iPad.”
    With all this predicted growth, de Renesse feels that there’s room for Microsoft to make its mark: “Apple’s got around 90 per cent market share, it’s really in the lead here so there’s definitely room for a second player in the market. I think that with the Surface, Microsoft is showing that it’s really after a share of that market and I think it has good chances.
    “If it delivers on the promises, if it delivers on the OS and the price point is correct then they will sell.”
    So what is it that makes the Surface so important? Well, the fact is that the tablet category is no longer complementary to traditional PC usage models – it is supplanting them. Businesses have been aware of the process that has been termed ‘consumerisation’ and ‘Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)’ for some time, and it is increasingly a concept that ties in with the Connected Home.
    “I don’t think the desktop is dead yet, but there’s definitely a bit of cannibalisation coming from tablets. I think the tablet primarily is a home companion device, so the use of the tablet is either in the home or the office,” observes de Renesse. “It’s very nomadic, so the connectivity aspect in terms of being connected all the time like a mobile phone is not as important.”
    This idea of having a device that essentially moves between two networks supports consumer models of the connected home – a concept that has become increasingly popular.
    “The connected home is reality,” states West. “It’s very much a reality at this stage. Networking infrastructure in the home is growing, consumption devices like tablets are growing and the whole concept of the connected home is a viable industry now. If you go in to any retailer at the moment, you’ll see an increase in these products.”
    So it is with these developments in mind that we must view Microsoft’s recent changes in strategy. It has shifted its Office software to a subscription-based pricing model, brought out a new tablet and is moving towards selling software via an App store – all these are paradigm changes for the software giant.
    “Steve Ballmer has stated that this is a going to be a new era for Microsoft and for our partners,” said Gibbons.
    “The reason we say that is because, if you’ll remember, Windows 95 really pulled home computing into the mainstream and we feel that 2012 is going to be another year like that.”
    It has reason to believe so. By the end of this year we’ll have seen ...
    by Published on August 22nd, 2012 22:21
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    Ubisoft believes that just one in ten PC gamers buy their games legally whilst the rest obtain them illegally for free.
    The publisher has been working on growing its share in the resurging PC market and considering the figures, believes that free-to-play is the only way to generate revenue from its titles moving forward.
    Ubisoft's CEO Yves Guillemot made the comments at this year's Gamescom event, which attracted over 275,000 attendee's and 600 games firms from around the world.
    Speaking to news site GamesIndustry International, Guillemot said: "We want to develop the PC market quite a lot and F2P is really the way to do it."
    "It's a way to get closer to your customers, to make sure you have a revenue. On PC it's only around five to seven per cent of the players who pay for F2P, but normally on PC it's only about five to seven per cent who pay anyway, the rest is pirated. It's around a 93-95 per cent piracy rate, so it ends up at about the same percentage. The revenue we get from the people who play is more long term, so we can continue to bring content," the CEO continued.
    It follows the news that fellow publisher Crytek - who has also struggled with piracy issues recently - announced that all of its future releases would be free-to-play.
    There is no doubt that with piracy levels sitting at 95%, piracy is a key issue within the games industry and one that is being tackled from a number of different angles by developers and publishers, whether it is advanced piracy-protection technology or - as Guillemot believes - adopting the F2P model for future releases.

    by Published on August 21st, 2012 22:36
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    Microsoft has never really acknowledged or supported those among us who choose to build their own PCs. Windows licensing is usually offered in three forms: full retail product license, retail upgrade license, and OEM license. If you want to build your own machine at the moment, Microsoft expects you to buy a full retail copy of Windows. With Windows 8 that all changes and Microsoft has decided to actively support individuals who want to build their own machines or run Windows 8 as a virtual machine. That support comes in the form of a new license option called the Personal Use License for System Builder (PULSB). With PULSB, Microsoft is dumping the full retail license used in previous versions. Instead it is offering a version of Windows 8 to be installed as the main operating system on a single system meant for personal use, or in a virtual machine running on an existing PC (running any legal OS such as Windows 7, Mac OS X, or your favorite flavor of Linux).

    by Published on August 20th, 2012 22:32
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    Command & Conquer Generals 2 will launch without any form of single-player campaign, Bioware Victory general manager John Van Caneghem has revealed.
    Going against the grain, the game will instead fully focus on "co-operative and competitive" skirmishes online, Van Caneghem told our colleagues at PC Gamer.Van Caneghem reasoned the decision as part of an effort to "get back to the roots of what made Command & Conquer great."
    the online-only, free-to-play title provides the developer with the opportunity to be more experimental, explained Van Caneghem.
    "As a live service I think the exciting part is you can try things," he said. "You can see what the community wants, you can give it a shot, you can put it up for a weekend and see how it goes, develop towards what the fans like."
    And while he didn't rule out the possibility that a single-player campaign could be added at a later date, he did say that "it is something we haven't announced yet how we're going to do it."
    EA's confirmed just last week that Command & Conquer Generals 2 had been transformed in to a free-to-play title set for release in 2013.
    Originally announced in December 2011 by new studio BioWare Victory, the new C&C is powered by the Frostbite 2 engine and has started closed beta sign up atwww.CommandandConquer.com/free.

    by Published on August 20th, 2012 22:24
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    Blizzard admitted the lack of endgame content in Diablo 3, and its answer to this issue is the new 'Paragon System'.
    "The new Paragon system coming in patch 1.0.4 is designed to address Magic Find gear-swapping while providing players who've reached level 60 with an extended progression system," says the developer.Here's how it all works, in Blizzard's words:

    • After you hit level 60, any further experience you earn from killing monsters will begin to count toward Paragon levels
    • There are 100 Paragon levels
    • Every Paragon level will reward you with:- Core stats such as Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Vitality in amounts similar to what you'd gain from a normal level
      - 3% Magic Find and 3% Gold Find
    • In addition, a distinctive increasingly-impressive border will surround your character portrait in the in-game party frame to denote your Paragon progression, with a new frame earned after every ten levels. Your Paragon level will also be visible to other players wherever your normal level is shown

    "The first Paragon level should take about as long as it took most players to get from level 59 to 60, and the experience requirement will rise from there," Blizzard goes on to explain, so that should give you plenty to be getting on with.If you're interested in reading the thinking behind the update with a more detailed account of Blizzard's creative process, check out the official blog post.
    Blizzard says full patch notes and a release announcement for patch 1.0.4 is coming "in the days ahead".

    by Published on August 20th, 2012 18:47
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    Version 1.5 includes improved overlapping UV support, games shaders and Maya texture exporter

    The latest version of 3D digital paint tool Mari is being harnessed by LucasArts to help power the impressive visuals seen in its hotly anticipated title Star Wars 1313.
    The new update, Mari 1.5, has a array of new features including improved overlapping UV support, games shaders, a Maya texture export feature, shadow support and DDS Cubemap support.

    DDS Cubemap support has been designed to allow artists to match the final look of real time assets, whilst mirroring support in Mari’s paint buffer has been integrated so users can take control of symmetrical objects at any stage of development.
    LucasArts has adopted Mari 1.5 in production as one of its texturing tools to deal with the vast number of textures within the game environment.
    “Integrating Mari at LucasArts for Star Wars 1313 helped us work a lot more efficiently and contributed to making the game visually stunning,” said LucasArts visual effects supervisor Kim Libreri.