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Digital Foundry Analyzes Google's Stadia Platform

Following Google's "Stadia" game streaming service announcement yesterday, Digital Foundry decided to take a closer look at the hardware behind the platform. Google says they use a "Custom 2.7GHz hyper-threaded x86 CPU with AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB L2+L3 cache," and while they didn't mention the vendor, DF notes that they haven't seen such a configuration in any of AMD's currently shipping server CPUs, and that it should significantly outpace anything found in a modern console. Meanwhile, the GPU largely resembles a Vega 56 card with 16GB of HBM2, and the games are reportedly loaded from an SSD. Through their own testing, DF came away impressed with the platform's consistent frame pacing, and in some cases, total latency is on par with locally-run games on a console or PC.

Google has also demonstrated scalability on the graphics side, with a demonstration of three of the AMD GPUs running in concert. Its stated aim is to remove as many of the limiting factors impacting game-makers as possible, and with that in mind, the option is there for developers to scale projects across multiple cloud units: "The way that we describe what we are is a new generation because it's purpose-built for the 21st century," says Google's Phil Harrison. "It does not have any of the hallmarks of a legacy system. It is not a discrete device in the cloud. It is an elastic compute in the cloud and that allows developers to use an unprecedented amount of compute in support of their games, both on CPU and GPU, but also particularly around multiplayer."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 9:14 AM (CDT)

Core Fighters: Free-to-Play Version of Dead or Alive 6 Now Available on Steam

Koei Tecmo Games has released Dead or Alive 6: Core Fighters, a free-to-play version of the recently released 3D fighter. This is an ideal way to experience the game for those who quickly grow tired of fighters or merely want to see how good a fighting game can look on modern hardware. It’s also a way to spite the publisher for releasing a game with a $93 Season Pass.

DEAD OR ALIVE 6 is fast-paced 3D fighting game, produced by Koei Tecmo Games, featuring stunning graphics and multi-tiered stages that create a truly entertaining competitive experience. With the help of a new graphics engine, DOA6 aims to bring visual entertainment of fighting games to an entirely new level. The graphics are made to be both enticingly beautiful and realistic, bringing out enhanced facial expressions, such special effects as depiction of sweat and dirt on character models, and realistic hit effects.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 17, 2019 1:50 PM (CDT)

Valve Addresses Review Bombing on Steam by Removing Them from Review Scores

To mitigate the effects of review bombing, Valve announced Friday it has a built a tool that would identify and alert the moderation team of any game with "anomalous review activity." After a case of review bombing is confirmed, the reviews submitted under this time period would then be removed from the review score calculation. Gamers can opt out of this change, however, and "off-topic review bombs" will remain on the site for anyone curious enough to read them.

Once our team has identified that the anomalous activity is an off-topic review bomb, we'll mark the time period it encompasses and notify the developer. The reviews within that time period will then be removed from the Review Score calculation. As before, the reviews themselves are left untouched - if you want to dig into them to see if they're relevant to you, you'll still be able to do so. To help you do that, we've made it clear when you're looking at a store page where we've removed some reviews by default, and we've further improved the UI around anomalous review periods.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 17, 2019 9:30 AM (CDT)

Intel's 5G Modems Will Allegedly Enter Mass Production in 2020

Ever since unveiling their 5G modems in 2017, Intel has been talking up 5G technology as loudly as they possibly can. However, facing stiff competition from rivals like Qualcomm, Intel more or less acknowledged that that their first generation modem won't be particularly competitive, and recently "made a strategic decision to pull in the launch of this [second generation] modem by half a year to deliver a leading 5G solution." Intel claimed they would introduce the more advanced XMM 8160 modem in the 2nd half of 2019, but Digitimes' industry sources think it won't be ready for mass production until 2020.

Intel is reportedly to begin working on engineering projects that will enable mass-production of 5G modem chips with its collaborative partners in the second quarter of 2019, according to sources from Taiwan's IC backend service providers... Intel is gearing up efforts to compete with Qualcomm, or even MediaTek, for 5G modem chip orders from Apple for its next-generation iPhone devices, the sources noted. However, judging from factors including heterogeneous integration, complexity of 5G modem chip design, and lengthy final test (FT) of relevant chips at packaging-level testing, it seems that Intel is unlikely to enter volume production of 5G modem chips until 2020, indicated the sources. Nevertheless, demand for Intel's modem chips for use in the Phone 8 and even iPhone 7 series will continue in the first half of 2019 as sales of the old-generation iPhones still remain robust, said the sources.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 15, 2019 9:58 AM (CDT)

Intel Comet Lake Processors Could Pack 10 Cores

A recently updated file in coreboot's Github repository seemingly corroborates previous rumors that claim Intel's upcoming Comet Lake processors could pack up to 10 cores. The "report_platform.c" file contains references to various Comet Lake CPU + Graphics core configurations, including a "CometLake-S (10+2)" config.
The listing also suggests that Intel will launch low power, 6-core U-series parts for laptops, as well as a variety of other 2, 4, 6, and 8 core configs designed to supplement or replace the existing Coffee Lake and Whiskey Lake lineup. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 14, 2019 11:05 AM (CDT)

Passively Cooling the Intel i9-9900K

Der8auer on YouTube has experimented with passively cooling an Intel i9-9900K with the ARCTIC Alpine 12; a passive CPU cooler. The ARCTIC Alpine 12 is only rated to handle 47 watts so Der8auer wasn't expecting much out of the unit. Although the passive cooler showed that it was more capable than its rating, it couldn't keep the Intel i9-9900K properly cooled at stock settings. The Intel chip was throttling, so Der8auer ended up with a stable 3.6 GHz clock speed across all cores which was more than capable of playing games on the system.

I think we could go even higher to 3.8 GHz @0.975 V. Yes, you can actually passively cool a 9900K with some kind of adjustments. You have to undervolt your CPU a little bit; underclock your CPU a little bit.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 11, 2019 9:12 PM (CDT)

Rotten Tomatoes Bans "Want to See" Score, User Comments before Films' Release

The world’s most popular review aggregator for film and television has announced it is making two significant changes to its website: Rotten Tomatoes will no longer show the "Want to See" percentage score for a movie during its pre-release period, nor will it allow comments prior to a movie’s release date. Many are convinced this decision was prompted by the recent review bombing of "Captain Marvel," but Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, which owns the RT, claims that had nothing to do with it. Yanover is a former Disney executive.

According to Rotten Tomatoes’ official statement, it eliminated the Want to See percentage score because it was sometimes confused with the Audience Score (submitted by those who have seen the movie), which is also represented as a percentage. There’s likely another reason Rotten Tomatoes wants to discourage negative buzz for movies ahead of their release: The site is part of NBCUniversal’s Fandango, which acquired the movie-ranking site in 2016 from Warner Bros. -- and negative comments and lower "Want to See" scores, whether those are from trolls or anyone else, may depress pre-release ticket sales.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 02, 2019 12:10 PM (CST)

ZDNet Analyzes the Windows 10 Update Schedule

Microsoft recently released code from the Windows 10 2020 H1 branch to testers last month, which left many wondering why Microsoft wasn't releasing code from the 19H1 update. Some thought Microsoft might be moving to one Windows 10 feature update per year, while others thought the marriage of Chromium and Edge might be creating a delay. However, ZDNet's sources refuted both those claims, They say that, as a result of the Azure development team catching up to the latest version of Windows core OS, the Windows core team is skipping the June Windows update and is instead focusing on the Windows 10 20H1 release. In a nutshell, ZDNet thinks that the Windows 10 19H2 update might appear to be a relatively minor update, but that's only the result of some one-time development shifts, not a release pattern Microsoft wants to stick to in the future.

This 19H2 release might appear like a more minor update, but only to those paying close attention. Does this mean Microsoft is going to move to a major/minor schedule with Windows 10 feature releases moving forward? I hear the answer is no. This year is just a messy one-off, sources of mine say. Microsoft's plan remains to continue to roll out two new Windows 10 feature updates every year (over the howls of protest of many business and consumer users). If all the stars align,the 20H1 release will be built on the Windows 10 core OS Vibranium platform which engineering will deliver internally to various Microsoft teams as of December 2019. If all goes as planned, the Windows 10 20H2 release will be built on the Windows 10 core OS platform delivered internally in June 2020 (which is codenamed "Manganese").

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 01, 2019 10:18 AM (CST)

Backblaze Analyzes SSD Reliability

BackBlaze regularly posts failure rates for their substantial collection of hard drives, and according to the results they published last month, they have over 100,000 of them to test. But as we've recently noted, flash memory prices are dropping like a rock, hence solid state drives are quickly becoming a somewhat economical alternative to 7200 RPM spinners. But just how reliable are these drives? According to a recent blog post, BackBlaze thinks that SSDs are "generally" more reliable than HDDs under most workloads, though the factors that affect SSD reliability are different. As their name would suggest, SSDs have no moving parts, hence they're more tolerant to shock, vibration, and temperature changes, but that also means that users get no audible indicators when they do start failing. Flash memory can eventually wear out too, and it can wear out relatively quickly in QLC SSDs, but Backblaze says "SSDs can be expected to last as long or longer than HDDs in most general applications." Unfortunately, the backup company isn't backing up their claims with hard data yet, but other publications have torture tested SSDs before, and I expect it won't be long before Backblaze starts posting SSD failure rates as well. Thanks to AceGoober for the tip.

SSDs are a different breed of animal than a HDD and they have their strengths and weaknesses relative to other storage media. The good news is that their strengths -speed, durability, size, power consumption, etc. - are backed by pretty good overall reliability. SSD users are far more likely to replace their storage drive because they're ready to upgrade to a newer technology, higher capacity, or faster drive, than having to replace the drive due to a short lifespan. Under normal use we can expect an SSD to last years. If you replace your computer every three years, as most users do, then you probably needn't worry about whether your SSD will last as long as your computer. What's important is whether the SSD will be sufficiently reliable that you won't lose your data during its lifetime.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 22, 2019 10:45 AM (CST)

Intel's MESO Transistor Project Could See Results in Two to Five Years

Late last year, Intel announced that they were working on a new type of transistor that could offer a massive performance leap over current CMOS chips. "MESO" transistors, as they call them, could operate at voltages as low as 100mV, but at the time, Intel said the technology was at least a decade away from commercialization. Today, in an interview with VentureBeat, an Intel researcher said he is "excited about spin-off results MESO is likely to produce within the next two to five years." AI accelerators are supposedly less complicated an more fault tolerant that traditional chip designs, and MESO's characteristics are "coincidentally' well suited to neural network architectures, meaning they could hit the market sooner rather than later.

Khosrowshahi: CPUs, which are the most commonplace when you're building silicon, are oddly enough the hardest thing to build. But in AI, it's a simpler architecture. AI has regular patterns, it's mostly compute and interconnect, and memories. Also, neural networks are very tolerant to inhomogeneities in the substrate itself. So I feel this type of technology will be adopted sooner than expected in the AI space. By 2025, it's going to be biggest thing... Young: If we can get these improvements in power-performance - MESO will be a 10 to 30 times better power-performance or energy-delay product - but let's say we only get a 2X improvement. That gives us, for a given power into the device, a 2X performance benefit, so it's a huge leg up on the competition. That's what drives this. Not only is this good for my company but it's an opportunity for the industry. The research is open, because we have so much heavy lifting to do with these materials. But if this is a thing that we as an industry can get a hold of, this could be a game changer for the semiconductor industry. It will take it through this curve that has been flattening. We may accelerate again. And that would be really neat.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 21, 2019 11:01 AM (CST)

Facebook Is Allegedly Working on Custom Machine Learning Hardware

Nvidia GPUs are the undisputed king of the machine learning hardware market today, but more and more companies are throwing their hat into the AI ring. Google has already introduced their machine learning-focused TPU, and other giants like Amazon and Intel are reportedly following suit, while a number of smaller startups are filling in niches or taking riskier approaches to compete with the bigger players. Last year, various reports surfaced claiming that Facebook was working on their own, custom ASICs, but an EE Times report said that it was "not the equivalent of [Google's] TPU." Now, according to a Bloomberg report published earlier this week, some of Facebook's upcoming custom silicon may focus on machine learning after all. Facebook's chief AI researcher says that "the company is working on a new class of semiconductor that would work very differently than most existing designs," and mentioned that future chips will need radically different architectures.

"We don't want to leave any stone unturned, particularly if no one else is turning them over," he said in an interview ahead of the release Monday of a research paper he authored on the history and future of computer hardware designed to handle artificial intelligence... LeCun said that for the moment, GPUs would remain important for deep learning research, but the chips were ill-suited for running the AI algorithms once they were trained, whether that was in datacenters or on devices like mobile phones or home digital assistants.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 20, 2019 9:35 AM (CST)

Digital Foundry Analyzes Crackdown 3's Cloud Based Destruction

Fully destructible environments have long been a holy grail of game physics engines. I remember Red Faction: Guerrilla generating quite a bit of buzz when it came out, and according to Digital Foundry, the Crackdown devs have been working on an even more ambitious system that leverages the power of Microsoft's cloud servers. Crackdown 3 is the culmination of those efforts, and while it does have destructible environments that seem to be synced across multiplayer instances, the game itself feels rushed and somewhat underwhelming. The competitive "wrecking zone" mode, for example, has conspicuously small arenas and doesn't even have a party system, while the co-op mode still falls short of the 2015 tech demo. Check out the analysis in the video below:

What Wrecking Zone delivers is still impressive in many respects, but is definitely a simplification of the original demo - a situation which looks like a combination of both technological limitations and gameplay considerations. To begin with, the cityscape of the original demo becomes a series of enclosed holodeck-esque arenas - high on verticality, but small in terms of their overall footprint. What's clear from the 2015 demo is that it's exactly that - a demonstration, with no real gameplay as such. Limiting the scale of the play space means that players can actually find one another, which definitely helps, but there's still the sense that there's not much to actually do. The destruction can look wonderful, but little of the gameplay is actually built around the concept. Technologically, the cutbacks are legion. Micro-scale chip damage is completely absent, while destruction generally is far less granular, with buildings and statues breaking apart into more simplistic polygonal chunks. It's interesting to stack up Wrecking Zone with Red Faction Guerrilla Remastered - a game we sorely regret not covering at the time of its launch. Originally a last-gen Xbox 360 title, it does many of the same things as Wrecking Zone - on a smaller scale definitely, but with more granularity and detail. And this raises the question of whether the cloud would actually be necessary at all for Wrecking Zone.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 20, 2019 8:21 AM (CST)