Category Archives: New

Technology like Oculus Rift is a “yawn,” the acclaimed Titanic and Avatar director says.

Veteran film director James Cameron is not impressed with virtual reality technology like Oculus Rift. During a recent Wall Street Journal event in California, the Titanic and Avatar director said he doesn’t see the appeal of Oculus Rift, at least not yet.

“There seems to be a lot of excitement around something that, to me, is a yawn, frankly,” he said, as chronicled by The Hollywood Reporter. Cameron, like other high-profile entertainment figures before him, questions the broad appeal of Oculus Rift.

“If you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game, it’s been around forever” — James Cameron
“The question that always occurred to me is, when is it going to be mature, when is it going to be accepted by the public at large, when are people going to start authoring in VR, and what will that be?” Cameron said.

He also said that he has not yet seen a VR application that allows the user to do much more than look around a virtual world–video games have done this for long time now, he said.

“What will the level of interactivity with the user be other than just ‘I can stand and look around,’” he said, adding: “If you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game, it’s been around forever.”

Though he sounded pessimistic about Oculus Rift, he ended his thoughts by saying, “offhandedly” according to The Hollywood Reporter, that “Oculus Rift is fine. It’s good a good display and that sort of thing.”

Just this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose company paid $2 billion to acquire Oculus Rift creator Oculus VR earlier this year, said it could be “a bunch of years” before VR tech sees widespread adoption.

Founder reiterates that social networking site is making a “long-term bet” on where the future of computing is going.

Mark Zuckerberg, the man whose company paid $2 billion to acquire Oculus Rift developer Oculus VR earlier this year, wants to stress that it’s still early days for virtual reality as the next big computing platform.

“It needs to reach a very large scale–50 to 100 million units–before it will really be a very meaningful thing as a computing platform, so I do think it’s going to take a bunch of years to get there,” he said. “Maybe, I don’t know–it’s hard to predict exactly–but I don’t think it’s going to get to 50 or 100 million units in the next few years, right? That’ll take a few cycles of the device to get there.”

By comparison, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have sold around 80 million units each, while the Wii has moved more than 100 million units to date.

Once VR grows to this scale, the platform will become an interesting business opportunity with many avenues for growth through the ecosystem, he said.

During an earnings call this week, Zuckerberg made it clear that Facebook acquired Oculus VR based on the prospect of success in the long-run, not the short-term.

“As I’ve said before, with Oculus, we’re making a long-term bet on the future of computing,” Zuckerberg said, as reported by Gamasutra. “Every 10 to 15 years a new major computing platform arrives… Virtual reality and augmented reality are an important part of this platform.”

“It needs to reach a very large scale–50 to 100 million units–before it will really be a very meaningful thing as a computing platform” — Mark Zuckerberg
“Our efforts here will take longer to achieve their full impact, but we will prepare for the future by continuing to invest aggressively,” Zuckerberg said, also referring to Facebook’s plans for Internet.org. “It’s still early for Oculus.”

Also during the call, Zuckerberg said he is “really excited” about the potential for Oculus Rift on PC and on mobile, though partnerships such as Samsung’s Gear VR. However, he stressed that he doesn’t think VR will become a meaningful computing platform for “a bunch of years.”

“So when I’m talking about it as a 10-year thing, I’m talking about building the first set of devices, and then building the audience and the ecosystem around that, until it eventually becomes a business,” he explained.

Finally, Facebook CFO David Wehner said during the call that a significant portion of Facebook’s research and development efforts will be for Oculus Rift, though he did not provide any specifics.

Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey recently said that he envisions the first consumer version of Oculus Rift, which still does not have a release date or price, as something similar to the Ford Model T.

The Internet Arcade is a great history lesson.

You can now play over 900 classic arcade games for free in your browser thanks to the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that collects web pages, text, audio and other information that exists in digital formats.

Dig Dug, Galaga, and Golden Axe are just a fraction of the great, though admittedly ancient games you’ll find at the Internet Arcade.

They all make use of JSMESS, a program that emulates old computers like the Commodore 64, Atari 2600, and hundreds more in Javascript. This weekend, programmer Jason Scott revealed that he modified the program to support hundreds of arcade games.

“Of the roughly 900 arcade games (yes, nine hundred arcade games) up there, some are in pretty weird shape – vector games are an issue, scaling is broken for some, and some have control mechanisms that are just not going to translate to a keyboard or even a joypad,” Scott said. “But damn if so many are good enough. More than good enough. In the right browser, on a speedy machine, it almost feels perfect. The usual debates about the ‘realness’ of emulation come into play, but it works.”

Find any great gems? Let us know in the comments below.

CEO Brendan Iribe gives a vague timeline for when consumer model will arrive.

The Oculus Rift consumer model is now “months, not years” away from being released. That’s according to Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe, who said today during the Web Summit 2014 in Dublin that the latest version of the Crescent Bay headset is “largely finalized for a consumer product.”

As reported by The Next Web, Iribe acknowledged that he understands people are champing at the bit for the consumer model. “We’re all hungry for it to happen,” he said. “We’re getting very close. It’s months, not years away, but many months.”

“We’ve gone out there and set this bar and said, ‘We want to get it right,’” Iribe added. “We don’t want it to be four or five years. We’re eager for this to happen.”

“We don’t want it to be four or five years. We’re eager for this to happen” — Brendan Iribe
When the consumer version of Oculus Rift is released, you can expect it to sell for around $200-$400, according to previous comments from Oculus VR.

One of the major challenges that Oculus Rift still needs to overcome, Iribe said, comes down to creating a compelling input device. He explained that traditional keyboards, mice, and gamepads aren’t up to snuff, and the kind of gesture-based controls out there today aren’t either.

While we don’t know how Oculus VR will solve this issue, the company acquired Xbox 360 controller designer Carbon Design earlier this year. When the buyout was announced in June, Oculus VR said it had already been working with Carbon Design for more than a year on “multiple unannounced projects.”

Also during his talk, Iribe revealed that Oculus VR is now up to 200 employees following its $2 billion acquisition by social networking giant Facebook in March. And responding to a question about rival VR headsets, Iribe said he’s concerned that some companies might decide to ship devices before they overcome problems such as motion sickness.

“We’re a little worried about bigger companies putting out products that aren’t ready,” Iribe said. “Disorientation and motion sickness is the elephant in the room. We’re encouraging big companies not to put out a product before it’s ready.”

Sony is currently working on a virtual reality headset for PlayStation 4 called Project Morpheus. Sony has given no indication as to when it will be released, beyond confirming that it won’t be this year.

Case envy.

cases are, by and large, not the most attractive of objects. Sure, they now come in different shapes and sizes, and while black still dominates, look hard enough and you’ll find a few more esoteric colours to choose from. But, even some of the more appealing examples aren’t the sort of thing you’d put proudly on display in a home office, let alone have sat next to a TV in your living room. Enter the Bitfenix Pandora, an aluminium-clad Micro ATX and Mini-ITX case with a front-mounted LCD panel that eschews some the usual over-the-top gaming case touches for a design that’s more refined, and far friendlier for the living room.

A Sleek Design

The Pandora is all about curves. Its aluminium side panels sweep from the back of the case all the way through the front, partly enclosing a glossy, mesh-free black front panel. It makes for a sleek and thoroughly striking design, one that I’d be happy to have sat atop a desk, rather than hidden away underneath one. For all its sleekness, though, the Pandora isn’t a small case. Sure, it’s smaller than your average mid-tower, and–thanks to there being no 5 1/2″ drives bays–it’s much slimmer too at just 160mm in width, but there’s no doubt that you’ll have to make room a significant amount of room for one in a living room setup.

The Pandora’s size does mean there’s a lot of space for components, though. There’s support for MATX and M-ITX motherboards with up to five PCIe slots, GPUs up to 350mm in length, PSUs up to 180mm long, and up to a 240mm watercooling radiator on the front panel. Disappointingly, there’s only room up top for a single 120mm fan, which acts as the sole exhaust for the case. There are plenty of ventilation holes, though, which makes it easy to set the case up for positive air pressure. There are also removable dust filters on the front and top fans. The front magnetic filter is, unfortunately, rather flimsy and doesn’t feel all that secure, but the top filter is much studier and pops off with a push via a spring clip.

The top panel also houses two USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, power and rest switches, and a slot for a 3.5″ hard drive, with another slot located underneath the cable management box near the front of the case. The cable management box also doubles up as a 2.5″ drive mount, with space for another on the side of the side, and another on the back of the motherboard tray. That’s not a whole lot of room for drives, so those with more ambitious storage requirements will want to look elsewhere.

Unique to the Pandora is a front mounted LCD panel (which hooks up to an internal USB 2.0 header) that you can use to display images up to 240×320 pixels in size. It’s a neat feature, but the panel itself is of a poor quality, so unless you’re looking at it straight on, the image gets washed out. The software is also rather basic, so there’s no scope for more complex functions like temperature readouts or fans speeds, but Bitfenix is planning to release the display source code so more enterprising users can create their own software.

The Build

Thanks to the slim design of the Pandora, cable management is a bit of a struggle, but with a little work you can come up with a tidy layout that works well with the optional windowed side panel. The biggest problem lies with the CPU power cable. There’s only a small section in the rear of the case for running cables, and that’s only 15mm deep, meaning you have to run the CPU power cable across the front of the motherboard. There is a small space for tucking the cable away though, and with a little shoving it doesn’t look too bad.

The cable management box in the front of the case works well for hiding most of the other cables, but a modular PSU is a must if you don’t want them spilling out inside the case. A judicious use of cable ties is also a must in order to work with that small 15mm of space behind the motherboard tray; the side panels are held in via four push pins, and while this makes getting to the inside of the case relatively easy, they aren’t secure enough for you to be able to use the panel to squeeze bulky cables out of the way.

Still, building inside the Pandora is, for the most part, a standard affair, and certainly much easier than the likes of Bitfenix’s Prodigy M with its upside down PSU layout. One small annoyance, though, is the layout of the PCIe screws, which are tucked behind the aluminium side panel. To unscrew them easily Bitfenix supplies a right-angled allen key, which works fine, but will inevitably get lost within minutes of finishing your build, making it tricky to swap out PCIe cards in the future.

If you’re planning on using air-cooling for your CPU, then the Pandora’s width limits the height of cooler you can use to around 130mm. However, a watercooling unit like the Corsair H75 I used fits perfectly to the front of the case, and I’d recommend something similar given there’s not a whole lot of airflow being pushed through the case. You also need to keep an eye on GPU height. The XFX 290X I used is raised just above the PCIe express slot and fitted fine, but beefier cards that extend further may not fit.

Verdict

The Bitfenix Pandora isn’t quite a case of style over substance, but a few compromises have been made to achieve its slim design, and it isn’t the case to choosing if you’ve got a lot of large components to house. It’s also not the best choice for airflow, particularly given the Pandora is only supplied with two fans–you’ll need to factor in the cost of another to mount on the front panel to keep things cool. Watercooling is far better option, but with only the front panel available for mounting a radiator, and with limited space inside, you’re largely restricted to all-in-one units.

That said, if you can work through the compromises, the Pandora is a great looking case. The aluminium finish is top notch, and with a lack of visible vents on the front, it looks seriously sleek. With support for MATX motherboards, housing an SLI system is possible, but you’ll want to stick with blower-style cards to ensure things don’t get too toasty inside. At around $129 in the US and £95 in the UK, it’s not the most expensive of cases either. There’s also a version available without the gimmicky LCD display for around $110 in the US and £84 in the UK. Sure, you can get cases with more expandability and better cooling performance for the price, but few look anywhere near as good as the Pandora does.

The Reload Studios team talks to GameSpot about returning to the roots of Call of Duty, and making their next shooter game for Virtual Reality hardware.

Earlier this year a group of former Infinity Ward artists, producers, and developers formed Reload Studios. With a focus on virtual reality technology, the studio is working on a new shooter. To find out what would set the game apart from others in the genre and why VR is the next big thing in games, GameSpot spoke with James Chung (CEO and founder), Taehoon Oh (COO, co-founder), Pete Blumel (executive producer), and Chetan Bedi (lead game designer).

What is Reload Studios making?

Given the team’s background in developing first-person shooters, it made sense for Reload Studios to stay the genre it was most experienced in. “[It's] something that our team is known for,” Chung said. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Reload is working on a Call of Duty clone.

“We’re trying to make it visually different, so that it doesn’t feel like the old Call of Duty games but something that is more unique to us,” Chung explained. Reload plans to bring out an FPS focused solely on multiplayer mode, but according to the studio, the game’s integration with virtual reality hardware will be what sets it apart from others in the genre. The studio is building the game from scratch with VR platforms in mind, although a version that doesn’t require virtual reality hardware is also in the works.

“Our focus is on virtual reality because you can’t just port or make a non-virtual reality game and expect it to work. The games on VR have to be made from the ground up. So we are making a game from the ground up to make sure it will work on VR,” Chung said.

image credit: cnet.com
According to Chung, fans have been vocal in their want for “what Call of Duty used to be.” However, he noted that striking a balance between meeting the fans’ desire to return to the “roots” of Call of Duty and putting a VR spin on the FPS genre was not easy, primarily because of the challenge presented by the control scheme.

“Trying a shooter in VR is actually difficult because nobody has a solution on how to make the experience compelling, especially on the controls issue. A lot of people have a lot of points on what not to do, but not a lot of people are coming up with what to do. And that’s the side that we’re trying to resolve,” he said.

There are also the hardware limitations that are apparent with current VR technology. The current iteration of the Oculus Rift sits at 0.97lbs (439g). It may not sound like a lot, but accounting for a user’s potential inability to wear it for hours at a time is something Reload is designing its game around.

“We don’t expect initial VR devices to accommodate users to play for a very long time… we’re trying to come up with gameplay that is in short bursts. Obviously if the user chooses to play for a long time they can, but as far as gameplay is concerned we’re cutting things out or making sure the map size is for a shorter period of time instead of hours at a time.” Chung said.

This means a more compact map, resulting in what lead designer Chetan Bedi dubs, “arena-style multiplayer.” When comparisons to Quake or Destiny were drawn, Bedi responded that Reload’s game will be “smaller” and “more focused.”

“We’re not trying to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do things under the kitchen sink.’ We’re going to do a few things really, really well, and from there we’ll see where things go,” Bedi said.

How will players control the movement in the VR version?

Without standardized hardware for VR, the studio is working on a control scheme around a peripheral “that will probably look like a 360 controller.” Despite having familiar peripheral hardware to work with, the game may end up controlling rather differently due to its integration with VR.

“We’re not thinking you can just slap on a first-person control scheme onto your normal 360 controller and then move around. We’ve got to re-think the ways it controls when you’re using a regular 360 controller.” Bedi said

For Reload’s game, that means designing a control scheme that doesn’t require the user to look down at it to operate and start. The studio is confident that its solution to the problems presented by VR controls works, and that users will enjoy it once they get hands on with it.

“Those are the challenges we have but we’ve come a long way with them. Once you try it on you’ll see what we’re talking about and it’s actually pretty fun.”

That doesn’t mean all other hardware control schemes have been ruled out–quite the opposite. The studio is keeping an open mind about integrating its game with other peripherals. “If anything takes off then yes, we will definitely be designing for those from the ground up also,” Blumel said.

In some ways, VR technology can change the way movement in-game functions based on physical real-world limitations. For example, actions like turning very fast, sprinting, and constant jumping could translate in vastly different ways when input through VR hardware.

“As far as presence goes, we’re not too concerned about it from the visual side. Just being able to look 360 degrees – there’s huge immersiveness that [results] from that.” Chung said. “We’re not exactly trying to be too realistic about what we’re doing. We’re trying to have a lot more fun with the shooter genre and do something different… Our direction provides a lot of room to bend reality. We have a lot of room to work with that doesn’t tie us down to what shooters used to be in the past.”

Will there be cross-platform compatibility?

With the VR platform not yet hitting mainstream, Reload is keen to bring together players on all versions of the game. “Our goal is to have [the games] exist in the same ecosystem… we’re still early on in our development, so we’re preparing for all possibilities.” Chung said. All possibilities, including the Wii U?

“I would say, the short answer is yes. As far as our build is running, we’re making sure it’s covering as many platforms as possible. But will it actually ship there? That’s something we have to decide along the way,” he replied.

How do you develop a game that will allow players on VR and non-VR versions to play together?

“If you have VR in mind and then make the game from ground up that way, it’s a lot easier to go the other way around. Especially with the genre that we’re working on,” Chung said.

“The few games that are being made for VR from the ground up, [the developers] have a game that’s specifically focused on highlighting something in VR. Whereas we’re taking a very different approach where we’re making a game, where we’re looking at what aspects in VR we could take advantage of to really make the experience in VR a lot better. So the person who’s playing on the non-VR version, we’re not diminishing that experience in any way.” Blumel added.

For Reload, the project is less about showing off VR technology but more about integrating the technology with the game. Blumel said, “It’s not like this one thing or these few things are really cool in VR, and we’re going to make our game around these few cool things and make a game out of that. It’s more like we’re making this type of game, and what are the things in VR that we can draw upon to make that experience a lot more immersive and a lot more fun.”

When can we expect to see it?

“We’re planning on hitting our first playable build towards the end of the year,” Chung said. Post-release, he cited the experience gained from transition to making core games to social games inspired the approach that Reload would adopt. “Move quick, launch small, and keep building on top of it… we’re going to try and iterate as fast as we can” he said. The studio plans to launch the game’s Alpha next year, and is aiming for a full launch at the end of 2015.

[UPDATE] Epic Games confirms it’s not involved with the game, but says the developer used the Unreal Engine 4 logo without permission.

[UPDATE 3] GOG has released a statement on Hatred. Read it here.

[UPDATE 2] Epic Games, the owner of video game development engine Unreal Engine 4, issued a statement today to GameSpot on Hatred’s use of the technology.

“Epic Games isn’t involved in this project. Unreal Engine 4 is available to the general public for use ‘for any lawful purpose,’ and we explicitly don’t exert any sort of creative control or censorship over projects. However, the video is using the trademarked Unreal Engine 4 logo without permission from Epic, and we’ve asked for the removal of our logo from all marketing associated with this product.”

[UPDATE 1] A representative for Destructive Creations has responded to GameSpot’s request for comment regarding Hatred. The studio confirmed that it does indeed plan to release the game, and would like to launch on Steam or GOG, if they allow it.

“Yes, we really plan to release this game publicly and for PC only,” the studio said. “We’re too small [a] team to develop it on any other platform at the moment. We really wish to release [a] digital version through Steam and GoG, but actually we have no idea if they will let us to do this, because of all the sh**storm the game is delivering. :) We really would like to find a publisher for retail version also, but it might be hard for the same reason.”

The original story is below.

Polish developer Destructive Creations has released the first gameplay trailer for Hatred, an isometric shooter where you play a cold-blooded killer on a mass-shooting spree.

The above trailer is beyond brutal, showing the antagonist (the character you play) moving through the outskirts of New York State, killing all manner of people–including law enforcement–seemingly at random and with excessive force. The game runs on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4.

You’ll gather equipment from your fallen enemies to “spread Armageddon” across society. Destructive Creations warns, “Just don’t try this at home and don’t take it too seriously, it’s just a game. :)”

Why would you want to play a game like Hatred? Destructive Creations has an answer for that, too. “These days, when a lot of games are heading to be polite, colorful, politically correct, and trying to be some kind of higher art, rather than just an entertainment–we wanted to create something against trends,” the studio said.

Hatred aims to be “something different,” and a game that gives players “pure, gaming pleasure,” Destructive Creations said. The game “takes no prisoners and makes no excuses,” the studio explains, adding that it doesn’t plan to shy away from the fact that this is a game about killing people.

We have reached out to Destructive Creations, asking for more details about Hatred, such as if they actually plan to release the game, what platforms we can expect it on, and if they will release the game on their own or through a distributor like Steam or GOG.

The release of Hatred’s gameplay trailer today has inspired much discussion on Twitter. We’ve rounded up some tweets about the game, and you can see them below.

President calls on FCC to prevent ISPs from blocking or throttling Internet access.


United States president Barack Obama on Monday spoke out about the importance of an open Internet, calling on the Federal Communications Commission to keep net neutrality intact. He has urged the government agency to not allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block or throttle access to the Internet, which he says is “essential to the American economy.”

“There should be no gatekeepers between you and your favorite online sites and services,” a statement posted to the White House press site reads.

“And as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers new rules for how to safeguard competition and user choice, we cannot take that principle of net neutrality for granted,” it added. “Ensuring a free and open Internet is the only way we can preserve the Internet’s power to connect our world.”

Net neutrality has been a hotly debated topic, and it could have ties to gaming as more and more games become online-centric. All Internet traffic should be treated equally, net neutrality supporters say. Meanwhile, advocates for a different set of rules suggest that a “toll road” system should be implemented for companies with high traffic requirements.

As GameSpot sister site CNET notes, this has led to concerns that ISPs could intentionally diminish bandwidth speeds for some while offering better connections for others.

Under the terms of a new plan, Obama has asked the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a utility, because for most Americans “the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication.”

“We cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas,” he added.

Obama’s plan would have some “clear, monitored” exceptions for specialized services such as Internet access at hospitals, the president said.

The FCC is an independent agency, with the power to make decisions on its own. It’s unclear when the group will announce its new set of rules, though CNET reports that it might not be until 2015.

“My temper and tendency to use twitter to vent has been a consistent problem,” says former Code Avarice co-owner.

The developer who threatened to kill Gabe Newell on Twitter has resigned from his position at Code Avarice and may not return to games again.

Mike Maulbeck has sold his half of the company to another employee, and has given up all his rights and ownership of the studio’s intellectual properties, meaning he has likely closed off all routes of income from the studio.

The sudden departure comes days after Valve removed Code Avarice’s latest game, Paranautical Activity, from Steam in response to Maulbeck’s death threat.

On Monday, moments after Paranautical Activity was published on Steam, Maulbeck aired his outrage that the company had mistakenly listed it as an “Early Access” game, as opposed to a finished title.

On Twitter, Maulbeck wrote, in all caps: “ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME STEAM?”

He added: “First they force me to delay the game because I can’t release on weekends, now this. Steam is the most incompetent piece of f***ing s***.”

Before concluding: “I am going to kill Gabe Newell. He is going to die.”

Consequently, Valve removed the game from Steam and a representative for the corporation has said all ties with Code Avarice have been cut.

Maulbeck has since apologised for his actions. In a notice of his resignation, posted on the Code Avarice website, he wrote:

“Yesterday, Paranautical Activity released out of steam Early Access, and following some confusion about the state of the game I became frustrated with Steam, and tweeted a series of angry tweets that ended in me sarcastically saying I was going to kill Gabe Newell. A statement I obviously didn’t mean but was regardless completely unacceptable.

“As a result of my actions, Paranautical Activity, a game made by 4 or 5 people depending on who you count as team members, was removed from Steam. I feel is it my responsibility to step down from Code Avarice completely so that Steam has no reason to harbour any more ill-will towards the company, and maybe even if we can’t see Paranautical Activity restored, at least future Code Avarice games may be allowed onto the platform.”

Maulbeck blamed his temperament for the consequences his colleagues now face.

“I’m really, deeply sorry that my short sighted, hot-tempered actions resulted in not only my own dreams and aspirations being destroyed, but those of the entire team I worked with. I’m sorry that my statements made Valve and/or Gabe uncomfortable and upset (rightfully so).

“My temper and tendency to use twitter to vent has been a consistent problem since I entered the games industry, and I just can’t do it. I don’t have the willpower necessary to be the ‘face’ of a company. If I do continue to work in games it’ll be as an anonymous 1 of 1000 at some shitty corporation, not the most public figure of a single digit sized team.

“I’m out,” he added.

News On old and New game

I admit, I’m something of a sucker for small PCs with lots of power. A couple of years ago, I wanted to see how just how much computer I could cram into a mini-ITX case, kitting it out with goodies like an Intel i7 2700K CPU, 16GB of 1866 MHz RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 680 GPU. But two years is a long time in the tech world, and Intel has since unleashed three new generations of processors–Ivy Bridge, Haswell, and Broadwell–while Nvidia brought out its 900-series of GPUs, complete with a brand new architecture in the form of Maxwell. Naturally, I was curious to see what a difference two years makes, both in terms of raw performance, and just how small I could reasonably go with the build.

Thankfully, not only has the tech moved on considerably, but so has the fashion in PC cases. Bigger is no longer necessarily better thanks to a far larger choice of Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX cases. You could argue Bitfenix’s Mini-ITX Prodigy case led the way here (outside of the original Shuttle PCs), being one of the few M-ITX cases on the market that let you use full-size graphics cards, power supplies, and watercooling systems. Other manufacturers followed suit, and now pretty much every major case-maker has an M-ITX or mATX model in its lineup. And with smaller cases comes greater choice in smaller motherboards, and PSUs, and all manner of power-efficient kit geared towards those building a smaller PC.

Even Intel’s most powerful consumer CPU of them all, the recently released Haswell-E, doesn’t demand the space of a full tower case, or the power of a 1000W Watt PSU.

X99 and Haswell-E

Yes, Haswell-E, the newest addition to Intel’s “enthusiast” range, quite comfortably works in small cases, thanks to a few motherboard makers creating mATX-sized boards for it. And really, if money is no object, then Haswell-E is the chip to buy. It might be physically larger in size than its regular Maxwell siblings (including the overclocking focused Devil’s Canyon lineup), requiring an all-new motherboard socket in the form of 2011-3, and lacking an integrated GPU, but its specs are undeniably impressive.

The top end 3.0Ghz 5960X chip I’m using for my build features eight cores with hyperthreading (Ivy Bridge-E topped out at six), a huge 20MB of cache, and support for up to 40 PCI Express lanes. That’s particularly useful for those wanting to run triple, quad, or 4-Way SLI or Crossfire setups. Depending on your chosen motherboard, it means that four individual GPUs could run at 8X speeds. Any left over PCIe lanes can be used with all-new M.2 SSDs, which connect to the system via PCIe, opening up the potential for even faster speeds than possible over SATA.

Of course, the 5960X doesn’t come cheap. At $1000 it’s by far the most expensive chip in Intel’s consumer range, with only the workstation-focused Xeons topping it. That said, there are a few cheaper alternatives in the Haswell-E range. The $589 5930K ditches two of the cores, but keeps the 40 PCIe lanes, while the 5820K drops down to $389. That chip is something of a bargain if you’re not planning on running more than two GPUs in your system, but getting the rest of the system up and running is still an expensive prospect.

For starters, you need a new motherboard, even if you’re moving up from the previous generation Ivy Bridge-E. Given the target market, most of the X99 boards are geared towards overlockers, featuring high quality voltage regulation modules and circuit designs, and thus don’t come cheap. Part of the reason for the move to an entirely new socket is the sheer number of new features that come as part of Haswell-E. Quad-channel DDR4 RAM is standard across every board, the core benefits being higher bandwidth (DDR4 starts at 2600Hmz), and reduced voltage requirements of 1.2v at expense of latency. Like most new tech, DDR4 is expensive, and there are currently only a handful of manufacturers making kits. The RAM I’m using for my build–16GB of Corsair’s Vengeance LPX 2800MHz DDR4 RAM–costs $384, which represents a substantial mark up from DDR3.

Elsewhere there’s support for the aforementioned M.2 SSDs and SATA Express (which also lets you use PCIe SSDs). Not every board supports all these features, though. Case in point, EVGA’s none-more-black X99 Micro. At the moment, only EVGA and ASRock are making mATX X99 motherboards, and both have made sacrifices in order to shrink the chipset down to a smaller size. Neither feature more than four RAM slots, and neither feature more than three PCIe slots (realistically, only two of those can be used at once with dual-slot GPUs), meaning there’s less use for all those PCIe lanes. Disappointingly, the EVGA board doesn’t feature SATA Express either, and its M.2 slot makes use of the smaller Type 2230 (30mm) slot, which no high-capacity M.2 SSDs currently use.

That said, despite those omissions, the $250 EVGA X99 Micro is a great motherboard, with high quality VRMs and caps used throughout. It’s also far less offensive than the ASRock boards, which only come in bright blue, or an eye-searing red. That might well float your boat, but for me, the black color scheme of the EVGA board makes for a far classier look.

SLI Fun Times

The X99 Micro also makes for quite the potent performer, particularly when paired with some suitably powerful GPUs. The obvious choice here are Nvidia’s $500 GTX 980 GPUs, which are currently the fastest on the market, and also far more power efficient than anything from AMD. That’s important in a small case, where there’s less space to dissipate heat, and where a bigger power supply might not an option. If you wanted to save a few bucks, you could go with the similarly impressive GTX 970s, but then, if you’re planning on going Haswell-E, money isn’t likely to be too much of an issue.

Speaking of which, one GPU simply isn’t going to cut it in a system like this, and if you’re planning on playing above 30fps at 1440p or 4K resolutions, then an SLI or Crossfire setup is needed. Going mATX means you can’t go with more than two GPUs (EVGA claims you can do three-way SLI on the X99 Micro, but you’d need to use slim watercooling blocks to do so), but that’s still plenty of poke for games, particularly when coupled with the Haswell-E CPU and faster DDR4 RAM.

Trying to find a case that can comfortably accommodate two full-length GPUs like the GTX 980s, along with the PSU to power them, immediately restricts your options somewhat–and if you want one that’s easy to build in with good airflow, you’ve got even less choice. However, Corsair’s Air 240 fits the bill on all accounts. There’s just enough room for the X99 Micro and two GTX 980s, while the dual chamber design that separates the hard drives and PSU from the other components means there’s plenty of good airflow, and enough space for a proper PSU; the design also makes cable management an absolute dream.

The case also sports enough space to fit a dual 120mm radiator. Intel recommends using a watercooling setup if you’re planning any sort of overclocking, and certainly, during benchmarking, I noticed Haswell-E runs noticeably toastier than its cheaper cousins, with temperatures pushing 70 degrees under load with only a moderate boost in voltage. Corsair’s H100i fits the bill nicely, offering up some of the best cooling performance for an all-in-one system, while its thin profile means a push/pull fan configuration is possible, even with long GPUs like the GTX 980s.

For power, I went with Corsair’s HX750i, which is platinum rated, and puts out 750 watts of power. Now, that might not seem like enough for an overclocked system with two GPUs, but power efficiency has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and as I discovered, it’s more than enough to power the system: during regular desktop use, the PSU’s fan doesn’t even spin up. For storage I settled on two of Crucial’s MX550 SSDs hooked up in RAID 0, which should make up for the lack of a suitably sized M.2 SSD, and boast even faster performance. Completing the look are white sleeved PSU cables, along with some of Corsair’s SP120 white LED fans.

The total cost is an eye-watering $3714.77, which is a lot of money, but actually quite reasonable when compared to the cost of pre-build X99 systems from boutique manufacturers like Origin and Digital Storm.

The Build

Thankfully, putting the system together was mostly a pleasant experience, thanks in part to the Air 240, which was more than roomy enough to work inside, despite its small footprint. However, using an mATX board does mean you have to make a few compromises with cooling, particularly if you use a H100i or similar watercooling system too. With a mATX board in place, none of the fan mounts on the bottom of the case are useable, while the radiator and hoses of the H100i block the front two on the top of the case. That limits you to using just a single exhaust 120mm exhaust fan on the top of the case, which is fine if you’re using blower-style GPUs that exhaust air out of the case anyway.

However, if you’re planning on using GPUs that exhaust into the case, that might not enough to keep things from getting too toasty inside. You could potentially reverse the airflow in such a situation, having all the hot air exhaust out over the H100i from the front of the case. You could also make use of the two 80mm fan mounts on the back of the case, but 80mm fans are notoriously loud and inefficient, so are best avoided if possible.

A couple of other issues that cropped up included the placement of the USB 3.0 header on the motherboard, which is placed right underneath the second GPU, making it unusable without a low-profile adaptor. I also had trouble with the power cables for the GPUs, which had to be bent back significantly in order to slide the side of the case back on. Only GPUs that conform the standard PCIe card height will fit, meaning taller cards like ASUS’s GTX 980 Strix or XFX’s Double Dissipation models can’t be used.

Overclocking and Performance Benchmarks

As you’d expect, Haswell-E chips all come fully unlocked, allowing you to overclock them as far as your cooling system and PSU will allow. Faster RAM does make things trickier than they should be, though. If you’re using RAM rated at anything over 2666MHz with EVGA’s board, you need to adjust the base clock in order to get it running at its rated or overlocked speed. The X.M.P. profiles of the Corsair RAM did this automatically, and left us with a very stable system, but you may want to go ahead and do things manually if you’re planning a substantial overclock.

Blackmagic Speed Test showed impressive results for the system’s RAID 0 setup.

Cinebench is great for testing multithreaded workloads, with the score of 1726 reflecting the CPU’s impressive core count.
For my system, I went with a 125MHz base clock, which makes use of the base strap ratio to keep things like the PCIe bus running at the stock 100MHz. Combined with the 2200MHz RAM multiplier, this gave us a RAM speed of 2750MHz, just shy of its rated speed of 2800MHz. I did experiment with pushing the RAM up to 3000MHz using the 2666MHz multiplier, but even with a voltage boost to 1.35v, the system was never quite stable.

As for the CPU, things were a little easier. Using a multiplier of 35 gave the CPU a boost clock speed of 4.37Ghz, a nice bump over the stock boost of 3.5Ghz. Surprisingly, it only needed 1.18mv to run stably at that speed. Under load, that resulted in core temperatures of around 65 degrees, which isn’t too bad at all considering the size of the case. Power wise, even overclocked and with both GPUs going full pelt, the system only pulled 580 watts, which dropped to around 190 watts at idle.

Taxing the system proved to be a challenge; suffice to say, anything less than 4K just isn’t worth bothering with. At 1080p the system flew threw every game we threw at it, posting over 100fps in each game with all settings maxed out. Even at 1440p, the system had no problems delivering frame rates well above 60. Only at 4K did the system begin to struggle, but even there the results were impressive. Even if you don’t have a 4K screen, Nvidia’s Dynamic Super Resolution technology mean you can render games at 4K, and then downscale them to 1080p for increased sharpness. The results are impressive, and largely remove the need to use anti-aliasing, which improves performance.

Game Settings Average FPS
Bioshock Infinite 4K DSR, Ultra, No AA 109
Tomb Raider 4K DSR, Ultra, FXAA, TressFX 46
Metro Last Light 4X SSAA, Ultra, Ultra Tessellation 55
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag DSR 4K, Ultra, HBAO+, Ultra, God Rays, No AA 59
Watch Dogs DSR 4K. High Textures, Ultra, HBAO+, No AA 52
Battlefield 4 DSR 4K, Ultra, HBAO, No AA 80
Crysis 3 DSR 4K, Ultra, No AA 38
Verdict

But are these results impressive enough to warrant spending nearly $4000 on a gaming system? Certainly, you could get similar performance with a Devil’s Canyon i5 or i7 and a pair of GTX 970s, which would bring the cost down considerably. The truth of the matter is that Intel’s 5960X isn’t the best choice for gaming: there’s simply no game that takes advantage of that many cores, with the higher clock speeds of Devil’s Canyon having far more of an impact. And, as we discovered in our review, the GTX 970′s performance is nearly as good as that of the GTX 980, but costs half as much.

The real kicker here is that Intel’s X99 platforms and Haswell-E CPUs push poor old AMD even further down the performance pipeline–and the company isn’t catching up anytime soon. Yes, this is system is overkill for the vast majority of people, and even those who have the need for 16 overclocked threads on the desktop may find it hard to justify a $1000 CPU. But being sensible isn’t what Haswell-E is about.

You might not ever tap into all its power, and you certainly won’t max it out while playing games at anything less than 4K. No, Haswell-E and Nvidia’s GTX 980 is like many of the finer things in life: expensive, exclusive, and oh-so lust worthy. Its bleeding edge tech will eventually trickle down into cheaper products, but for now, if you want the absolute best in computing, Intel’s Haswell-E is it.

January

 

Players gain instant access to all unlockable content available in the game (excluding downloadable content);
The Accelerator is available now for a suggested price of $1.99.
2K Showcase: One More Match

Story focused on the rivalry between WWE Superstars Randy Orton® and Christian® in 2011;
Playable WWE Superstars (2011 versions): Christian, Randy Orton, Edge®, Mark Henry® and Sheamus®;
Playable arenas from 2011: SmackDown®, Extreme Rules®, Over the Limit® and Capitol Punishment®;
2K Showcase: One More Match will be available in early 2015 for a suggested price of $9.99.
2K Showcase: Hall of Pain

Story focused on top matches for WWE Superstar Mark Henry;
Playable WWE Superstars (2011 versions): Mark Henry, Big Show®, Kane®, Jey Uso®, Jimmy Uso®, Sheamus, The Great Khali®, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan® and Ryback®;
Playable arenas: SmackDown (2011), Vengeance® (2011) and WrestleMania® 29;
2K Showcase: Hall of Pain will be available in early 2015 for a suggested price of $9.99.
2K Showcase: Path of the Warrior

Story focused on the career of WWE Hall of Famer Ultimate Warrior;
Playable WWE Hall of Famers: Ultimate Warrior (1989-1996), Hulk Hogan (1990), Andre the Giant (1988) and Sgt. Slaughter (1991);
Playable WWE Legends: Honky Tonk Man (1988), Rick Rude (1990), Macho King (1991) and Colonel Mustafa (1991);
Playable WWE Superstars: Undertaker® (1991) and Hunter Hearst Helmsley® (1996);
Access to WWE Hall of Fame ring announcer Howard Finkel and WWE managers Jimmy Hart, Bobby Heenan, Paul Bearer, Sherri, Sid Justice and General Adnan;
Playable arenas: WrestleMania VI, VII and XII; SummerSlam® (1988, 1990 and 1991); Saturday Night’s Main Event® XXIV and Madison Square Garden®;
2K Showcase: Path of the Warrior will be available in early 2015 for a suggested price of $9.99.
NXT Arrival

Playable Former WWE Champion and Monday Night Raw® announcer: JBL®;
Playable NXT Superstars: Adam Rose™ and The Ascension™ (Konnor™ and Viktor™);
Playable NXT Diva: Emma™;
NXT Arrival will be available in early 2015 for a suggested price of $6.99.
New Moves Pack

Moves Pack: More than 30 new moves, including an alternate version of Sister Abigail (performed from the ring corner and made popular by Bray Wyatt®) and Multiple Gut Wrenches (made popular by Cesaro®);
The New Moves Pack will be available in early 2015 for a suggested price of $3.99.
About the WWE 2K15 Season Pass Program

In addition to the offerings above, players may purchase select WWE 2K15 downloadable content at a reduced price point through the game’s Season Pass program. For a one-time cost of $24.99, a savings of more than 20 percent versus individual content purchases, players will receive the following items as they become available:

Access to exclusive playable WWE Diva Paige™;
Access to the Accelerator;
Access to all three 2K Showcase stories (One More Match, Hall of Pain and Path of the Warrior).The WCW pack adds five new wrasslers in Bam Bam Bigelow, Diamond Dallas Page, Fit Finlay, Lord Steven Regal and Lex Luger. The new screenshots show of each of these characters, as well as a few shots of other new WWE superstars added to the game such as two Hulk Hogan variants and two Sting variants. These characters were only previously available to players that pre-ordered the game, or bought the Hulkamania edition. These packs both retail for $2.99. Finally, there’s a new screenshot of Paige, who can be earned if you buy the game’s Season Pass for $24.99. Head on down below to check out all of the new WWE 2K15 action! You can also find the detailed notes on all of the planned DLC.The company would later clarified that the Sting and Hogan packs are the same as the preorder bonuses for the videogame. So the only really new stuff in the update are Paige and the WCW pack. Moreover, it seems like the Hulk Hogan pack received a delay of a week in Europe and Australia for the PlayStation 4 version of WWE 2K15:

Last but not least, 2K also confirmed that they are still working on the Showcases. These campaigns take “a bit more” work compared to the other DLC types:

For the uninformed, the new Showcases will let you play through campaigns based on Mark Henry, The Ultimate Warrior and the rivalry between Christian and Randy Orton. You can buy a bundle for these campaigns with the season pass, which also contains the above-mentioned Paige as an exclusive playable character.

WWE 2K15 is now available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles after launching in October for last-gen and November for current-gen. You can purchase the game and/or the season pass with Amazon: WWE 2K15 and WWE 2K15 Showcase Season Pass.

If one thing about Brock Lesnar is certain, it’s that the former UFC heavyweight champion and current WWE champion is his own man.
That point was strongly re-iterated last week, when the man who won the coveted UFC heavyweight title in his fourth professional fight was announced as a surprise inclusion in EA Sports UFC’s Legends DLC pack.
Lesnar, whose career achievements include defeating the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania and headlining the two most-watched UFC PPVs of all time, left MMA in 2011 to return to professional wrestling following two straight knockout defeats and a lengthy struggle with diverticulitis.
His inclusion in EA Sports UFC is particularly surprising considering he’s currently under contract to WWE, a company who are notorious for keeping their performers on a tight leash. Not only that, but he also featured heavily in the WWE 2K15 video game, released last month by 2K Sports – one of EA Sports’ greatest rivals.
With the Beast Incarnate’s appearance in EA Sports UFC prompting speculation about a possible return to MMA in 2015, it’s also afforded us with a unique opportunity to compare his character model in both games.

While Lesnar looks impressive and as imposing as ever in both games, EA Sports UFC’s superior lighting ultimately gives it the edge for us. That said, while Brock was much lighter in his MMA run than his appearances in WWE – due to weight class restrictions as well as his battle with illness – we can’t help but feel his EA model may look a little too lean. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
It would seem then that Yukes and Visual Concepts focused on gameplay in terms of the in-ring experience, and, for the most part, the results are quite good. The new collar-and-elbow tie-up system flows nicely, though I would prefer that it only happens once or twice instead of 3 times, and the UI really gets in the way of the animations, but it is an otherwise-welcome addition to the series. Matches have a slower buildup, giving big or important matches a better sense of drama. The momentum and stamina mechanics work together in an interesting way but don’t quite fit together as well as they should. Moves build up more momentum (getting you to a finishing move) while quickly draining stamina, while a measured pace (and lots of taunts), keeps you well-rested, but also opens you up to more reversals of minor moves.

Reversals are still the key to WWE 2K15, and they are one of many “gamey” mechanics that pull you out of the match and remind you that you are playing a game instead of watching a match on TV. The reversal windows on default settings are way too large, and it seems like once a person learns the proper timing on reversals, it’s possible to trigger one every time, which throws the balance out of whack. I’m honestly not sure how to fix this, as wrestling itself relies on reversals to shift the momentum of the match, but the reliability of the system actually works against the game, rather than for it. The fact that you can’t reverse a reversal hurts as well, and actually serves to suppress aggression as both players wait for an opportunity to counter and take control of a match.

The submission and pin mechanics are also accompanied by garish UI elements that feel out of place in such a naturalistic game, and I got the sense that the development team should think about reversing these two. Submissions are handled with rapid button presses and pins a timing-based hold-and-release system, but the timing on escaping a pin can be inconsistent, and the time that it takes to orient yourself to the meter (especially if you haven’t been pinned in a while) can cost you a match in a way that feels unfair.

The submission system is similarly inscrutable, as a circular meter pops up on the screen whenever a submission is started, but the game doesn’t make it apparent that both parties in the submission should be rapidly pressing X/A in order to lock in/escape the hold, so the first couple of times you submit someone end rapidly without much feedback. Once you understand submissions, however, they feel imbalanced compared to the rest of the game, as a wrestler will be unable to hold off a basic submission after only a few minutes if that specific body-part is targeted consistently. I fashioned my most recent MyCareer wrestler as a submissions expert, and my matches end much faster than an older version of the wrestler that had more of a traditional moveset.

There are other little weird minigames that pop up so infrequently as to be jarring and strange each time. The “comeback moment” QTE happens so suddenly and without explanation that new players of the series have no idea what’s going on, and the assorted minigames for ladder and cage matches are similarly awkward.

Despite all of these small issues, the matches WWE 2K15 presents flow properly and feel pretty good, for the post part. I wonder how long-term online play will fare with the reversal windows and latency issues, but the results can be similar to what airs every week on TV.
GAME MODES

Unfortunately, the feature-set that was so extensive in the prior 2 iterations of the last-generation doesn’t quite make the cut here. Last year’s “30 Years of Wrestlemania” mode is replaced by a 2K Showcase mode that opens well. Each of the matchups available here are bookended by slick WWE-style video packages that set the stage for the action to come. The commentary for each match has specific lines for it (unlike the generally-awful commentary of regular matches), and little touches like the Chicago crowd booing John Cena ferociously as he faces hometown guy CM Punk are welcome. However, the actual matches rely on the same scripted style as past editions of the game, and for some of the more overbooked matches, it borders on ridiculous. When you spend quite a bit of a match building up to a finisher, only to have the game take over and reverse that finisher, forcing you to start all over, it’s frustrating and feels as though the game is more concerned with recreating all of the major beats of a match instead of making reliving them fun and interesting. The vague objectives (damage Triple H…ohhhkayy?) don’t help alleviate these issues, either.

More concerning, of course, is the dearth of content available here. Out of the box you get 2 2K Showcases: one highlighting the tremendous CM Punk-John Cena “Pipe Bomb” Feud of just a couple of years ago and an older, classic feud between Triple H and Shawn Michaels. These are well-done and offer a couple of hours gameplay each, but the scarcity of them is disconcerting. If, for some reason you don’t have a particular affinity for one or both of these feuds, there’s literally no reason to play the mode. They don’t exactly excel on the gameplay front, so it’s only the real diehards that will exhaust what this mode has to offer. There are 3 Showcases coming between now and the end of April, but only one of those (the Ultimate Warrior) feels really compelling, and each is paid DLC.

The hope for 2K Sports is that users dig into the brand-new MyCareer mode, and, again, first impressions are good. Sure, your silent and personality-less protagonist evokes 2K career modes of yesteryear, but considering how much of a douche the player character in NBA 2K15 is, it’s not unwelcomed silence. The mode takes you through the WWE Performance Center, and coach Bill DeMott does his best to train you. It may usually be just by screaming at you that you don’t want it enough, but perhaps that’s just his style.

Regardless, eventually you’re whisked away to NXT, and this is where the problems slowly start to creep in. You’re instantly pushed to the moon, being granted a #1 contender’s match after only a couple of weeks in NXT, which means you haven’t had a chance to build up your character’s stats to a sufficient level, and the game doesn’t quite recognize this, throwing you quickly into matches against guys who build up momentum much faster and lose stamina much slower than you, making it feel like the game is actively working against you. Still, a moderately-skilled player should be able to justify the shotgun approach, and you have a short stint in NXT before shuttling off to Superstars, and slowly up the ladder until you win the heavyweight title, at which point the mode ends. Seriously. MyCareer doesn’t make an effort to put you into storylines, doesn’t give you any rivals to face, and never really gives you a chance to put your mark on the WWE. You’re not a character as much as a robot destined to burst onto the scene, win the title, and leave just as quickly. The WWE is about long, involved rivalries that evolve over time. MyCareer doesn’t replicate any of that.

OVERALL

WWE 2K15 feels like the first entry of a series’ release on a new console, but games that don’t come out at launch don’t get the same benefit of the doubt as those that do. It’s hard to recommend WWE 2K15 to any but the most ardent wrestling fans, but those who have the patience and imagination required to eschew the game’s scripted modes and build their own fantasy federation will find a reasonable facsimile of professional wrestling, despite the oft-horrible UI and shoehorned minigames. However, it’s time for 2K to decide what they want to do with WWE 2K15. As currently constructed, it doesn’t fit with their other sports offering, which looks and feels like a recreation of NBA basketball (with robust and realistic modes to boot), but it will take a serious commitment for WWE 2K to get where it needs to be.