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    Oculus Medium Sculpting Demo with DC Comics

    Another surprise for us at Comic-Con was running into the team at Oculus, demoing their Touch controllers and the Oculus Medium sculpting tool at the DC Comics booth. We chat with Medium's project lead about how it's changed, and learn how artists are beta testing it in their creative workflows.

    Hands-On with Rick and Morty VR

    We play the first demo of Rick and Morty VR, a roomscale virtual reality game made by Owlchemy Labs and Adult Swim. Here are our impressions, along with a chat with Owlchemy's Alex Schwartz about narrative VR game design, comedy script writing, and VR puzzles.

    Tested: Radeon RX480 Video Card Review

    Going for second place seems like a weird business strategy, but the RX480 GPU fits in with AMD's CPU strategy of trying hard to stay in second place in a race where only two major players exist.

    It's also a smart strategy, at least on the GPU end. Make the most of what you have, and go for the mass market. The potential volume for $200 graphics cards dwarfs that of cards like the GTX 1070, which costs about twice as much.

    So can a $240 graphics card deliver performance necessary for modern DX12 gaming? Let's take a look at the numbers – first, the GPU specs, then performance.

    By the Numbers

    Nvidia's GTX 970 looks to be AMD's main target for the RX480 when it comes to performance. So let's take a look at the specs of the two GPUs side-by-side (chart below).

    Nvidia shader ALU (called CUDA cores by the company), and AMD's shader cores (which AMD refers to as stream processors) differ architecturally, so you can't really compare performance based on the number of ALUs. The clock frequency for the RX480 disappoints a little – I'd expect more from 14nm FinFET logic. The good news lies with the die size. At 230mm2, AMD likely has some pricing flexibility.

    I also appreciate the fact that AMD finally dumped the DVI port. Owners of older displays may be disappointed, but it's really time to move beyond DVI to a more modern interface. An owner of a DVI-only monitor will need to buy an adapter, however, unless they're willing to replace said monitor.

    Beyond the raw specs, AMD offers several interesting features which Nvidia can't quite match. The Polaris GPU includes native support for FP16 (16-bit floating point, aka half-precision), which can be useful in certain types of GPU compute applications, but unlikely to factor in much with games. Nvidia's Pascal converts FP16 to FP32, then uses that converted format, which reduces FP16 performance a bit.

    The geometry engine includes features supporting small, instanced objects, such as an index cache. That will help games which uses instancing, mostly real-time or turn-based strategy games which might throw hundreds of similar objects onto the screen.

    Punished Props' Foam Viking Axe Build

    Tested contributor Bill Doran (Punished Props) worked with Frank Ippolito to build this giant viking axe for Ubisoft's For Honor E3 booth. In this video, Bill, shows how he made the axe using the techniques he teaches in his great Foamsmith book. Check it out!

    Making Historical Fantasy Cosplay Armor for E3

    For this year's E3, our very own Frank Ippolito was charged with fabricating three cosplay costumes for Ubisoft's upcoming game For Honor. The three costumes of wildly different historically inspired characters with varying armor, helmets, and weapons, which require a wide range of materials and build processes. We stop by Frank's shop ahead of E3 to learn about these builds!

    Tested: eVGA GeForce GTX 1070 Video Card

    I'd crown the new GTX 1070 as the new God-Emperor of gaming GPUs, except that this card really the baby sister to the GTX 1080, which offers even better performance. On the other hand, eVGA's GeForce GTX 1070 SC costs $439 -- $10 shy of Nvidia's own "Founder's Edition" -- while delivering clock frequencies roughly 6% higher than the reference clocks. Audible noise levels seem slightly lower as well.

    While I ran the usual set of benchmarks on the card, I've been living with with eVGA's GTX 1070 in my main system for nearly a week, running games on my 3440 x 1440 pixel Dell U3415w display. Subjectively, I could tell little difference between this card and the GTX 1080 Founder's Edition I'd been running. I did have to dial back ambient occlusion a bit in Tom Clancy's The Division. Doom, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, XCOM2, and several VR titles on the HTC Vive all seemed to run with excellent frame rates on gorgeously high settings.

    So What's a GTX 1070?

    Take a part that starts out life as a potential GTX 1080 GPU, disable one graphics processing cluster, and voila! You now have a GTX 1070 chip. Each graphics processing cluster consists of 5 graphics compute cores (which Nivdia dubs "streaming multiprocessors" or SMs for short). Let's break down the differences with the reference design -- er, Founder's Edition –in the table below.

    The GTX 1070 uses less exotic GDDR5 memory, clocking said memory at a pretty serious 4GHz – faster than the 7gbps memory used in previous generations. So the GTX 1070 includes fewer shader cores, slightly lower clock frequencies, slower memory, and should cost roughly $300 less.

    Nvidia suggests some 3rd party cards will be priced as low as $379, though all currently available 1070 cards seem to cost more than $400. Availability remains tight, but a cards from MSI and Gigabyte seem to be available. Supply will no doubt catch up with demand after several months.

    Hands-On with Raw Data's New Multiplayer VR Demo

    We visit the offices of Survios, a VR game company making a sci-fi multiplayer shooter for the HTC Vive and Oculus Touch. The new demo of Raw Data includes teleportation for moving around the map, hero classes, and special powers. We chat with Survios' Chief Creative Officer about some of their VR design ideas.

    Hands-On with Manus VR Virtual Reality Gloves

    Seeing your hands and arms in virtual reality is going to be a big deal, but there's no perfect solution yet for accurate and robust hand presence. That's what Manus VR is trying to achieve with its VR gloves, which we test at this year's E3. We learn how the gloves work and how it integrates with HTC Vive and Steam VR.

    Oculus Touch Hands-On and Interview at E3 2016

    We stop by the Oculus booth at E3 2016 to get hands-on time with Oculus Touch games, including Wilson's Heart and The Unspoken. Here's some of that gameplay, our impressions on those demos, and our hopes for hand presence in virtual reality. Plus, a chat with Palmer Luckey and Nate Mitchell about the Oculus Rift's launch, game exclusivity, and what's coming next.

    Hands-On with Razer OSVR HDK 2 Virtual Reality Headset

    We're at E3 this week checking out new virtual reality games and hardware. First up is Razer's new OSVR Hacker Development Kit 2. We learn about its display and lens system, how Razer is making this more of a consumer device, and get a hands-on demo. Here's why we're hopeful but cautious about this $400 headset.

    Just the Essentials: Sony’s E3 2016 Announcements

    Sony capped off a day of E3 press conferences with a surprisingly short event. They had a fairly decent showing in terms of overall software, but only showed a few VR game trailers.

    For the PlayStation faithful there was a strong line-up of exclusives including God of War with Kratos now as a Viking, another great looking Horizon Zero Dawn demo, Crash Bandicoot remastered, and an exclusive Spider-Man game made by Insomniac Games.

    The PlayStation VR segment was brief, especially when compared to previous showings, and was devoid of any context for the trailers shown. Resident Evil 7, which looks more like Silent Hills rather than any of the previous games in the RE series, will be completely playable in VR. You'll have to wait until January 24th, 2017 to crap your pants to that one though.

    Farpoint, a PS VR exclusive from Impulse Gear, is a first person shooter that takes place on an alien world. The game is meant to be played with the new Aim Controller, which is a vaguely gun shaped accessory with the Move controller bits built in. Sony claims it will provide one to one tracking accuracy. But you wouldn't know that if you had watched the press conference because they didn't talk about it or show the game being played.

    And those two games were the only seemingly full length titles shown during the briefing. Criterion Games, famous for the Burnout series, is making a VR X-Wing expansion for Battlefront. The trailer was really cool! But it's going to be only one mission.

    What You Should Know: Microsoft’s E3 2016 Announcements

    The annual E3 video game conference is underway, and Microsoft showed up in a big way. They announced not one, but two new consoles. All of the first party titles showed off will be cross-buy on Xbox and Windows 10. And more features coming to Xbox expands it from a console service to a platform.

    Old hardware gets a facelift

    Microsoft's live briefing kicked off with the announcement of the Xbox One S, a slim model of the launch Xbox One. This sleek, white box is 40% smaller, has an internal power supply, and the ability to function vertically. It supports 4K Ultra HD media and blurays, as well as HDR for both media and games (meaning an increase from 8-bit to 10-bit for color range and contrast). There's also an IR blaster on the front for use in controlling TVs and audio systems.

    It's worth noting that the Kinect port has been removed. If you'd still like to use a Kinect, a USB to Kinect adapter will be available for $49. However, if you provide Microsoft with the serial number of your original Xbox One console, your Kinect, and your new S model, they'll send you one for free. If it's the same adapter as the one for PCs, then it will be a couple of small boxes and will need to be plugged into an outlet, so something to keep in mind.

    A slightly improved controller will come packed in featuring a similar textured grip on the back as with other standalone Xbox One controllers, improved analog sticks, and bluetooth support to more easily connect to PCs.

    The Xbox One S launches August 2nd, first with a limited edition 2TB model for $399. Soon thereafter 1TB and 500GB models will be made available for $349 and $299 respectively.

    And if you're a fan of Moto Maker, there's something like that now for your Xbox controller. Xbox Design Lab gives you a plethora of color options to customize a controller. Unique controllers will start at $79 and ship this fall.

    In Brief: Valve Launches VR Destinations Workshop Tools

    This is really neat. Today, Valve software is releasing a Steam app called Destination Workshop Tools, which will allow anyone to create roomscale VR environments like the Destinations experience in The Lab. The tool doesn't include photogrammetry software, so you still have to composite photographs using something like PhotoScan or Autodesk ReMake, but FBX model files can be imported into Valve's tool to format it for the Source engine and add things like teleportation markers and a skybox. The tool should work for more than just environments too--you can plot yourself in VR on any mesh. Check out Valve's Destinations tutorial for more--we're definitely going to be trying this out!

    Norman
    In Brief: The Making of Giant Action Figures for Overwatch

    I know a bunch of you out there are deep into Blizzard's Overwatch (Jeremy, talking about you). Even though I haven't jumped into the game yet, I definitely took note of the giant action-figure style statues commissioned for the game's launch last month. Those statues were made by Steve Wang's Alliance Studio, and this blog post on Mold3D details the fabrication of the "colossal collectibles" for the promotion, including extensive SLS printing for the statue's many pieces.

    Norman
    Maker Faire 2016: Pocket CHIP $49 Portable Computer

    Last year, we were impressed by Next Thing Co's $9 CHIP computer. At Maker Faire 2016, we were able to check out their PocketCHIP housing, which puts CHIP into a portable console package that runs Linux and indie game console Pico-8. Here's what you can do with the $49 system!

    Tested: Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

    What makes a good mechanical keyboard? And why are peripheral companies releasing new gaming keyboards so frequently? Patrick and Norm discuss the state of this essential accessory, and how the switches in new keyboards from Corsair, Razer, and Logitech compare. Which type of switch do you prefer?

    How to Build the PinSim Virtual Reality Pinball Machine

    The PinSim cabinet is essentially the first eight inches of a real pinball table. I designed it to play VR pinball games, but it works just as well as an interface for traditional flat screen pinball games. The following instructions will help you make one of your own. I'll cover the most basic build first and then look at a few optional upgrades.

    The electronics are based on Teensy LC and employ the incredible MSF-XINPUT library by Zachery Littell. This new library fools the computer into thinking the Teensy LC is an Xbox 360 gamepad, thus minimizing latency and maximizing compatibility. It even supports force feedback rumble! Zack spent time improving his library to assist with this project, so major thanks to him.

    There are many possibilities for cabinet material. My original cabinet was cut from foam core but wood will provide a more lasting frame. Just make sure to consider the material thickness before cutting the sides of the cabinet. The graphics below illustrate the exterior dimensions and hole placements, but the diameter of the drill holes will depend on the buttons you choose to use.

    Let's start with the parts you'll need.

    Phil Tippett Launches Hologrid Augmented Reality Game

    Ok, this is super cool. Phil Tippett just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his version of Holochess, the fictional game he created in stop-motion for Star Wars. It's called HoloGrid, and is an augmented reality collectible card game played with tablets and a boxed set of cards, with creatures designed by Tippett (including some sculpted for Mad God) and scanned with photogrammetry. I just backed it, and hope that it'll reach its stretch goal of getting a HoloLens and Magic Leap release!

    Building Fallout 4 T-60 Power Armor, Part 3

    For the parts of the Fallout 4 power armor we aren't 3D printing, we'll be creating them with the CNC router. A CNC router is effectively a 3D printer in reverse; instead of an empty build platform that material gets deposited onto, with a CNC router you start out with a large piece of material stock and the router cuts away everything to make the relief of your part. The CNC is a tool that's new to me and one I wanted to really fully utilize on this build. Full disclosure, I am admittedly taking a lot of lessons from I've followed builds from Shawn Thorsson who does a lot of CNC routing for his large scale costumes and props.

    The digital workflow is similar to 3D printing, but still something I am working on really getting solid. You still need to split your model up into sections that will fit within your stock - in my case, sheets of 2" polystyrene insulation board found at the local big box hardware store - while being mindful of any undercuts or concave sections. As I only have a 3-axis CNC, if a part has any concave sections, those areas will not get cut away and my CNC routed part will not come out correctly. For example, this forearm part was cut into several sections, but the gentle concave slope along the back wasn't able to be removed, leaving me with these "steps" that I would have to manually trim or sand away.

    The CNC software I am using is MeshCam which is simple and very effective. MeshCam is used to generate Gcode for the CNC, the same way Cura or Simplify3D creates Gcode for your 3D printer. My only complaint about it is that it doesn't visualize the undercuts so I can't know what parts won't be fabricated correctly. Its built in slicing tools leave a lot to be desired, so I have been using Netfabb to create my 2" slices off of the main model and arranging them so that several slices will be cut at a time. This is still cumbersome and time consuming so eventually I'll be looking for a better toolchain for this step. After I run my slice through MeshCam and send the Gcode to the CNC router for each cutting job, the forearm is ready to assemble and sculpt.

    I used some medium duty spray adhesive to attach the parts together, clamped them together and let the whole thing sit for a couple of hours before moving on to sealing. The polystyrene board I am using is very soft and easy to damage and I wanted to coat it in something rigid so that I can more easily sculpt on it and to make it nice and smooth. It also reacts poorly to just about everything you might normally do this with, including most spray paints, so I need to coat the part in a sealant.. After giving everything a quick sand with some high grit sandpaper to get rid of any remaining CNC artifacts, I coated everything in a couple coats of wood glue. This would not only provide a surface that is non-reactive to the fiberglass and bondo I would be coating it with, but it also gives the part a lot more strength against bumps and scratches.