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    Making Murloc Costumes for BlizzCon 2016!

    We stop by Frank's shop to learn about a secret project he's been working on for this year's BlizzCon! Frank and his team made two Murloc costumes, and walk us through the whole process of sculpting, molding, painting, and dressing up these creatures to meet fans and spread the word about Hearthstone's newest expansion.

    Here is Nintendo's Switch Hybrid Console, Due March 2017

    In an age where it's nigh impossible to keep a new product secret, the Nintendo Switch, previously known by its codename NX, was generally a known quantity. In a short video released by Nintendo, we can finally see this new hybrid console in action, coming March 2017.

    The device itself is essentially a tablet, with a screen size of around 7 inches. On either side are the Joy-Con controllers and they have a fairly traditional layout. Unlike the Razer Edge, these controllers are naturally integrated with the Switch. Physical games will come on carts, and are inserted into the top via a covered port.

    Whether you're on the go or at home, the controllers can slide off the device and be used wirelessly. They can still act as one controller this way, and there will even be a controller shell, the Joy-Con Grip, available for the Joy-Cons to slide into. Or, they can function independently for multiplayer games, kind of like a smaller Wii Remote. Wait, this is a tablet, isn't it? How will you hold it if you're using the controllers detached? POW, kickstand.

    The Switch also doubles as Nintendo's new home console. Included is a dock with various ports that the tablet slides into. This dock covers the screen of the Switch, so this isn't like the Wii U. You won't have a game displaying on your TV and still interact with the screen on the tablet. You can then detach the Joy-Con controllers as previously mentioned, or use the new Pro Controller that Nintendo will also sell.

    Hands-On with Superhot VR

    Norm and Jeremy play Superhot VR, a virtual reality shooter that turns the concept of bullet time into almost a puzzle game. We show how the innovative mechanic seens suited for VR, discuss our different play styles, and then chat with the game's developer about the scope of Superhot VR.

    Oculus VR 'Santa Cruz' Prototype Impressions

    We go hands-on with Oculus' new 'Santa Cruz' standalone VR headset prototype, and share our thoughts and impressions from the demo. We also chat with Oculus' Nate Mitchell about the future of virtual reality and rate our favorite games from Oculus Connect!

    Hands-On: Lone Echo for Oculus Touch

    At this year's Oculus Connect, we played a new VR game that may be our favorite virtual reality experience yet. Lone Echo is the first game we've played that lets us travel in real-time around its world without getting us sick. Its movement mechanic is ingenious!

    Hands-On with Epic Games Robo Recall for Oculus Touch

    Epic Games--the makers of Unreal--have just announced their first full VR game: Robo Recall. We playtest a demo of this virtual reality shooter at Oculus Connect, using the new Touch motion controllers. After chatting with Epic Games about the gameplay design ideas in Robo Recall, Jeremy and Norm share their impressions.

    Tested: PlayStation VR Review

    It's finally here! We review Sony's virtual reality headset, PlayStation VR, which has potential to bring VR to mainstream gamers. Jeremy and Norm discuss PS VR's display quality, ergonomic design, motion controllers, tracking performance, and launch games. Here's how PS VR's hardware and gaming experience compare to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

    PlayStation Meeting 2016: Everything You Need to Know

    At a (very) short and concise event in New York City, Sony revealed to the world what it already knew for the most part. Head of PlayStation Andrew House and lead system architect Mark Cerny were on stage to talk about Sony's new hardware.

    First up was the PS4 Slim. It's smaller than the original PlayStation 4, officially hits stores starting September 15th, and will cost $300. It was also mentioned that this will be the new standard PS4 model going forward. Other than that, nothing else was said about it.

    What we really care about though is the long rumored Neo hardware. Officially called PlayStation 4 Pro, this noticeably bigger box was built with 4K and HDR displays in mind. Confirming leaked documentation, the CPU's clock speed has been increased over the original PS4 and the GPU is using AMD's new Polaris technology. It launches November 10th with a 1TB hard drive for $400.

    As expected, all existing PS4 titles will work on the Pro, and all new games will work on both systems for the foreseeable future. Some previously released games will be receiving updates to take advantage of the new hardware, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and Sony plans on updating at least six of their own titles, including Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. They also showed upcoming games like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Insomniac's Spider-Man game running on the new hardware.

    When addressing the new potential for visuals with games running on the Pro and 4K displays, Cerny said, "Brute force rendering techniques can of course be used to support these displays, but they have unfortunate consequences for console cost and form factor. So with PS4 Pro our strategy has instead been to foster streamlined rendering techniques that can take advantage of custom hardware. When coupled with best in breed temporal and spatial anti-aliasing algorithms, the results can be astonishing."

    To me that sounds a lot like the Pro won't render games at a native 4K resolution, and will instead use new development techniques to upscale content for these new screens. In fact that makes sense given the new GPU. Earlier this year a lot of technical information was leaked about the PS4 Pro. Now with new graphics cards from AMD out using the same technology as what's found in the Pro, an approximate system using PC hardware can already be tested.

    Weathering Techniques for Cosplay Costumes

    Making new fabrics look old and weathered is a practiced art. Doug Stewart has been working on costumes for film productions for over two decades. We chat about his work as a specialty costume maker and get a demo of his weathering process for costumes used at this year's E3.

    Tested Tours VR Projects at USC's Mixed Reality Lab

    At USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, computer scientists and engineers have been tinkering with virtual reality, augmented reality, and everything in between. We're given a tour of ICT's Mixed Reality Lab, where projects explore the intersections of VR and accessibility, avatars, and even aerial drones.

    Tested: Nvidia GTX 1060 Rains on the RX480

    AMD dreamt of mid-range glory when they shipped the Radeon RX480. The RX480 offered a great little package, including performance which matched high-end cards from past generations, lower power utilization, and a compact package suitable for most cards.

    True to form, Nvidia came along and crushed AMD's dreams.

    AMD announced its intent to pursue the ordinary gamer's heart months ago. Perhaps AMD's true high-end, code-named Vega, wouldn't be ready. Maybe AMD realized Nvidia would try to capture the high-end first. Either way, AMD laid their strategy bare for the world to see – including a certain Santa Clara-based GPU company.

    So it should surprise no one that Nvidia launched the GTX 1060 scant three weeks after the RX480 hit the street. At first, it seemed Nvidia's new mainstream card might not really be mainstream. Initial pricing suggested pricing closer to $300, based on Nvidia's own "Founder's Edition" card, which the company offers direct to users. Several weeks after the launch, pricing parity has hit, however. Prices for GTX 1060s running at stock clock speeds range from $249 to $329 depending on clock frequencies and cooler configurations. Radeon RX480 8GB cards run from $239- $279 while 4GB cards run right around $200. Availability for either the GTX 1060 or the RX480 remain spotty, suggesting demand still runs pretty high weeks after launch.

    So which should you buy? As always, let's look at the numbers.

    USC Mixed Reality Lab's VR Redirected Walking Demo

    We recently visited the USC Institute of Creative Technology's Mixed Reality Lab, where virtual reality researchers are experimenting with software that will let you walk around forever in VR. We test their redirected walking and lightfield model demos and learn how these technologies could work in future VR games.

    Testing: Windows 10 Anniversary Update for Xbox One and Phones

    Computers of course aren't the only devices running Windows these days. The Xbox One's core was updated to Windows 10 last November. The already released Anniversary Update makes adjustments to the new UI and adds some new features. And let's not forget about Mobile, which benefits primarily from recent updates to the many apps of Windows.

    Xbox One Updates

    Similar to PCs, the Anniversary Update for the Xbox One brings a combination of new features, UI tweaks, and software improvements. The most noteworthy change in my opinion is the UI for My Games & Apps. These lists finally scroll vertically and you can fit as many as 30 tiles on screen at once. They can be sorted alphabetically in one pile, by letter like on a phone, last used, last updated, or by size. You have three options for the size of the tiles too. The headache of getting to your ready to install games and apps is nonexistent now with a dedicated tab added to the left column. It's baffling as to why it took so long for this to be updated, but it's finally here. Honestly, the only adjustment I'd like to see made is a separate list for Xbox 360 games.

    Cortana is also on Xbox now, taking over the old voice commands if you so choose. Microsoft has leveraged their digital assistant here to enable users to use more natural language with voice commands. For example, you no longer have to say the full length of a game title in order to launch it, so instead of saying "Xbox go to Halo 5 Guardians" you can now say "Hey Cortana play Halo 5". And even if you don't have a Kinect, the new voice commands work through a headset as well.

    The Cortana voice commands started working well only with the last major Preview release, so it's hard to compare using voice commands for a couple of days to a couple of years. But so far they seem to work about as well as the old ones for me, or in other words, most of the time. This Cortana has the same functionality as any other device running Windows 10, so she can do everything from checking the weather, to doing a web search, and even singing songs. That added functionality can potentially result in more problems however.

    Having used Cortana for years now, I was fairly certain I could get it to fail. While watching tv, Cortana can change the channel to stations such as ESPN and CNN without issue. However, when I said "Hey Cortana watch HGTV," just as I had suspected, Cortana did a web search for "watch hgtv" instead of going to the channel. I even went into the OneGuide to favorite the channel, which on the old voice commands was supposed to help with similar failings, but I still got the same result. Thankfully, I haven't had any issues yet with Cortana responding while I'm playing a game to do things like recording game clips. If you decide you don't like using Cortana, there is an option in Settings to turn them off and go back to the old Kinect only Xbox voice commands.

    And background music is back! It's only taken three years, but the secret best feature of the Xbox 360 is now on the Xbox One. The feature wasn't live at the time of this writing, but a new Groove Music app will soon be updated with this long requested feature. It's also open to third parties, with Pandora and the podcast app Cast available at launch. Playback controls will actually be found in the Guide, so no need to snap the app, or of course music can also be controlled via Cortana.

    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.