Author - Jerry Paxton

See PhysX in Action with Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PC


Eidos has released a new trailer for the upcoming PC version of Batman: Arkham Asylum showing off the game’s use of Nvidia GPU’s PhysX capabilities. The trailer is quite impressive, showing a ton of particle effects just not seen in the console versions of the game. The PC version of Arkham is due out on September 15th.

New Need for Speed Shift TV Spot Shows Cockpit Footage


EA has released the TV spot that is currently airing to the online masses the other day and here it is for your viewing enjoyment. NfS: Shift comes out September 15th across North America for most major platforms and features a cool new ‘virtual cockpit’ experience.

Box Art for Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City Released

Rockstar has released the official box art for their October 29th-targeted Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City. The game will be the only way non-Xbox LIVE subscribers can get the two DLC packs for GTAIV: The Lost and Damned and The Balllad of Gay Tony. Episodes from Liberty City will retail for $39.99 and be available only for the Xbox 360 platform.

Dexter the Game iPod Touch Case Arrives on Our Doorstep

The folks over at Mark Ecko Entertainment, Speck, and Sandbox Strategies sent over a cool little package to our doorstep today. Inside this manila envelope with blood spatter was an evidence bag containing a special edition Dexter game-themed iPod Touch (2nd Ed) case. Dexter the iPhone game is due out next month and will feature the voice of Michael C. Hall who plays the titular character on the TV show. The special edition iPod Touch (2nd Ed) case is available now at Showtime’s online store and retails for $34.99.

Checkout two more images of the case After the Break!

Interview with World of Warcraft’s Lead System Designer Greg Street


While at this year’s BlizzCon in Anaheim, California, we got the chance to interview Blizzard Entertainment’s Greg Street – the lead systems designer on World of Warcraft. We spoke about the Cataclysm, Tauren Druids, level caps, faction transfers, as well as the future of the MMO and other of life’s great mysteries. Enjoy!

GS) Why the change in level cap increase with this expansion? Usually they give players a max level cap raise of ten. With Cataclym, only five.

GregS) Well a couple reasons really. We’ve done two expansions already, this will be our third expansion and players have ten levels to go and they have a lot of content to cover and some players feel compelled to get to the end as fast as possible. At the same time, we introduce a lot of new abilities as players level up and we thought that maybe we could give them the same kind of quest experience – give them a lot of stuff to do without piling up so many new abilities that we would have to add bars for people. Basically, WoW is a complicated game and we want to offer people new content without constantly making it more complex.

Check out the rest of the interview After the Break!
GS) Is there any truth to the rumor that the five level increase was a commercial decision before the game ends at 100 (again, also a rumor)?

GregS) No, no we never talked about it ending at 100 levels – I don’t really no where it will end…I think our official design is that we are going to keep going as long as it makes sense. I don’t know if the next expansion will have five levels or maybe we will decide we don’t like that and go back to ten levels again. We just plan on keep doing it as long as people are interested in buying expansions to the game.

GS) When compared to last year’s huge, CG Wrath of the Lich King trailer, this year’s seemed a little less flashy as it was all done in-game. Why is this announcement trailer in-game and not through the traditional Blizzard CGI?

GregS) Well, there will be a cinematic CGI trailer, we are just not far enough along yet that that has been completed. I’ve seen some early versions of it but I don’t know if we will have launched by time the next BlizzCon but I am certain there will be a CGI trailer by then.

GS) With respect to the game’s ‘phasing’ technology, how much of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor will be affected by it?

GregS) Bits and pieces, definitely the new zones will have a lot of it. We’ll probably add some to the old zones but its not like – we’re not going to phase the entire continent for example, but where it makes sense we will do it.

GS) How will new players experience Cataclysm? When they install it will it have already taken place or will they experience the actual event too?

GregS) Yeah thats one of the things that is really different about this expansion. In the past, there has been a new continent to go to but in this case the old versions of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms are just going away. There will only be what we call the ‘sundered continents’ left.

GS) So with all the new geometry changes, will this expansion completely reinstall the new maps over itself or will it simply append the existing files to make the changes?

GregS) Its going to be a change to a lot of levels. I mean we don’t need to mess with Outland or Northrend. We don’t need to chance a lot of the instances – they’ll still work fine. But we are going to have to update the graphics at some point. Its either going to be a really big patch or a really big install – there’s a lot to install.

GS) You guys are tweaking some of the game’s graphics for Cataclysm – new water effects, for example. Are there any plans to completely upgrade the engine to a new DirectX 11 model as WoW is now just shy of five years old?

GregS) So far we haven’t talked about it that much. Its always been kind of tweaking the graphics as we go along. We haven’t yet run into anything where the programmers say ‘Nope, we gotta trash this all to advanced forward’. They have been able to add the new shadows for Lich King and the new water for Cataclysm just on top of the existing engine.

GS) Have there been any new developments with the much talked-about faction transfer system?

GregS) Yeah, we’re gonna do it. It shouldn’t be too much longer. I don’t know the exact day but we have to get things done on our end and then on the web side for players to be able to actually use the service.

GS) Have you guys ironed out the logistics of faction transfers? Will players who have an Alliance-only race/class configuration have to change to a Horde equivalent?

GregS) Originally we were going to try and prevent them from changing races. We did not want people to use the faction transfer service as a way to change their race. Since then we have just decided to allow race changes also…You would have to, for example, if you are a Human Paladin you could not pick a Troll Paladin. You would have to pick a Paladin that was on the Horde side. Right now its only Blood Elves but it will be Tauren also.

GS) So your class will stay the same in the faction transfer – you would just pick a new race on the other faction’s side which can utilize it?

GregS) Right.

GS) Any chance that player housing will make an appearance in Cataclysm?

GregS) No, none. Its something players often ask for but in order to do it, we would want to do it right.

GS) I asked Tom Chilton the same question in an interview during the Wrath of the Lich King launch event in Anaheim and he responded with a very similar answer. Being that it was back with Wrath and now its the same with Cataclysm, is it safe to say it is not really even on the radar for World of Warcraft at this point?

GregS) Its really not even on our radar. We did have a legitimate conversation about ‘Hey, is this something we want to try to do for Cataclysm?’. We sat down and looked at how much art time it would take, how much restructuring and we thought if it was really worth it. Basically we would be pushing players out of the city streets and into their own little private things so that they won’t even see other players. It sounds cool as a feature but would it really change your day to day fun of playing WoW? We thought we would get a lot more fun out of other features.

GS) With respect to the guild achievement system, how will it work to keep smaller guilds competitive with larger ones?

GregS) Thats a huge concern of ours because people pick their guilds for a lot of different reasons and some just prefer small guilds. We have guild of five hundred or more people and we have very small guilds and we wanted to make sure that we were not pushing people in a direction they didn’t want to go just to embrace this new system.

For example, we are limiting the number of players within a guild that can contribute per day. When you are collecting currency, for example, only the top twenty earners will count towards the guild achievements so that the bigger guilds just don’t swamp the smaller ones.

GS) What form will the guild achievements take?

GregS) We generally try not to offer anything that inflates player power through achievements so we might give guilds titles or vanity things like that. We probably wont even give you points for achievements, it will probably be more just for bragging rights.

GS) Also, something that has been bothering a lot of purists is that Taurens will be able to become Paladins when it is not in keeping with their usual lore. Why was this decision made?

GregS) We knew that a big part of Cataclysm is giving players a chance to go back and see their old content in a brand new way and a great way to do that is to re-roll a new character and a great way to encourage that is to give them new things they could be. So we tried to find some new classes we could put on the old races. We picked some safe ones – no one is objecting to the Gnome Priest but when we got to the Taurens we though the story of Cataclysm is about change – everything is different now. So we wanted to pick a few that were a little controversial just to sell the fact that the rules you knew are different.

We actually have already started selling the idea of a Tauren Paladin. There are NPCs now in Thunder Bluff that are starting to have conversations about ‘You know, we have always been traditionally Druids but maybe there is another way’. They are starting to talk about the sun in addition to the moon which has always been tied to Druid magic.

GS) And lastly, what kind of things will Archaeologists be able to do and will new players be able to take advantage of that secondary profession?

GregS) We definitely want it to be something players can pick up even at low level. The basic way it works is that you are completing collections and there are all these ancient races around Azeroth. For example, there are Trolls, Titans, those kinds of things. Say at low level you’ll have to complete a Troll artifact and you will need five pieces to complete this artifact. You can find those pieces by the standard clicking on a ruin the way you would a mining node – you might get them off certain mobs. Then, whenever you complete a collection you’ll get some points that improve your Archeology skill and you’ll get an item. It might be something you can use, something you can sell – basically its going to generate items the way a lot of professions do. At super-high levels you will be able to convert the items into these new glyphs which are part of the Paths of the Titans.

We would like to thank Greg Street and the Blizzard Entertainment PR team for setting this interview up for us at their 09 BlizzCon event.

Review of the Samsung 256GB PM800 Solid-State Disk

Serious gamers often spend obscene amounts of money on upgrading their PCs with the intention of getting the most performance possible. One area which is often over-looked is the disk drive. In recent times, the 7,200 RPM drive has become the standard however some gamers are spending the extra cash for higher-performance 10,000 RPM drives. These more expensive drives, however, do not come in high capacities yet and still use draconian platter-based storage methodology. Enter the solid-state disk (SSD). With no moving parts and similar capacities to 10,000 RPM platter-based disks, the SSD offers even better transfer rates, albeit at a higher price tag.

Samsung’s latest consumer SSD is the PM800 available in 64, 128, and now 256GB capacities. The model we got to look at was in the 2.5” form factor and features a 3.0gb SATA connector and power port. It features a brushed aluminum face plate and has a very sleek, industrial design. Also something to note is that the drive weighs practically nothing at 80 grams. Physically, the SSD beats out any platter-based drive. However, what about the performance?

Our test rig is setup like so…
CPU – Intel 2.66GHz i7
GPU – Nvidia GTX-280
RAM – 6GB DDR3
MB – EVGA x58 SLI
Chassis – Antec Skeleton
HDD – Hitachi 7,200 RPM 1TB Drive

We added the Samsung SSD to our system and began several tests running it through the motions. Our tests consisted of timing the various loading processes of three different video games: Crysis, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, and Oblivion. All times are in (minutes.seconds) format. Times were rounded to the nearest second. No cutscenes or videos were skipped in the testing process.

CRYSIS

With Samsung SSD
Exe launch to menu – 1.02
First level loading – 0.22

With 7,200 RPM Drive
Exe launch to menu – 1.10
First level loading – 0.28

As you can see, the SSD yielded an average decrease in loading times by an average of 7 seconds.

BROTHERS IN ARMS: HELL’S HIGHWAY

With Samsung SSD
Exe launch to menu – 0.32
First level loading – 3.23

With 7,200 RPM Drive
Exe launch to menu – 0.40
First level loading – 3.26

In the case of BiA:HH, the Samsung SSD again yielded an average decrease in loading times of 7 seconds.

OBLIVION

With Samsung SSD
Exe launch to menu – 0.47
First level loading (to initial character creation) – 2.0

With 7,200 RPM Drive
Exe launch to menu – 0.48
First level loading (to initial character creation) – 2.03

The loading time decrease was not as apparent in Oblivion, with the Samsung SSD yielding only a 1.5 second average decrease.

Overall, the Samsung SSD gave good decreases in load times over the more traditional 7,200 RPM hard disk drive. Also, when copying files back and forth on the drive – and deleting large amounts of files off of the drive, the SSD just screams. Obviously, many people would purchase the drive and use it as a primary OS disk but for our purposes we looked at the product from the standpoint of a gamer looking to add a secondary gaming drive on their PC.

For some odd reason, you will find when looking for other reviews on the drive that the reviewer will often compare it to a 5,400 RPM disk. This is because Samsung highly-touts the SSD for use in notebook gaming PCs. However, in our testing we clearly saw that the drive outperforms even 7,200 RPM disks. We were unable to procure a 10,000 RPM disk for comparison, although we would assume it would hold its own in that test too.

The biggest drawback for the SSD at this point is its price. Samsung is mainly selling their 256GB SSD as an OEM part right now but, when found in the consumer market it retails for at least $500 dollars. Now, when compared to other drives in the same range that is not anything above average. However, when looked at next to a platter-based disk you definitely still get more megabytes per dollar than with the solid-state drives.

Overall, gamers looking for the best disk performance possible along with high reliability as well as physical space-saving would be remiss not to choose the Samsung SSD as their primary OS disk or a dedicated, secondary gaming drive.

You can find the rundown on Samsung’s whole line of SSDs at their official SSD website.

Here is the video companion to this review, taken on my Creative Vado – but please note it was shot before we rounded the results to the nearest second.

Interview with Diablo III Game Director Jay Wilson

While at BlizzCon today, we got the chance to sit down with Blizzard Entertainment’s Jay Wilson, Game Director of Diablo III. We touched on several different topics such as the new loot system, a possible console version, the fifth character class, and a lot more. Enjoy!

GS) Have the skill trees been finalized yet?

JW) No, we’re not even one hundred percent sure that this is the final take on the skill system yet.

GS) Are the graphics we see in the screenshots and demo videos what will be in the final, possible, 2011 release?

JW) Well I don’t know where 2011 came from as we have not announced a release date yet. That being said, we will continue to tweak as we see fit but we probably wont say we will release on this date and therefore its far enough in the future that we have to upgrade everything…that’s just going to make everything take longer I think.

Check out the rest of the interview, After the Break!

GS) Are you guys going to be taking advantage of DirectX 11 effects?

JW) We haven’t made a call on that yet. We’re definitely not going to do anything thats going to require DirectX 11 but whether we actually go for anything of those effects, my lead programmer will probably make the call on that.

GS) Can you tell us if Diablo III will have a dedicated 64-bit version of the game?

JW) Also haven’t made a call on that yet.

GS) Has the game’s inventory screen been finished yet? Is what we saw in the demo the final build of that system?

JW) Well I would never say absolutely however, we’re pretty happy with this version. So, yeah, its very likely to stay. The version we showed last year was a ‘one-slot’ system where one item fit in one slot. The thing we didn’t like about that was we wanted the item icon sizes to be much larger. We felt that when the item icons got smaller they didn’t feel as prominent. And, we also felt we would have to boost the color on them to make them readable which did not make them look very Diablo.

We decided we definitely needed big item icons so we did a new item system that we did right after BlizzCon last year and that system actually split our inventory into large and small items but they were separated – there was a tab for the two types. And, that was annoying. So, we just decided to suck it up and say we’re going a hybrid system which we call ‘mini-Tetris’ essentially. We have large items which are one by two squares and small items which are one by one.

GS) Have you guys considered a console version of Diablo III?

JW) We haven’t made a decision whether we do a console version or not…We like console games, we play tons of console games – we’re gamers across the board, not just PC gamers. The fact that all of our games are PC-oriented is more about the kind of games we make rather than the fact that we consider ourselves a PC game-developer. A Diablo game would probably convert to a console better our other games. But the task of developing Diablo III is such a monumental one that making it cross-platform as well is not a high-priority for us.

GS) Does Diablo III share a graphics engine or common framework with StarCraft 2 and your other, unannounced products down the road?

JW) Well, not really… Our teams that develop games, for the most part, develop an engine on their own. The World of Warcraft engine was developed off of the Warcraft III engine but, for the most part, this one is completely separate. That being said, there is some code sharing…

GS) Where does the line get drawn with the new Monk class as far as what kind of armor he can use?

JW) Well, we don’t do any kind of restrictions for armor…What we do is customize the look of the armor, and, some characters get more benefits from armor than others. So, for example, the Barbarian has an innate kind of bonus to the armor that he puts on whereas the Monk – not as much…One of the things we talked about early on with the Monk was, ‘Well he’s not going to have any items, right?’. And, we’re like ‘No’ – that’s just silly. If he couldn’t have items, we couldn’t do him.

GS) Can you tell us anymore about the class-specific quest system in the game?

JW) Not a a lot but I can tell you we do intend to do some class quests and mostly what we want to do is give story arcs to the characters. We don’t want them to be kind of nameless…I think we’ve reached a point where we are trying to build a universe and a universe is filled with characters. And so a lot of what we want to do with the class quests is support that idea to build characters.

GS) So when you start the game will the different classes begin in the same  place or will you start at some sort of origin level to setup your character?

JW) Originally we wanted to do an origin – we wanted to actually have the characters start in their own location but it was a monumental cost for us to do it so we decided that we would have everyone start in the same place. We do try to set the characters up though. We have a little event early on that’s going to try to setup where the characters come from and what their mindset is.

GS) Obviously the Barbarian class is a throwback to the previous game. Will the to be announced class also be a throwback to the previous title(s)?

JW) Well, I have to be careful in how I answer that as I don’t want to reveal too much. Let’s see… No, its not going to be a returning class. That’s about all I’ll say for that.

GS) How will the new loot system work?

JW) Well its ‘instanced loot’, which means if you see an item on the ground its for you. Its not for other players, unless its specifically dropped by another player. We have some communication issues with that obviously because most people don’t know that’s happening.When you kill a boss, that boss will drop items for you and items for me and items for the dude who is in the thick of it and cant loot right now. We did this so that players can actually play together.

We would like to thank Jay Wilson and the rest of the PR team at Blizzard Entertainment for making this interview possible. Be sure to check back in tomorrow for our interview with Greg Street, the Lead Systems Designer for World of Warcraft!