The New Twitch App Is Pretty Great!

I know I was bemoaning all the apps we need to download so we can play computer games in an earlier post, but if Twitch/Amazon wants to be successful in the PC video game business, they needed to update their very bare bones app.  Thankfully their new desktop app is a like fifty steps in the right direction.

You can watch streams, have video chats, manage and add to your game library, and of course stream your games all from the same Twitch app.  Instead of some random launcher for just games, this app does it all.  It is still missing a few features, with cloud save syncing being chief among them, but they have assured me they are listening to their consumers, and that they want to make the Twitch Desktop App as feature rich as possible.  Apparently they already have save syncing working internally, so it shouldn’t be long until we see it out in the wild.  I mean it isn’t like Amazon doesn’t have the server space.

If you are a fan of Twitch, or just want Steam to have an actual competitor to keep it honest, it is nice to see Amazon making their service and the tools for that service better.  Now all Twitch needs is for a few major AAA games to launch on its store and we could have an actual competitive digital PC sales marketplace.  I am all for that!

Crypto-Mining Is Ruining PC Gaming!

Lately I have been playing a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).  It is a great game and tons of fun, but I have noticed that my graphics card isn’t quite up to snuff, so I thought I would check and see what video card prices are these days, and let me tell you, I was surprised.  There are no more mid-range video cards.  The RX 580’s and 570’s are either gone or selling for almost $500.  While the NVidia GTX 1070’s are also MIA.  The GTX 1060’s are still in stock, but going for almost $300, which is $100 too high.  The low end cards are still available, as are the super high end cards, but those are either not worth anyone’s time, or way to expensive for the every day gamer.

Why has this happened you ask? Crypto-mining.  The AMD RX series are super good at mining those sweet, sweet crypto-hashes, as are the mid-upper NVidia cards, and the more of those cards you get, the more hashes you can crack.  This was a problem back when Bitcoin first took off as well, but thankfully the hashes got too hard to crack for all but the biggest mining operations, but now Ethereum has launched.  It is like Bitcoin’s younger brother.  It seems odd that there would be so much value in yet another crypto-currency, but here we are again off to the races, and we poor PC gamers are once again footing the bill.

I know what you are thinking.  If we wait out Ethereum, the hashes will get hard to mine, and then cards will start flooding the market just like what happened with Bitcoin, but here is the deal, now that people know they can make a ton of money at this, there will always be another currency to mine.  That means there will always be a need for tons of mid-range video cards.  Which means PC gaming is always going to be super expensive.  Which is a shame because there is nothing quite like playing games on a PC.  It is just a more intimate experience than a console.  A PC is just for you, while a console is more about family entertainment.

Don’t mind me.  I am going to return to the ocean and shake my fist tide, and scream to no-one in particular about crypto-miners stealing all the good video cards.  While the people around me wonder what the heck I am screaming about and hide their children from the strange angry man.

Is AMD’s Vega Too Late?

Yesterday AMD FINALLY announced their Vega lineup of cards.  Their top end card will be the Radeon RX Vega 64, starting at $499 US, and their slightly lower end card is called the Radeon RX Vega 56, starting at $399 US.  As an AMD fanboy I was excited to see their new cards, and even more excited that they should be hitting stores soon, August 14th, but the sad news was that they were merely going to go toe to toe with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 and the GeFore GTX 1070 respectively.

Coming out a year later and not being faster than those cards is a real bummer.  Don’t get me wrong, Nvidia needs the competition, but considering Nvidia already has their ultra fast GTX 1080ti out, and it easily bests the Vega 64, that means Nvidia’s next round of cards that are coming out soon will be even faster than Vega without even trying very hard.

Granted AMD will be able to compete on price like they always have, and they are promising to keep the supply chains stocked to keep crypto-miners from driving the price up, but it just would have been fun to see a fight for the high end graphics market again.  If Vega would have come out even six months ago maybe would we be talking about some sort of Super-Vega to compete with the 1080ti, but that didn’t happen, and now if you want super high-end graphics Nvidia is still the company you should turn to.

If You Are Streaming, People May Snipe You!

The Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) community was all up in arms this weekend because a well known player got banned for “Stream Sniping”.  What is Stream Sniping you may ask? It is watching a player’s live stream, figuring out their location, and then killing them with that info.  Crafty and underhanded to be sure, but it hardly seems like a ban-able offense.

I mean it is hard to prove for one thing.  I guess since most people’s PUBG accounts are linked to Twitch, you could try and get the logs from the stream and see if that player was watching, but that would take a lot of work, and Twitch would have to be willingly giving out streaming data.  That seems unlikely.  Not to mention the act itself would be hard to pull off.  You would need to be watching the stream, somehow get in the same match with the streamer, and then pay attention to both the stream and the game at the same time.  That is not even taking in to account the lag between the stream and real time.  If you can do all that you should get an award not a ban.

In the end though, if you are streaming your game, you are willingly giving up your game information anyway.  Unless it is in a tournament or something, this is a choice the streamer is making to let everyone watch their every video game move, so guess what?  Some people may use that information against the streamer in the game they are playing, and I think that is why the community has come to the defense of the player that got banned.

Is it cheating? Sort of, but no more then screen looking while playing Halo or Golden Eye back in the old days.  It is just a hazard that comes with participating in this new hyper-connected digital age.  If you don’t want people knowing where you are in your stream, build in a ten second lag.  That is enough to keep it ‘live’, but it would make it even harder, if not impossible, on all those super talented Screen Snipers.  Though I doubt it is necessary, since I think amount of Screen Snipers our there may be close to zero, successful ones anyway.

Shmee Takes On PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds!

Considering how popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is, it was only a matter of time before I picked it up, and I am disappointed that it took me this long to get it.  It is a ton of fun, and for only $30 (or less), it is more than worth your money.  If you have a computer that can run it that is.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Battlegrounds, let me tell you how it works.  At the start of each match you and 99 other people jump from a plane to a large island and then start to look for weapons and equipment in houses and shacks.  As the game progresses, a blue wall of static starts to close in around you.  If you get hit by the wall it will kill you pretty quickly (more quickly as the game progresses), so you need to keep moving towards safe areas.  You can find cars, buggies and motorcycles to help you move faster, but those attract attention, so you will be running a lot.  You of course are shooting/punching everyone you see as you do all this.  If you are the last person or team to survive, you win.  I have never won.

Due to the random nature of A: How the plane travels across the island, B: Weapon and gear spawns, and C: Where the safe zones will be.  The game is never quite the same twice.  Sometimes you get the perfect spot, and you just get to wait for all the other players to come running towards your well fortified house.  Other times it is like that movie Run Lola Run.  You are trying to get from one side of the map to other, and you are blasting through and looting houses as fast as you can, and you are always just a couple of steps in front of the wall until some sniper ends your journey.

Some people complain that it is too random, but so far, even when I am the first person out, I am having fun.  You just never know what to expect.  I imagine that the randomness will make it hard for the pro circuit, since some teems will just get better starting points than others, but I am no pro, so it doesn’t matter to me.

If you have a decent PC, you should get this game.  It is fun, and you can play a round in 30 to 40 minutes.  It is in early access now, but they are working hard to create a full release build soon.  If you don’t have a PC, you just need to be patient, they are working on getting an Xbox One version out late this year or early next year, and then a PS4 version will follow that.