'Ark Park' Features Steep Minimum Hardware Requirements, Pushes Visual Fidelity In VR

Getting chased around by dinosaurs in VR can be an unnerving experience. We saw this with Ark: Survival Evolved and its subsequent expansions, which immersed users in a do-or-die, kill-or-be killed fight for your life on an island full of dinosaurs that can tear you to shreds. However, Ark: Survival was not designed explicitly as a VR experience, and the extremely high details of the environment and dinosaurs created performance issues for would-be survivors using HMDs (and sometimes, even standard 2D gamers).

Last November, Snail Games licensed the IP for Ark: Survival Evolved to a company called Wildcard, which took all of the highly-detailed dinos from the suspenseful game and put them into a less-threatening package designed from the ground up specifically for VR. Ark Park lets you see all of the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, without the fear of getting eaten. You can even feed them.

At GDC, we had the opportunity to take a stroll through Ark Park, and we were impressed by the sheer detail of the dinosaurs and environment in the game. The downside to these stunning visuals was that the GTX 1080 running the game had its needle in the red the entire time, and we definitely weren’t hitting the standard 90fps most VR games are designed to deliver. The frame rate was mostly landing between 45-60fps (as best as we can tell from our personal VR gaming experience); the performance was a major downside to the otherwise-enjoyable demo.

We were shocked to learn that the minimum hardware requirements for Ark Park is an Intel Core i7-4790K processor and a GTX 1080 GPU, which up until last week, was Nvidia’s top-tier flagship graphics card. Furthermore, the recommended CPU is the eight-core Core i7-5960X, so it’s no wonder we experienced performance issues with such a steep hardware requirement.

Clearly, Snail Games and Wildcard are banking on graphics technology improving sooner rather than later (and a GTX 1080 Ti would likely net better performance), with Ark Park slated for a 2017 release on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. However, we are somewhat skeptical of how well a game requiring so much CPU and GPU horsepower will perform on the PSVR, which will also receive Ark Park sometime this year.

Although we’re elated to see more graphically demanding VR experiences, we wonder if Ark Park is pushing too much too fast. However, with AMD Vega on the way, and the GTX 1080 Ti offering a considerable performance boost over its predecessor, perhaps Ark Park will find a home in the game libraries of top-tier hardware enthusiasts. However, PSVR compatibility is somewhat of a wildcard, and the representatives we spoke with didn’t volunteer specific console launch details.

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Cougar Releases 'Revenger' Optical Gaming Mouse

We first encountered the Revenger, at Computex 2016, and now it’s available (just months before Computex 2017). The Revenger features a 100-12,000DPI optical sensor and has two-zone RGB backlighting.

Revenger boasts a 1,000Hz polling rate and 1ms response time. It has six programmable buttons–the same as Cougar’s 500M and 550M, but two fewer than the 600M, 700M, and 700m eSports–that offer easy access to 21 different functions. Those buttons and their functions are managed by Cougar’s UIX System, and the Revenger’s 512KB of onboard storage will allow you to store up to three different configuration profiles right on the mouse itself.

COUGAR REVENGER – 12,000 DPI Ultimate Optical Gaming Mouse

The mouse also uses two-zone RGB backlighting that lets you know what configuration profile you’re using. Revenger’s two zones are located near the Cougar logo and the three-Stage DPI LED display.

Revenger uses Omron gaming switches, a “gaming-grade scroll wheel,” and a “premium pro-gaming surface.” It’s available from sellers like Amazon and Newegg for roughly $60. That’s the same as the 550M that the Revenger is supposed to succeed in Cougar’s gaming mouse lineup. You can learn more about the 550M from the hands (palm?) on we did with the product when it was introduced at Computex 2015.

Product Cougar Revenger
Sensor PMW 3360 optical sensor
Resolution 100-12,000DPI
Polling Rate 1,000Hz / 1ms
On-board Memory 512KB
Software Cougar UIX System
Programmable Buttons 6
Switching Omron gaming switches
Profile LED Backlight Two-zone, 16.8 million colors
Maximum Tracking Speed 250IPS
Maximum Acceleration 50G
Interface Golden-plated USB plug
Cable Length 1.8m
Dimensions (L x W x H) 135 x 70 x 45 mm
Weight 115g

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Consumer Reports Develops A Privacy And Security Standard

Consumer Reports announced that it’s developed a standard to help consumers know if a product respects their privacy and protects their data. The publication said it also plans to take this standard into account when it reviews products in the future. Given the company’s influence, this move could persuade manufacturers to finally take seriously the security of their customers instead of treating it like an afterthought or simply ignoring it outright.

The announcement comes after many products have been revealed to be insecure. Internet-connected stuffed animals from CloudPets made it easy to collect email addresses, voice recordings, and other data from children and their families; Internet of Things (IoT) products were used to knock major websites like Twitter and Spotify offline; and several IoT cameras have sported vulnerabilities that could be exploited to snoop on unwitting consumers.

These problems have done little to convince manufacturers that privacy and security ought to be a primary concern for any internet-connected devices. Some companies have partnered up to share threat information and develop best practices for IoT products, and Senator Mark Warner has called on federal agencies to figure out how to defend against cyberattacks involving those devices, but another vulnerability is always waiting to be found.

Consumer Reports could help make a difference here. The magazine has been running since 1936. Here’s what the company said about its decision to develop this standard in its announcement:

Standards and test protocols to evaluate products can be created by government agencies, but they don’t always have to be, especially if the government is not adequately addressing a problem in the marketplace. Consumer Reports has plenty of experience working with and advocating for stronger standards for all manner of products. We pushed hard for and provided scientific input on the development of dynamic rollover tests now used by the government to evaluate all cars, including SUVs. We also develop our own protocols when we believe existing standards are not going far enough to protect consumers. The safety protocol we developed for doing comparative crash-testing on child car seats was designed to reflect consumers’ real-world experiences better than government tests, and it has spurred a lot of productive dialogue with manufacturers.

We are now turning this type of focus to privacy. If Consumer Reports and other public-interest organizations create a reasonable standard and let people know which products do the best job of meeting it, consumer pressure and choices can change the marketplace. We’ve seen this repeatedly over our 80-year history.

Consumer Reports said the standard focuses on a few basic ideas:

  1. Products should be built to be secure.
  2. Products should preserve consumer privacy.
  3. Products should protect the idea of ownership.
  4. Companies should act ethically.

Those are just the broad strokes of the standard. Consumer Reports worked with Disconnect, Ranking Digital Rights, and the Cyber Independent Testing Lab on the standard. All of those organizations–two of them, Ranking Digital Rights and the Cyber Independent Testing Lab, are nonprofits–are devoted to helping consumers protect their privacy and security. The groups worked together over the course of several months to develop the new standard.

Work on the standard was funded by the Craig Newmark Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, as well as the Ford Foundation. Consumer Reports released the standard in a public document while “inviting others to give us feedback, add their own ideas, and make the standard better.” If the standard catches on, manufacturers could finally be held accountable for the influence they hold over many people’s digital privacy and security.

Or, at least, it will be easier for publications like Consumer Reports to warn consumers when a product isn’t safe to use. Many people have already shown that they aren’t going to protect themselves–perhaps warnings from Consumer Reports and other influential outlets will help them stay safe even if they can’t or won’t follow security best practices.

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'Final Fantasy XV' Director Shows Game Running On GTX 1080 Ti

Since the end of November 2016, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One fans have been playing Final Fantasy XV, the latest entry in Square Enix’s long-running franchise. However, the PC gaming crowd was left out in the cold, so to speak. Plans to bring the game to PC players have yet to be confirmed, but a GDC video presentation makes it seem like there could be something in the works.

At last week’s Game Developers Conference, Hajime Tabata, the game’s director, presented a video that showed the development team’s process for Final Fantasy XV. This included gathering data on realistic lighting effects, creating authentic facial reactions, and making the in-game food the envy of Instagram foodies everywhere. In the latter half of the video, however, the topic switched to a partnership between Nvidia and Luminous Studio Pro, the engine used by Tabata’s team to create Final Fantasy XV.

From that point on, you can see multiple facets of gameplay, all of which were captured with the newly-announced GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. This includes combat, scenery, and even a detailed rendering of a cat. The video then ends with “The studio that brought you Final Fantasy XV now looks ahead to the future.”

If the ending message is any indication, it seems that Tabata and his team aren’t finished with Final Fantasy XV just yet. In addition to the downloadable content coming to consoles, the team will have to make sure that the game is up to the visual and performance standards that come with creating a triple-A game for the PC. That is, of course, if the game is actually coming to PC at all.

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Fujitsu To Build AI Supercomputer With 24 Nvidia DGX-1 Systems

Fujitsu-built supercomputer for RikenFujitsu-built supercomputer for Riken

Fujitsu announced that it will build a supercomputer for Riken, a Japanese AI research center, that comes with 32 Intel Xeon-based Fujitsu servers and 24 Nvidia DGX-1 AI accelerator systems and boasts a peak theoretical performance of 4 petaflops.

Nvidia DGX-1

The DGX-1 is what Nvidia likes to call an “AI supercomputer in a box.” It features eight Tesla P100 GPUs that are optimized for deep learning, and the whole system can cost as much as $129,000. The Elon Musk-backed OpenAI nonprofit was the very first customer to get one.

According to Nvidia, a DGX-1 has the same performance as 250 conventional x86 servers. The key word here is “conventional,” as Intel has its own machine learning “Xeon Phi” accelerators now, which can offer much better competition. However, they may still not be a match for Nvidia’s latest GPUs.

Although things could change over the next few years, when we’ll see more FPGAs or ASICs on the market that are more optimized for machine learning, it looks like GPUs are still the most common and effective way to train neural networks right now. Nvidia has also invested heavily in the software ecosystem to make its GPUs that much more appealing for customers who want to train neural networks on its chips.

Riken’s Supercomputer

A performance of 4 petaflops is towards the lower end of the spectrum for today’s supercomputers, which can already reach around 100 petaflops, and will soon reach 300 petaflops. The lower performance target may be the reason why Riken and Fujitsu decided to go with a modular solution based on 24 DGX-1 systems rather than a more customized architecture.

The whole supercomputer will be comprised of two server architectures: Nvidia’s DGX-1 systems and Fujitsu’s Intel Xeon-based servers (Primergy RX2530 M2). The file system will run on a “high-reliability, high-performance storage system,” which includes six Fujitsu Server Primergy RX2540 M2 PC servers, eight Fujitsu Storage Eternus DX200 S3 storage systems, and one Fujitsu Storage Eternus DX100 S3 storage system to provide the IO processing demanded by deep learning analysis.

According to Nvidia, the DGX-1 systems will offer Riken’s supercomputer the following capabilities:

  • Containerized deep learning frameworks, optimized by NVIDIA for maximum GPU-accelerated deep learning training
  • Greater performance and multi-GPU scaling with NVIDIA NVLink, accelerating time to discovery
  • An integrated software and hardware architecture optimized for deep learning

The Riken R&D lab will use the supercomputer and its AI capabilities to find better solutions to social issues. Riken aims to find improvements to healthcare for the elderly, the management of aging infrastructure, and response to natural disasters. The Fujitsu-built supercomputer should go online in April.

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'Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3' Delayed (Again) To April 25

Those eager to play CI Games’ Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 next month will have to wait a little longer. After initially delaying the game from January to April, the studio pushed the release date back another three weeks to April 25.

The reason for this latest delay was based on feedback during the game’s beta session. This forced the developers to make some changes to the game, which CI Games CEO Mark Tyminski believes will be worth the wait.

“We’ve worked tirelessly creating a whole new Sniper Ghost Warrior experience set in an ambitiously crafted open world new to the series,” he said in a press release. “While it’s an unfortunate decision to delay the game one last time, we believe these final changes will result in a better experience for players worldwide on day one. Thank you for your patience – we know the wait will be worth it.”

For those curious about the gameplay, you can check out the studio’s stealth walkthrough of one of the game’s missions, or you can read about our early preview of the game from PAX West. If you’re already convinced that you’re getting the game, make sure your PC can handle it by checking on the hardware requirements.

Name Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
Type Stealth, Action, Open-World
Developer CI Games
Publisher CI Games
Platforms PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Where To Buy
Release Date April 25, 2017

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