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Psst: the games you play might not look as good (or run as smoothly) as they could. In many cases, the overhead from graphics standards gets in the way -- Apple went so far as to develop its own technology just to make sure that iPhones and iPads could live up to their potential. That bottleneck may not exist for much longer, however. The alliance behind the OpenGL video standard has given a sneak peek at Vulkan, an open standard that lets app writers take direct control of graphics chips and wring out extra performance on many devices, whether it's your phone or a hot rod gaming PC. The software isn't a magic bullet (developers still have to make good use of it), but it could easily lead to richer visuals and smoother frame rates without demanding beefier hardware.
You already know what NVIDIA's latest Shield hardware is: an Android TV-powered set-top box that uses the latest chip from NVIDIA. It streams games over the company's "Netflix for gaming" platform known as GRID; it streams games from your local PC; it powers Twitch streaming at the same time of said streamed content; heck, it powers games like Crysis 3 locally, running on Android.
But is it any good? The only answer I've got is maybe.
"Can it play Crysis?" is the question people are still asking after all these years, despite the vast majority of game hardware now being more than capable of running Crytek's gorgeous first-person shooter. It's how NVIDIA introduced Crysis 3 this week, running on its new Android TV-powered NVIDIA Shield set-top box. Which is to say yes, it can play Crysis. The game is outright running on Android, albeit only Android devices powered by NVIDIA's bleeding edge X1 processor.
Another year, another new Shield device from NVIDIA. What's Shield? It's the hardware line from NVIDIA that spans a bizarre handheld game console, a powerful gaming tablet, and now a $200, Android TV-powered set-top box. NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveiled the Android TV-powered set-top box this evening during a GDC 2015 press conference, which the company referred to as a combination "revolutionary TV", "gaming console" and "supercomputer." Head below for all the specs as we learn them live from NVIDIA.
Along with a slew of new Steam Machines, Source Engine 2 and VR news, Valve announced an interesting add-on for anyone interested in in-home streaming for their PC games: Steam Link. These $50 boxes (in the US, international pricing is TBD) will stream content from your PC or Steam Machine, as long as they're on the same WiFi network. Adding a Steam Controller will cost an extra $50 when they launch in November, and can handle gaming in 1080p at 60Hz with low latency. Sony's Remote Play game streaming is a couple of generations old, while Microsoft just announced the feature for Windows 10, and now Valve has a cheap hardware solution too. The boxes were listed on the Steam store for a moment (see it in Google's cache here), and pictures showed a slim design, with three USB ports (one up front, two in the back) along with Ethernet, HDMI and power.
Half-Life 2. Counterstrike: Source. Team Fortress 2. Left 4 Dead. Portal. Besides being developed by Valve, what else do those games share? They all run on the company's Source Engine that's been used since the first two released 11 years ago. Well, Valve has a new engine coming, officially, and it's aptly dubbed Source 2. Valve says that the focus of the engine this time 'round is "increasing creator productivity." The idea is to democratize game development and make it easier for amateurs (and budding indies) to use the toolset and enable them to, as Valve tells it, participate in the creation and development of their favorite games. In fact, the company specifically calls out the importance of user-generated content as a reason for making the engine easier to work with, which, undoubtedly plays into the millions of dollars its paying out to Steam Workshop creators.
Valve continues to put console gaming in its crosshairs with news that a dozen new Steam Machines are hitting this November. Prices aren't concrete, but the company promises higher performance than game consoles starting at "the same price point." What's more, new units from Alienware and Falcon Northwest are on display at this year's Game Developers Conference, with the latter showing off Unreal Tournament running on a 4K monitor.
Don't miss out on all the latest from GDC 2015! Follow along at our events page right here.
We already saw the new Vive virtual reality headset that Valve and HTC are working on, but they're not stopping there. Hardware engineer Alan Yates says that its Lighthouse room-scale tracking system brings the "high-resolution, high-speed tracking" that you need for a quality VR experience. According to Yates, the system is cheap enough to integrate into TVs, monitors, headsets, input devices or mobile devices. There's not a lot of detail on what exactly it includes, but it sounds a lot like the extra LEDs Sony just revealed on its new Project Morpheus prototype, and its PS Move controller. Those let the system track it with a camera to see how the wearer is moving in greater detail. Valve will make Lighthouse available to hardware manufacturers "freely," and we'll probably be looking for VR-ready stickers on our next TV or monitor.
Don't miss out on all the latest from GDC 2015! Follow along at our events page here.
I just used Sony's newest version of the PlayStation 4 virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus. Rather, I should say that I just faced down a burly, British would-be-torturer before being whisked away to a first-person gunfight in a well-appointed London manor. That's "The London Heist," one of the new demos from Sony's London Studio being shown off this week at GDC 2015. It's intense, and demonstrative of the new prototype's upped specs.