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AMD Tightens Bonds With Game Developers

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the clutching-tightly-to-a-life-preserver dept.

AMD 91

J. Dzhugashvili writes "Nvidia 'The Way It's Meant To Be Played' splash screens are all over major PC games. AMD's developer relations program used to be a much lower-profile affair, but that's changed recently. New and upcoming games like Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored, Medal of Honor Warfighter, Far Cry 3, BioShock Infinite, and the Tomb Raider reboot are all part of AMD's Gaming Evolved program. As it turns out, that's because AMD's new executive team is more keen on gaming than their predecessors, and they've poured more money into the initiative. The result: closer relationships between AMD and game developers/publishers, better support for Radeon-specific features in new titles, and juicy game bundle offers."

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91 comments

I just don't want to know (5, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750109)

AMD Tightens Bonds With Game Developers

Keep your kinky S&M stuff to yourself please.

Re:I just don't want to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750177)

It's not S&M type of bond, it's MS type, a noose around the neck.

Re:I just don't want to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750503)

I laughed, and thinking of when I've owned AMD/ATi graphics cards, I have to say, I'm glad the users aren't the only ones getting the "love".

Is it still the case that:
ATi/AMD produces better quality graphics (fewer rendering glitches), but is much more likely to crash and be non-playable with games?

Re:I just don't want to know (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750863)

Is it still the case that:
ATi/AMD produces better quality graphics (fewer rendering glitches), but is much more likely to crash and be non-playable with games?

Bullshit. AMD's graphics drivers are a pile of shit compared to nVIDIA which is why there are so many bugs and workarounds in games for AMD cards.

Re:I just don't want to know (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751177)

AMD's graphics drivers look like a pile of shit compared to nVIDIA because Nvidia pays game devs to make their bugs and workarounds look like features

FTFY

Re:I just don't want to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41751185)

So... their one semi-redeeming factor (better rendering) is no longer the case?

I don't consider performance the redeeming quality because it's always back and forth between NV and ATI/AMD.

Re:I just don't want to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41755113)

AMD Tightens Bonds With Game Developers

Keep your kinky S&M stuff to yourself please.

64 Bits of Grey

Slashvertising (1)

xavdeman (946931) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750127)

I read the summary as: "As it turns out, AMD's new executive team is more keen on marketing than their predecessors, and they've poured more money into the initiative. The result: closer relationships between AMD and covert advertising on technology news websites, more attention for Radeon-specific features that nobody will use in new titles, and juicy benchmark results showing that Nvidia cards still outperform the AMD ones in absolute performance, as well as performance/cost and performance/watt."

Re:Slashvertising (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750539)

Congratulations on your firm grasp on reading comprehension. This is why AIs can't understand speech, you can say so many things with the same words.

AMD's performance is slipping. ATI's performance is good but their drivers still suck. If nVidia's drivers didn't suck right now (I've had problems, though they seem to have gone away by upgrading from Precise to Quantal, amazingly — and many more reports of problems from other quarters in the last couple years, seemingly) then AMD video cards wouldn't even be a thing.

Re:Slashvertising (1)

Sable Drakon (831800) | about a year and a half ago | (#41752641)

You're on Linux, GPU drivers sucking shit regardless of high-end GPU vendor shouldn't be a surprise. Both AMD and nVidia's drivers suck under Linux. Under Windows however, nVidia's have been consistently stable.

Re:Slashvertising (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41753453)

Until recently, my only complaint with nVidia's Linux drivers as compared to their Windows drivers was that multimonitor support is a sad joke, while it's worked pretty well on Windows since 2k or so, and definitely XP. In general, though, nVidia drivers on Windows are not all a bowl of cherries. If you want to run an older game you may have to install an older driver, for example, because nVidia only cares about performance or indeed compatibility for new games. And since I don't care about new games (except occasionally on a console, but even that is very rare) I don't really have astoundingly positive experience on Windows either. Now that I have given up dual-booting (I might take it up again if I could get win7 ultimate cheap enough, but it's not worth even a hundred bucks to me, and I'm not interested in win8) the only regular use of Windows I've got is my HTPC on which I view Netflix. It's got a nVidia IGP, I forget which one, it's either the first one with CUDA or the last one without it. It works OK, but then, it pretty much exists to run Firefox, and sometimes XBMC.

Re:Slashvertising (2)

rcoxdav (648172) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750615)

I guess you have not been looking at any reviews for the 7000 series then. The 7000 series cards are not winning on performance/watt except on OpenCL now, but are better for the performance/cost in every level. Check out Toms Hardware Best Graphics Card for the Money [tomshardware.com] for this month, and pretty much the past couple of years, and AMD comes out on top in almost every category. Also, there are generally no Radeon specific features such as PhysX, but that is because Nvidia owns PhysX. And, as far as absolute performance in all categories except the very top ($400 plus range), AMD quite often is higher than Nvidia. Compare the Radeon 7850 to the similarly priced and recently release 650 ti. Take off your green colored glasses and take a look at what the current video card situation is.

Re:Slashvertising (1)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750729)

Until AMD/Ati start supporting Linux a little better, I'll never buy one.

Re:Slashvertising (2)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751265)

The current video card situation is as it has always been with the exception of a few generations (4000-6000 series) where Ati just had nvidia completely on the ropes.

Nvidia wastes shitloads of money designing something that can win the crown for performance with a 40-60% yield from factories plus needs to get clocked down so far to get higher yields for cheaper cards that they lose on every other level, and ATI designs a solid platform that wins on every other level and still gets 90%+ yield for their top cards. Its what makes ATI profitable. ATI also tends to be first-to market with next-gen GPUs for the last few years and as such takes the crown for awhile for enthusiasts. Plus a lot of enthusiasts know that the next-amazing-thing from Nvidia will only claim the crown by 2-5% at most so they get the latest and greatest from ATI, overall they spend more time with the fastest system available.

Re:Slashvertising (1)

Sable Drakon (831800) | about a year and a half ago | (#41752679)

You are aware that ATI doesn't exist anymore, right? It's AMD now, and the only thing that's keeping that company afloat are GPUs. Now if only AMD cards could handle MSAA worth a damn, then I'd be more interested.

Re:Slashvertising (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | about a year and a half ago | (#41753117)

Its ATI bought and rebadged as AMD. I still call it ATI partly out of habit and partly because thankfully its design process and most of its staff are still intact. AMD should have kept the brand. You don't rebadge the only other major player in a market you buy into.

When you buy the cards you can still see ATi printed on some of the chips.

Splash screen are evil (2)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750131)

The Splash screens are annoying and overly loud. Just select game .. play game. No other steps required. All menus to accessible from within the game. Stop holding up my SSD with other crap.

Re:Splash screen are evil (2, Insightful)

blackicye (760472) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750155)

Anything that makes Catalyst less bad is probably good. Can't have Nvidia dominating the market alone.

Re:Splash screen are evil (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750713)

Who are you people buying from that you run into these problems?

Catalyst has functioned fine for eons.

Re:Splash screen are evil (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750879)

And by "function fine for eons" you mean high-profile games suffered from corruption issues and performance issues [shacknews.com] with the Catalyst drivers, right? And that's hardly the only example one can find.

Re:Splash screen are evil (1)

Valor958 (2724297) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751045)

Functioned fine for eons...

though the exaggeration is apparent, I can state for a fact this is not the case. I stopped using ATi/AMD cards and switched to nVidia for just that reason. I used 2 ATI cards in the past, assuredly less than an eon ago... and had terrible issues with the Catalyst junk (at that time anyways). For years, all I would hear is how bad Catalyst is and how it just didn't work quite right.
Thankfully, time heals all wounds and the same for Catalyst. I don't hear that anymore from people actually technically proficient, I frequent Overclock.net and other tech forums, and with the most recent drivers the 7950/7970 are a great choice if you want performance. The Keplar hype has died down, and really all nVidia is really perfect for right now is efficiency for the performance.
I've been an nVidia fanboi for almost a decade now, and plan to go back to ATI for a 7950 here in a month or two. Stable drivers, good support, great power and strong, stable OC capability... for less money than nVidia. I see no diffinitive reason to stick with nVidia... the same reason I switched to Intel for my cpu after being AMD exclusive for almost a decade as well.

Re:Splash screen are evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41752405)

I ran into so many stupid problems with my Crossfired 5850s that I side-graded to a GTX670. The last straw was when I had to turn off hardware accelerated rendering in Firefox for it to stop crashing. Between that and the various other problems (display corruption, textureless white boxes, unexplainable performance degradations, etc...), I decided to stop having to rely on the Internet Explorer of the driver world and go back to nVidia.

Re:Splash screen are evil (2)

Ash Vince (602485) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750591)

The Splash screens are annoying and overly loud. Just select game .. play game. No other steps required. All menus to accessible from within the game. Stop holding up my SSD with other crap.

The problem is that the people actually develop games nowadays are often not the people who own the licence to the franchise.

So you have a small development house who want their company logo to feature prominently in the game so they make a name for themselves. Thats one splash screen added to the startup sequence.

Then you have nvidia or ati who need to provide a sample of their upcomming cards or drivers to the development house. They want to charge a fortune for this since these pre-production jobs are damn expensive to produce. If you are producing a game for a well known franchise though that is guaranteed to sell a few copies even if it is utter shit (people are sheeple after all) then you can ask for a discount on your development samples or get them free if you are willing to jump into bed with one of them exclusively, that's another slash screen that cant be skipped (allowing a user to skip it would probably be breach of contract)

Then you have the huge company that bought the franchise. They definitely get to slap a splash screen on the front since they effectively "own" the product.

Then, there is you. You get no choice in the matter as you are only the consumer. You might be annoyed by the extra few seconds you have to wait while these splash screens all show but unless you are annoyed enough to not purchase the game in the first place or boycott all their titles in future then your opinion is worthless.

Thus endeth today's lesson from the course Capitalism 101.

Re:Splash screen are evil (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750839)

To the .ini file :)

Re:Splash screen are evil (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750991)

Quite often you can just look for the movie files in the game folder and delete them.

Re:Splash screen are evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41751505)

In the worst case scenarios, you have to replace them with length 0 movie files of the same encoding.

Re:Splash screen are evil (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41754603)

Quiet, you two. Developers are probably reading this, and they'll think of workarounds such as falling back to a static bitmap displayed for 4000 ms.

Re:Splash screen are evil (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750707)

Agreed. If I have to wait more than 15 secs from program execution to program start (i.e. I get to sit through the splash screen parade), I am not happy.

Logos to cover loading (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#41754629)

If I have to wait more than 15 secs from program execution to program start (i.e. I get to sit through the splash screen parade), I am not happy.

That depends on how fast your storage is. If you're playing from a spinning HDD or (worse yet) playing directly from optical disc, it might take more than 15 seconds just to copy everything into RAM. Games are supposed to use these logos to cover this loading.

Re:Splash screen are evil (1)

Nugoo (1794744) | about a year and a half ago | (#41754053)

I agree completely. Big props to Bioware (pre-EA) and Namco for making their splash screens skippable. Also, big shits to EA for mandating that their splash screens be un-skippable.

100 lines of code vs 10 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750171)

That's the beauty of OpenGL, you spend less time on silly things but DirectX is still more powerful. So you have a choice, either more power with DirectX or ease of use / versatility with OpenGL.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (2)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750269)

DirectX is still more powerful

Because of the heavy Windows bias in gaming. If Linux gaming takes off, then NVidia, AMD and Intel will have to improve OpenGL support.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (2)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750561)

Isn't it, like... quite the other way around?

"If NVidia, AMD and Intel will improve OpenGL support, then Linux gaming takes off" - that's the correct statement.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750593)

They both work in their own unique way :)

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750887)

You mean other than the fact that the only way to get supporrt for modern OpenGL versions is by using the NVIDIA and AMD proprietary drivers on Linux? And that has hardly made fuck all difference in Linux gaming.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750911)

What do you mean? The only way to actually get good OpenGL support, as in support up to the latest versions and massive extension support, is by using either NVIDIA or AMD's drivers. Exactly additional "support" do they need to provide?

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750965)

By 'improve', I mean 'make better'. Y'know, the standard definition of 'improve'.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751913)

Yes, which is why I asked for specifics. Mesa is a fucking joke in comparison. The only way to get up to OpenGL 4.3 and massive extension support is their proprietary drivers.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year and a half ago | (#41752019)

So you want me to provide a point-by-point breakdown of every fault in every OpenGL implementation? I haven't got the time nor the inclination.

Here's an idea: take 'improve' in the general sense I already told you to take it in.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

neokushan (932374) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750289)

This has nothing to do with the topic. At all.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750403)

Hehe...that's interesting, for the last few years I always heard that OpenGL was too complicated in contrast to DirectX.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750435)

"That's the beauty of OpenGL, you spend less time on silly things but DirectX is still more powerful"

Bullshit. DX is nowhere as extensible as OGL, and is bound mostly by by CPU whereas OGL is bound mostly by GPU.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (2)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750731)

Hmm. Last I checked, they were about the same in performance. Have things changed?

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41754889)

There's been some interesting results over at Valve lately with OGL on Linux performing better than D3D on Windows, but that's way beyond apples and oranges, that's more like watermelons and rutabagas.

I suspect this varies wildly based on the hardware in question, whether it's been designed more along the lines of D3D or OGL; and of course, the driver always makes a massive difference.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year and a half ago | (#41759137)

"There's been some interesting results over at Valve lately with OGL on Linux performing better than D3D on Windows"

Again, D3D is HEAVILY CPU bound. Always has been since DX5.

My favorite example - Unreal Tournament '99. D3D required a 233MHz machine and a video card with 8MB VRAM minimum. Go to OpenGL or 3Dfx GLide, and you went down to 133MHz and a 4MB video card minimum, and it ran without issues, even under 32MB of RAM, and it looked THE EXACT SAME.

UT2K3/4 - same issue. Little hack to enable OpenGL renderer, you suddenly had way more FPS than D3D9 would ever provide on the same hardware.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41759653)

Best as I can figure, the Linux zealots are stuck anywhere from 10 to 20 years in the past when talking about Windows technologies.

Re:100 lines of code vs 10 (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750581)

So you have a choice, either more power with DirectX or ease of use / versatility with OpenGL.

False dichotomy. You also have the option to use all of DirectX except Direct3D, and to use OpenGL for graphics. You can achieve the use of DirectX by using SDL, which will also use the corresponding libraries on Linux. Things get a little sketchy when you get to touch screens, though, which are not well-supported.

More money.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750175)

Perhaps they could use that money in making the software better before going on a huge marketing campaign...

I hate splash screens (5, Insightful)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750207)

I was very pleased to find that in both Borderlands 2 and XCOM Enemy Unknown, the super-annoying splash screens can all be disabled with a little light editing of .ini files in your user profile.

I hate those things, especially when the game developer doesn't let you skip them. (Borderlands 1, I'm looking at you. Ugh.)

But once I've seen them once, I don't need to ever see them again... so commenting out the StartupMovies lines in the .ini files is a lovely feature.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750259)

bink player needs some play once options forced on it.

Re:I hate splash screens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750305)

Yeah, because when video codecs start storing details of every video they've ever played, everyone on Slashdot is gonna love that.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750759)

No, Just have it send your details along with the fact you've seen it back to the server. :)))

Re:I hate splash screens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750309)

You're probably breaking your EULA by doing this though

I'm with you on this. Graphics card manufacturer, Publisher, PhysX, Havok - they can all get to fuck. I fire up a game to be entertained, not advertised at.

Re:I hate splash screens (4, Informative)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750377)

I was very pleased to find that in both Borderlands 2 and XCOM Enemy Unknown, the super-annoying splash screens can all be disabled with a little light editing of .ini files in your user profile.

I hate those things, especially when the game developer doesn't let you skip them. (Borderlands 1, I'm looking at you. Ugh.)

Hello,

I picked up Borderlands 1 recenly, and there are two ways to disable the startup movies. The first is to edit an ini file if you have the Steam version, and the second is to add the "-nomoviestartup" parameter to the executable shortcut.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751491)

Thanks! I probably won't play BL1 much now that I've got the second, but I do appreciate the info.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750631)

I know it's off topic but as someone who still ranks UFO: Enemy Unknown in his personal top three games of all time I'm interested in your thoughts on XCOM: EU. On the one hand, XCOM deserves a worthy successor to the first games (especially after the two shooters) but on the other hand I can't help but think that it probably won't nearly live up to UFO and TFTD. (Yes, I could read reviews but I prefer just asking people who probably aren't being paid to play the game.)

So... What's your opinion? Is it worth getting or should I just wait until OpenXcom implements Mars?

Re:I hate splash screens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41751115)

Its a crap load of fun and worth your money. that said it is alittle different, if you want a really authentic xcom expierence get ufo extraterrestials gold form steam for 10 bucks or whatever its going for now. But the new one is definatly a nice change of pace and a worth sucessor that i would rank up around the level of apocopolapse in terms of different but still really good.

Re:I hate splash screens (2)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751321)

It's best if you watched some playthroughs on YouTube. Or TotalBiscuit's WTF on the game. Looks fun, but XCOM it is most definitely not.

That said... Xenonauts [xenonauts.com] is probably what both you and I are waiting for.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41754191)

Yeah, I'm already alphafunding it. It's nice, although development does progress somewhat slowly. Then again, air combat has improved a lot; the first alphas I played were almost impossible to play because alien craft was extremely hard to shoot down.

Re:I hate splash screens (4, Interesting)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about a year and a half ago | (#41752097)

Well...

It's not exactly the same game as the original XCOM, in the same way that Civ IV and Civ V are significantly different games from Civ I and Civ II (Civ II isn't really very different from Civ I). But in my opinion, it is actually a better piece of game design, particularly in the tactical combat mode. I actually think it is the best all-round XCOM game yet.

The tactical combat mode is probably where most of the significant changes occur. I would say it now is somewhat more boardgamey than the original XCOM. I don't have a problem with that but I can see where some people would find it off-putting. Instead of time units, you get two actions per turn. You can use both to make a single long move from one position to another, or spend one action to move and then use the other action to do something else. The most common choices for "something else" are firing a weapon, using an item such as a grenade or medpack, going on overwatch, and re-loading. Doing anything other than moving will generally end your turn, even if you do it with your first action.

The inventory is very much "streamlined" over the original XCOM. Soldiers get a main weapon (largely determined by what type of soldier they are, combined with what research you've completed), a pistol, and one inventory slot for an item that grants passive bonuses or a limited-use special ability (eg throw grenade). All soldiers carry a "sufficient" (ie unlimited) number of reloads for their primary weapon, but reloading ends your turn, which denies you the opportunity to overwatch or attack - so ammo management is hugely important tactically. Ensuring that you don't exhaust your ammo for everyone in the team at once is much more important than in the original games.

If you've played a d20-based tabletop RPG sometime in the last 15 years, it's fairly similar in its general mechanics. Like a tabletop RPG, all these basic combat mechanics get elaborated on by a class-based advancement system for the soldiers. Instead of just getting bonus APs, stamina and accuracy, soldiers now get perks as they advance which modify the main tactical combat rules. For example, heavy weapons experts can easily get an ability that makes it so that firing their main weapon as the first action no longer ends the turn - so they can fire and then move, or fire twice, or fire and reload, or fire and overwatch. The close-in "Assault" class starts with an ability that allows them to move twice and then attack in the same turn.

Another limitation is that most soldiers can only attack enemies they can see themselves. (Snipers can optionally be given the ability to *either* move and fire, *or* attack enemies that other squad members can see but can't see themselves. This is a really hard choice to make.)

Cover is hugely, hugely important in the tactical play. It provides *large* penalties to the hit chance of attacks, but more importantly, attacks against someone who is *not* in cover are extremely likely to score a critical hit, which does a lot more damage. Since cover is relative to attacker & defender positioning, it's very important to cover your flanks and be aware of possible avenues for attack. This makes the move & attack abilities, or the later-game stealth abilities, very useful. It also enables some interesting tactics. For example, grenades don't do a terribly large amount of damage, and might seem very inefficient for actually killing enemies. But as well as being an area of effect attack, they also destroy cover. So if you can maneuver a soldier into grenade range of a bunch of aliens who are hiding behind good cover, you can destroy the cover with the grenade and then mow down the now-exposed aliens with your other soldiers. Unlike the original game, XCOM Enemy Unknown is actually very good at telling you what cover your soldiers will have if they move to various positions. But cover is positional and directional, so if an alien outflanks your soldiers' positions, the cover will be useless.

So the tactical combat is in many ways less free-form than the Gollop XCOM games. However, the additional structure and constraints in tactical play open up a lot of actually quite sophisticated interactions that aren't really present in the originals. In particular, the choice to have (up to) two actions per turn rather than APs means that you can't generally have your guys duck out, shoot aliens, and then run around a corner well out of sight.

The scale of the tactical combat is in some ways quite small. You start out fielding a squad of 4 units; this can be upgraded to 6 units. Much smaller than the original game where you could easily have 10 guys and a tank in a Skyranger. I find that managing 6 units with distinctively different capabilities is more interesting than wrangling a dozen guys who are basically all the same, though.

The maps are small but usually full of interesting things and terrain features. Because the maps are small, you spend most of your mission time *fighting aliens* instead of *searching for aliens*, which I think is an improvement. Most of the maps don't have much elevation though, and I do miss that. There are relatively few maps with buildings with multiple internal levels - I think the designers decided that it was a UI hassle. The larger UFOs have multiple internal *elevations*, but it's not multiple decks stacked on top of each other; it's more like one deck with a complex surface with higher and lower points. I was also surprised by how few UFOs I shot down during the course of a game on Normal difficulty. There were a lot of non-UFO based missions with a very wide variety of maps. (Partially collapsed interstates, roofs of apartment complexes, construction sites, army bases, astronomical observatories, office buildings, restaurants, petrol stations, train stations as well as the standard UFO crash sites in the woods). The non-UFO missions also included a number of missions with interesting objectives, such as VIP rescues and time-limited bomb disarming missions, as opposed to the search-and-destroy bread & butter of XCOM. I appreciated the variety.

At the strategic level, there's been a lot of work done and changes made. The prices of things have been set in a way that is less obviously "realistic" than the original game, but makes the choices a lot more balanced and interesting. For example, if you choose to establish the XCOM base in North America, you get a 50% discount on aircraft... which means that it actually costs considerably more to equip one of your soldiers with a laser rifle than it does to acquire an entire fighter jet, which raised my eyebrows at first. But since the laser rifle and the fighter jet are actually of similar value in *gameplay*, the prices are appropriate from that perspective. In fact the laser rifle is probably more useful, at least till you get plasmas. :) On the other hand, since squad equipment is really expensive, you can't really afford to make more of them then what you are actually planning to use on mission. I spend a lot of time juggling equipment around my soldiers (so that I could spread the experience rather than becoming excessively reliant on just a handful of super-elites), and found the equipment management screens to be inefficiently designed.

In addition to the equipment that you assign to your soldiers, there's whole additional systems that the original XCOM doesn't have - class-based perks for soldiers, upgrades that modify how your soldiers advance (improving the rate at which they gain Willpower or improving their healing speed in sickbay, or unlocking additional squad member slots), and permanent upgrades to their equipment (such as improving the pistols or stun weapons).

The new game has eliminated all the research topics which didn't really do anything in the original XCOM. They did this by partly by eliminating useless crap (like researching flavour text for UFOs and alien mission types) and partly by attaching very useful benefits to alien interrogations & autopsies. These are actually worth doing for their own sake, not just to advance the storyline.

The game's not completely bug free - a couple of times I have triggered some kind of race condition in the Muton racial ability when I hit multiple aliens with a single explosive, resulting in two special abilities triggering simultaneously, which then don't actually complete. And I once built a hover tank that didn't actually get a weapon until I researched "tank plasma cannons" much later in the game - but I do wholeheartedly endorse it. It is an amazing piece of game design.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about a year and a half ago | (#41752161)

TL;DR

It's an amazing game and you should definitely get it.

They've changed the rules. It's a little more abstract and game-y compared to some of the more simulationist design in the original X-COM. And in my opinion, it's made it a better game.

Borderlands 2 on the other hand isn't very fun for me.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about a year and a half ago | (#41752371)

One other thing:

If you're interested in my credentials, UFO: Enemy Unknown (I played a copy with the British branding :)) is probably my fondest memory of the 486 era of computing, along with Civ II.

I think Terror From The Deep was the first computer game I ever actually bought (went halves with a high school buddy), and I've finished both it and XCOM Apocalypse. Apocalypse was great in many ways (especially the interactions between the various organisation in the Megacity, and the fact that the starting equipment choices didn't become totally obsolete. Also, Sectoid hybrid soldiers rock.) but the pause-able realtime combat wasn't as good as the turn-based implementation in 1 or 2, and the turn based mode was compromised in order to support the realtime mode. Most importantly, the Apocalypse aliens just weren't very cool compared to UFO or TFTD.

TFTD was a total bitch of a game though. Alien artifact missions with fucking tentaculats in all the hidey holes... ship terror missions (with tiny corridors against lobster men and those little exploding drones...) And the tech tree bugs... I've played that game two or three times now and I've *never* succeeded at getting Molecular Control. That is a very, very mean game. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is certainly not as cruel.

I've tried to play Interceptor but I'm no good at killing those fast little UFOs.

I've never even bothered installing Enforcer, although I suspect I have a copy in my Steam account somewhere.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41754683)

Yeah, TFTD was inadvertently mean-spirited. Even if you know how to avoid the tech tree bugs (thank you, ufopaedia.org) you still had to deal with tentaculats, half your starting equipment not working on land, the other half being crappy... Still, it had a nice atmosphere.

Apocalypse was very nice. Yes, they shouldn't have put in that realtime mode but the more dynamic battlefields were fun and so was the equipment. They probably could've made anti-alien gas less of a useless gimmick but that's a minor gripe. The politics were a great addition to the game and I would've loved to see what they would've been like if the devs hadn't cut part of them - there is unused data for holding cells and tracking devices in the game; apparently you could also apprehend and capture humans at some point in the original design. I also liked the fact that collateral damage now had actual consequences. I agree that the aliens were a bit boring gameplay-wise, except for those abominable Brainsuckers. Brainsuckers: Like Tentaculats, only even harder to defend against!

(Perhaps we are fortunate that they didn't follow up with another strategy release after Apocalypse; in XCOM 4 we probably would've gotten Chryssalids with psionic powers.)

Interceptor was crud. And Enforcer will never touch my hard-drive either. I could perhaps forgive them for the backstory of "lol xcom suks" if at least the gameplay was known to be good...

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41754425)

Thank you for your in-depth review of the game. A very interesting read.

I'm not certain if I like some of the changes they've made but a lot of them read like they're fun and on a whole the game seems to have been made with care. That certainly alleviates my fear that it's just another bit of shovelware made to cash in on a still-cherished name. I'll definitely have to check it out later.


As for Borderlands 2, which you touched on in the sibling post: *cough* I already sank about ninety hours into that game, most of that in multiplayer. I can see how it can get tedious in singleplayer but with at least one friend it's just as much of a blast as the first one. Oh, and wiping the smug grin off Jack's face is one of the more satisfying things I've ever done in a video game. Say what you want about BL2's storyline, they certainly did a good job of making the last bit engaging.

Re:I hate splash screens (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about a year and a half ago | (#41760295)

Haha, I'll have to give it another go. :)

Re:I hate splash screens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41755229)

That should be one of the first steps for any game.
Going into the games install folder. Finding the movies folder. And deleting all the .bik splashscreen shit.

Amazing (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750235)

Apparently, someone just updated their Catalyst drivers yesterday (like me), saw the ads for these exact games during the installation, and decided it would make a great /. front page story.

AMD still lags behingd Nvidia when it comes to the major blockbusters.

Nothing to see here.

Drivers? (1)

Torp (199297) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750255)

Wake me up when their linux drivers work as well as nvidia's please :)

Re:Drivers? (2, Interesting)

Ash Vince (602485) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750643)

Wake me up when their linux drivers work as well as nvidia's please :)

Please leave slashdot immediately.

ATI have opened the specs on their card up so are clearly the better product. Nvidia are mean, secretive and nasty so you must therefore hate them, drawing any attention to them having actually produced a better working product (ie- including software bit) under Linux immediately forfeits your geek card and hence all slashdot posting rights. :-)

Re:Drivers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41753439)

Lies... NVIDIA supports Linux and FreeBSD. ATI's Linux drivers are often buggy and don't work well. I'm still waiting for reliable support for the A6 chip in my laptop.

When AMD decides that FreeBSD is worthy or even if they get their act together I'll give them props. Not to mention the specs haven't been very forthcoming on the fusion era stuff.

Linux (1)

phorm (591458) | about a year and a half ago | (#41753265)

Actually, their windows drivers have been pretty good.
Linux drivers are better than they used to be, but still buggy. For example, I've been recently coding with Ogre3d [ogre3d.org] , and was ready to pull my hair out when terrain textures would not render.
Then I tested the built-in Ogre demos, and ... the textures didn't render. So it appears to be an issue with my laptop's ATI GPU+driver, and not my code at all. Frustrating!

Apparently this was also a similar ">issue [slashdot.org] with textures on some Catalyst drivers in windows running back quite a bit.

Catalyst? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750267)

Yes, but have they fixed the bugs in the drivers? I had to downgrade from 2.8 to 2.4 due to missing shadows in my games.

Re:Catalyst? (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750757)

You're either missing a '1' in front of those versions, or it's time to invest in a new video card.

The latest was 12.8, last I checked.

Re:Catalyst? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41751793)

He didn't say when he had to downgrade versions ...

Jesus Christ (1)

neokushan (932374) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750279)

As it turns out, that's because AMD's new executive team is more keen on gaming than their predecessors

The very same predecessors who bought and merged with ATI, a graphics card business? Oh sure, I know graphics cards have many applications (moreso today than ever thanks to GPGPU computing) but let's face it - the rise of the GPU has been primarily because of gaming.
It's no wonder that just a couple of years after the merger, the entire AMD/ATI company was worth less than what AMD paid for ATI alone...

Re:Jesus Christ (2)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750805)

And even more interesting is how many of the big name acquisitions / mergers of the past five years have been complete miscalculations. Company A acquires / merges with Company B, issues some blurb about how it's synergistic, stock price rises a quarter (as in $0.25), wait two years, Company A is bankrupt / driven into the ground. It's only because it seems to be happening so often these days that I have noticed it.

I must be from the old school of thought, where acquiring / merging meant increasing the company's capacity / lowering long-term costs. Nowadays, you can't even be sure an IPO will not be the high-water mark of a business. A decade ago? Investors made out when the company went IPO. Today? Investors make out only if they sell before the IPO. Me thinks something is broken, and getting worse. I hear a distinct rattling / grinding noise that I am fairly certain shouldn't be there.

Never mind the games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41750283)

...how about a bog-standard driver that can go more than a day without taking out Windows 7?

Re:Never mind the games... (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750831)

Just what integrated motherboard chipset / value video card did you purchase from the back of a white van to come up with that line of reasoning?

As with all video cards, buy from people who don't have a history of pissing off their customers with silly design decisions. To this end, I enjoy HIS, but have heard that Asus / Powercolor / a few others are equally capable.

How do I get the bundle in Europe? (1)

A Friendly Troll (1017492) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750395)

How do I get the bundle in Europe? It seems that the promotion is only available to US residents, but my google-fu could have failed me...

The way NVidia does it (0)

citizenr (871508) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750427)

Nvidia gives out bribe^^^^marketing budget for 'The Way It's Meant To Be Played' splash screen. They pay you money for adding that splash and tying your product to some retarded nvidia only library (usually physx).
There was a time Nvidia paid for removing features that worked better on AMD (Assassin's Creed DirectX 10.1). Nowadays they just force you to run their unoptimized DLL.

Re:The way NVidia does it (2)

citizenr (871508) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750441)

Nvidia gives out bribe^^^^marketing budget for 'The Way It's Meant To Be Played' splash screen. They pay you money for adding that splash and tying your product to some retarded nvidia only library (usually physx).
There was a time Nvidia paid for removing features that worked better on AMD (Assassin's Creed DirectX 10.1). Nowadays they just force you to run their unoptimized DLL.

Almost forgot. Its even worse on Tablets. Nvidia has a big bribe^^^^marketing campaign that pays developers for locking their games into Tegra platform. They dont add extra features, there is a check in startup code you add to get your brib^^marketing budget. There are even patches that liberate games from this restriction.

Re:The way NVidia does it (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751259)

Actually, there's far more then that. What nvidia pays for is sole rights to access betas and other pre-release builds to optimize their drivers and iron out bugs. Ati devs often answer the "why is game x buggy on release on my ATI card"-question with their template "this game is the way it's meant to be played game, meaning we don't have access to it until it's released and it takes a while after we get access to iron out the bugs".

Re:The way NVidia does it (1)

citizenr (871508) | about a year and a half ago | (#41752607)

I also heard about Nvidia engineers "helping out" with code. Result is usually some spaghetti garbage that only works good on Nvidia.
For example Crysis 2 tessellation "optimized" to run smooth on Nvidia cards that excel at pointless tessellation.
http://techreport.com/review/21404/crysis-2-tessellation-too-much-of-a-good-thing/2 [techreport.com]

Oh great (2)

DrXym (126579) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750429)

Does that mean that in addition to enduring stupid unskippable Nvidia clips playing when games start we can look forward to the same from AMD?

Re:Oh great (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750695)

Does that mean that in addition to enduring stupid unskippable Nvidia clips playing when games start we can look forward to the same from AMD?

Nope, the games company will have to choose either AMD or Nvidia to jump into bed with for each title probably. Otherwise there would just be an almighty argument over who got to have their splash screen first.

Re:Oh great (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year and a half ago | (#41750871)

Hopefully not, but throwing free high-end ATI/AMD hardware at developers would be an excellent idea to level the playing field with Nvidia (who already does this).

Now if they can convince the CPU team to weld two Phenom II X6s together, I'd be happier. F*ck hyperthreading, f*ck it in the ass. It was horrible when Intel implemented it (it's a speedup that sometimes work for you, sometimes against you, and sometimes not at all!; plus the part where Windows thought it had two CPUs, instead of one, and would continuously schedule stuff on the second 'free' CPU was just hours of entertainment), and it's horrible when AMD implemented it.

Guys, I want real cores. I don't care if you have to reintroduce multiple sockets for consumer motherboards to make it happen; if anything, having seen the motherboards they are trying to offload on the server market lately, it would be a major improvement. And I don't really care if I need a new motherboard for it, but please include a liquid cooling solution, or at least the processor clamp, if you think things are going to get toasty. Processor shim will set you back like $5 in large quantities.

Re:Oh great (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#41751271)

I've already seen "gaming evolved" splash screens in several games. It's pretty much the same thing.

nothing will save them now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41751159)

When there was virtualization flaw in one of their processors, they decided not to refund customers.

I was one of those customers. Now AMD in dire straits. Am I going to refund them? Nope. More than that, my next processor going to be Intel. Will save me hundred pounds per year as well on electricity.

More performance + 100 pounds per year economy > 200 pounds extra upfront costs

Making inferior processor is OK. Badly treating customers is not. If you are a small boy, AMD, you need to be extra polite - you can't bully others like big boys do.

Cheers.

Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41755085)

I haven't had to do the driver shuffle to get games working since i switched to ATI/AMD.

Nvidia was nice. but holy fuck. i kept at least 5 versions of their drivers around for various games to get them working 100% properly. it got rather insane depending on which game i wanted to play. and that determines which driver i needed. and it would have to be changed YET AGAIN if i wanted to play something else...

AMD i've just got one driver. the installed one. and everything works perfectly.

I also had the misfortune to try nvidias support once. Their solution to a fucking driver problem was 'you should buy our newest video card'. And my card was less than 6 months old.
All in all... fuck nvidia.
Their mobo chipset drivers are almost as bad too. Next mobo sure won't have nvidia anything.

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