Early Switch OS Videos

The internet has provided us with an early look of the operating system on the Nintendo Switch and it looks much better than anything Nintendo has provided us with previously.

I recently spent about two hours inside a Game Stop trying to do a system transfer from one 3DS to another, which failed the first two times and worked the third for no apparent reason. Unless the Switch literally kicked you in the crotch it couldn’t be worse.

The Switch will be out on March 3rd.

Robots In The Wild

Games with pieces in them similar to tetrominoes aren’t usually my thing. I like them stacked up at a similar height until they’re removed. Wacky tetrominoes that don’t clear lines or have wacky physics applied to them are even worse. You think you’re better than Alexey Pajitnov? Nah, keep trying.

Robots In The Wild, from Heatbox Games, is a kind of spin on Rampart’s strategy. Instead of overhead castle building, you’re playing the side-game. Building up structures out of tetrominoes to survive and fight back. Different combinations of tetrominoes turn into energy robots, or laser shooting robots, or lanterns for night missions, and so on. Keep the heart of your base alive for multiple nights and you’re on to the next planet with a new twist.

The whole intro sequence involves the menu talking. A talking menu. Like Talkie the Toaster but without the aggravation.

I’ve played a bit of it, and enjoyed what I’ve played so far, but not enough to give it a full review yet. It’s one of the few games that aren’t Tetris and uses those tetrominoes well.

Robots In The Wild is in Steam‘s Early Access program now for a tenner on Windows and macOS.

PS4 Pro Boost Mode

When Sony’s upgraded Playstation 4 Pro shipped it only offered performance improvements for games that were updated to support it. That’s a manual process that costs money (in wages) on the part of the developer to support. Not every game is going to get an update. It’s an impossible task for games that have had their development teams disbanded, or small studios that don’t have time to go back and retest and resubmit their updates to Sony.

An upcoming firmware update (4.50) is to resolve this issue, partially. Boost mode will offer enhanced performance for all older games. With the caveat that there is no guarantee they will support it.

Richard Leadbetter has thoroughly tested the new mode for Eurogamer:

In short, boost mode will work best in stabilising performance closer to target frame-rates and should prove interesting on unlocked titles, but you can’t expect game-changing miracles. Games like Destiny that stick doggedly to their 30fps cap will see no improvement, and titles certainly won’t break their performance limits and suddenly run at 60fps. However, there are plenty of games out there that glitch badly or run nowhere near their theoretical limits. In this scenario, boost mode could be revelatory.

Enhanced performance isn’t everything, and I’d be surprised if Sony didn’t eventually blacklist games that don’t work well with the boost, but this is huge news for anyone that bought a Pro and a disappointment for anyone that bought the regular Playstation 4 before this functionality was announced.

Into The Breach Announced

The FTL developers, Subset Games, are working on a single player turn-based-strategy game that looks a bit like Advance Wars. Into The Breach has no release date yet, but it will be out (not simultaneously) on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Here’s their description:

The remnants of human civilization are threatened by gigantic creatures breeding beneath the earth. You must control powerful mechs from the future to hold off this alien threat. Each attempt to save the world presents a new randomly generated challenge in this turn-based strategy game.

I’m pretty disappointed that Nintendo hasn’t announced a new Advance Wars, but I’m willing to bet that Subset has a good spin on it.

Steam Has Over 3000 Linux Games

Liam Dawe:

Steam has hit another milestone for Linux games. We now have over 3,000 Linux games to fill our time with. The exact count for me right now is 3,008!

An impressive number of games with Linux support. I wonder how many are native ports versus Windows pretendulation.

My search comes up with 3164 for Linux and 13433 total games on Steam.

Goodbye Greenlight, Hello Direct

Valve is replacing Steam Greenlight. Alden Kroll:

The next step in these improvements is to establish a new direct sign-up system for developers to put their games on Steam. This new path, which we’re calling “Steam Direct,” is targeted for Spring 2017 and will replace Steam Greenlight. We will ask new developers to complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account. Once set up, developers will pay a recoupable application fee for each new title they wish to distribute, which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline.

While we have invested heavily in our content pipeline and personalized store, we’re still debating the publishing fee for Steam Direct. We talked to several developers and studios about an appropriate fee, and they gave us a range of responses from as low as $100 to as high as $5,000. There are pros and cons at either end of the spectrum, so we’d like to gather more feedback before settling on a number.

Steam Direct sounds like Valve is moving a little bit closer to the free-for-all of itch, which is good but $5000 is a bit much. They should have had the dollar amount straight before going live with this.

Valve are also still making money off of software that encourages rape. That shit needs to go.

How will this work for free games? They wouldn’t recoup a fee unless it can be done after a certain number of downloads.

Reddit & 4Chan Meet Discord

Bryan Menegus:

Some of these servers, especially the Discord chat spun out of 4chan’s far-right stomping ground /pol/, use their room to coordinate “raids” on other servers with ease and impunity. Trolls acquire invite links to other servers and post them in a room called “Raids” (formerly “Raids Defense”), encouraging the chat’s 1000+ members to descend en masse on vulnerable or unsuspecting communities, bringing with them a tidal wave of abuse. Other servers have rooms for doxxing—the posting of personally identifying information like addresses and phone numbers of victims. Such behavior is a clear violation of Discord’s Terms of Service, though it seems those rules cannot be presently enforced.

I recently started a Discord server (an odd term for a set of chat rooms and and not an actual physical or virtual piece of hardware) for the ioquake3 and iodoom3 communities, to see if that would help those communities stay current with gaming culture. Those communities have been fortunate enough to not be harassed via Discord, yet, but they have been targeted in the past by people from Reddit and 4Chan.

Reddit and 4Chan have been responsible for allowing hate groups to form for years, and only removing hate groups when it becomes fiscally irresponsible to continue hosting them. It sounds like Discord has the same problem. The leaders of these businesses don’t value responsible community management, and aren’t punished for it unless users and communities leave.

Building a 386 with Modern Parts

It’s been a long time since I thought about putting together a 386. PhilsComputerLab has clearly been putting some work into the process. In the video above he’s got some wack-a-doo modern dinguses (dingii?) to emulate storage drives hooked up to this ancient hardware and amazing old sound hardware. That Roland MT-32 must have been expensive.

I am Irrationally Excited for Ace Combat 7

Let’s be honest. Ace Combat Assault Horizon was awful. Ace Combat is best when it is a goofy self-serious exploration of flying silly jets in the sky and menus that have cyberpunk military noises and briefing voiceover guy telling you about Oscetia’s latest invasion along with the inevitable pretend surprise at whatever the latest gigantic airship is that you have to shoot down. Also there is usually a ground base that you can literally fly your jet fighter through to blow up. Assault Horizon had almost none of this and felt like it was trying to be more like a Call of Duty spinoff than an actual Ace Combat.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown looks like a return to the ridiculous Ace Combats of yore, and for that I am excited for when it comes out later this year on Steam for Windows and various consoles.

Windows 10 Game Mode Doesn’t Sound Very Effective

Rock Paper Shotgun’s Alec Meer interviewed Microsoft’s Kevin Gammill about the upcoming Game Mode in Windows 10:

Kevin Gammill: With the Creator’s Update and Game Mode right now, we’re primarily focused on biasing the game versus the rest of the operating system, from a GPU and CPU perspective. So for some of the other system resources, we can get into a roadmap discussion on the next call, but really right now Game Mode is about biasing the game from a GPU perspective so it gets more of the cycles if it’s in the foreground, and from a CPU perspective both biasing to get more CPU cycles as well as avoiding what I’ll call thread contention for the game.

At any time a user can call up the Game Bar and enable Game Mode for any title or game they would like. That’s kind of option one. And then at the same time we will have what we call kind of an approved list or whitelist of games that we feel super-comfortable about and we want to enable out of the gate.

Kind of the way I look at it is that any increase is a benefit, without question. Even it’s as low as, say, a 2% increase in framerate, if you’re running a hundred frames per second, I will take those extra two frames per second without question.

This is a strategy for getting gamers to switch to Windows 10 and use the built-in game bar overlay for a possible 2% increase in framerate, or a slightly more stable framerate overall. A framerate increase at all is very unlikely, because driver developers at Nvidia and AMD are already very focused on that. I wish the interview addressed the system rebooting in the middle of a game for updates, because that is a real problem for people playing games on Windows today.