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Acer launches new high-end gaming laptops with Nvidia RTX 2080 GPUs – TechCrunch

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Acer today announced two new gaming laptops at CES, the 17-inch $4,000 Predator Triton 900 with a convertible 4K display and the somewhat more affordable all-metal 15-inch $1,800 Triton 500. What sets these laptops apart is, among a few other interesting features and some interesting design choices, support for Nvidia’s new(ish) RTX 2080 GPUs, the most powerful graphics processors on the market today.

The Triton 900 features the RTX 2080 by default, while you’ll have to shell out an extra $700 to get it on the Triton 500. Otherwise, the specs are very much what you’d expect from a modern gaming laptop, with 8th generation Intel i7 chips, 16GB of base memory (with the option of going up to 32GB) and up to a terabyte of NVMe-based storage.

The Triton 900’s flipping screen is a bit of a gimmick, but it doesn’t look bad and the company argues that it’ll allow for “multiple gaming scenarios and better ergonomics.” I’m not sure ergonomics is top of mind for most gamers who are willing to shell out $4,000 for a laptop, but it can’t hurt either. The 4K display is a touchscreen, too, which could make it interesting as a more high-end portable workstation for creative work. If you’re a gamer, though, you’ll likely be more excited about the built-in Xbox wireless receiver and audio by Waves, which offers head tracking to provide you a more realistic 3D audio experience

Unsurprisingly, the Triton 500 is the more “sensible” option here, with a more palatable starting price, slim design (it’s 0.7 inches thick and weighs in at 4.6 lbs) and the promise of eight hours of battery life. You only get a full HD display, though, with even the base model comes with an RTX 2060 card, which is no slouch either and should easily be able to let you play and modern game at its maximum graphics settings in HD.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

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Microsoft promises Call of Duty for Nintendo consoles in surprise 10-year deal

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Aurich Lawson

Nintendo fans hoping that the ultra-popular Call of Duty series would eventually come to the Switch got an unexpected boost last night. That’s when Microsoft’s Xbox chief Phil Spencer announced that the company had reached “a 10-year commitment to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo following the merger of Microsoft and Activision Blizzard King.” The announcement comes alongside a similar announcement promising to keep Call of Duty on Steam for the same period of time.

If the “10-year commitment” part of those announcements sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s the same length of time Microsoft has reportedly formally offered to keep the Call of Duty franchise on PlayStation consoles. That followed a September offer to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for three additional years, which Sony called inadequate in public statements. But Spencer has gone much further in his public statements, saying in October that Microsoft would continue to ship a PlayStation Call of Duty “as long as there’s a PlayStation out there to ship to.”

Real ones remember.
Enlarge / Real ones remember.

The Nintendo announcement is significantly more surprising, though, considering that Call of Duty hasn’t appeared on a Nintendo console since Call of Duty Ghosts hit the Wii U in 2013. That game came one year after Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 became a surprise launch title for the ill-fated console.

Switching things up

From a business perspective, the bestselling Switch is a much more appealing target for Activision and/or Microsoft than the Wii U ever was. But the limited hardware power of the Switch makes Call of Duty something of an awkward fit for a series that’s always aimed for top-of-the-line presentation on modern consoles and PCs.

Then again, limited hardware power didn’t stop a series of scaled-down Call of Duty conversions for the Nintendo DS up through 2011’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Defiance. Other developers have turned to streaming versions to get their high-end games available on the Switch, especially in Japan.

Modern FPS titles from Warface and Doom have seen low-res ports squeezed onto the Switch in recent years with mixed results. But persistent rumors of a more powerful “Switch 2” in the coming years would definitely make any potential Call of Duty ports less of a development lift.

<em>Doom</em> on the Nintendo Switch runs well below 1080p resolution but is still suitably creepy.
Enlarge / Doom on the Nintendo Switch runs well below 1080p resolution but is still suitably creepy.

The possibility of a Switch version of Call of Duty hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere for Microsoft. At an October Wall Street Journal Live event, Spencer said, “When I think about our plans, I’d love to see [Call of Duty] on Switch and playable on many different screens.” In practically the same breath, though, he said that “this opportunity is really about mobile” and the 3 billion potential customers who could play Call of Duty on a smartphone.

“Microsoft is committed to helping bring more games to more people—however they choose to play,” Spencer said in his Tuesday night announcement.

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Two months of Intel Arc driver updates begin to fix low performance in old games

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Enlarge / Intel is talking up big performance gains in some old, but noteworthy, games.

Intel

In the run-up to the launch of Intel’s Arc graphics cards, the company emphasized for months that the cards might not perform well in games that didn’t use newer graphics APIs like Vulkan and DirectX 12. The GPUs are actually quite price-competitive with aging midrangers like Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 if you’re playing newer games, but performance in older games is mixed.

For Intel Arc owners attracted to the cards’ price, salvation may come in the form of continued driver updates. Since the October launch of the A770 and A750, Intel has released a handful of driver updates, each of which has fixed specific bugs or provided small performance improvements in individual games. But in today’s beta driver release (31.0.101.3959, for those keeping track), Intel is offering a “significant” boost in older DirectX9 titles, with frame rates that can improve by as much as 80 percent.

DirectX9 was the graphics API of choice in the Windows XP era, and the Windows XP era lasted for a very long time. The API is also used in still-popular multiplayer games like Counter-Strike: Global OffensiveLeague of LegendsTeam Fortress 2, and Starcraft II, making performance improvements in DirectX9 games particularly noteworthy.

Specific performance numbers. This isn't the difference between playable and unplayable, but they might be noticeable on monitors with super-high refresh rates.
Enlarge / Specific performance numbers. This isn’t the difference between playable and unplayable, but they might be noticeable on monitors with super-high refresh rates.

Intel

Because these are pretty old games we’re talking about, these performance improvements aren’t necessary to hit 60 frames per second on the A770 (though the improvements also apply to the entry-level Arc A380 GPU, which might need the extra help. These increases will mostly benefit competitive players, for whom super-high frame rates and low response times are critical. Some of the increases from the new driver are minor, but at 1080p, Intel says Stellaris and Starcraft II frame rates improved by around 50 percent, while League of Legends improved by 37 percent and CS: Go went up by 80 percent.

Intel had previously said it was using a Microsoft-provided translation layer to support DirectX9 games. With these improvements, the company says it’s introducing a “hybrid” approach, using the D3D9On12 layer “when a better experience can be delivered” and a native implementation when it benefits performance. This makes some sense—Intel can use translation for any given 15-year-old DirectX9 PC game while providing a more optimized native implementation for the DirectX9 games that lots of people are still actually playing.

Intel will decide when to switch individual titles over to the native DirectX9 implementation rather than the translated one and will deliver those changes via driver updates along with other improvements.

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Diablo IV preview: Embracing the series’ dark past and open-world future

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Enlarge / Stop, drop, and roll!

It’s not a stretch to say that the Diablo series is one of the most influential role-playing game franchises of all time. As one of the early action-focused loot games, it offered a deeply compelling and satisfying take on the classic concept of the dungeon crawl. Its many sequels advanced its foundations of rewarding character growth and addictive loot collection. The Diablo games are still well-loved today, but other titles have picked up the baton and taken the genre in new directions.

So with the upcoming Diablo IV, developer Blizzard is seeking to reinvent the classic action RPG, taking the series’ first steps into a dark open world filled to the brim with gruesome violence. While staying true to the game’s isometric action-RPG and dark fantasy roots, Diablo IV brings a more ambitious and freeform adventure, with many new ways to customize your hero as you adventure across the land.

I was able to play over 12 hours of Diablo IV’s opening act in an early beta preview of the game, which showcased its expansive open world and gave a sample of how much power a budding adventurer can attain. It’s already apparent that Diablo IV is less about providing a series of linear dungeon crawls and more about opening the player to a wider world filled with monsters to fight and loot to collect.

Embracing a dark past

Several decades after the defeat of Malthael in Diablo III, things have not improved in the world of Sanctuary. With humanity falling into despair, a desperate group of adventurers seeking loot and power summons the malevolent arch-demon Lilith, who embarks on a brutal campaign to retake the ruined world. With the land poised to plunge even further into darkness, a Barbarian, a Rogue, a Sorceress, a Druid, and a Necromancer take their first steps into Sanctuary. They team up to amass power and infamy, all in pursuit of gaining the strength to defeat Lilith and her army throughout the world of Sanctuary.

According to Diablo IV director Joe Shely, the development team felt it needed a more consistent and striking tone for their trip back to Sanctuary. “[Diablo IV] is much closer to the horror and fantasy roots than recent interactions of the IP,” Shely said during a pre-game presentation. “We want the world of Sanctuary to be scary, challenging, and engaging, but we also want it to be a place worth fighting for. The main theme of the game is ‘hatred.’ Hate will consume Sanctuary and the hearts of our characters, and we will explore its lore and its dire consequences.”

The dark tone of <em>Diablo IV</em> extends to the color palette in scenes like this.
Enlarge / The dark tone of Diablo IV extends to the color palette in scenes like this.

From the game’s opening hours, it was clear that Diablo IV is the series’ darkest and most violent entry. The bloody opening act—filled with undead monsters, human sacrifices, and lots and lots of blood—effectively sets the mood for this grim adventure. If Diablo III was akin to Peter Jackson’s director’s cut of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Diablo IV is much more in the vein of the dark gothic horror of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

This dark atmosphere will be familiar to anyone who remembers the first two Diablo games and their vision of a dark, gothic fantasy world. But Diablo IV’s take on the genre feels more brutal and grotesque. The violence and bleak atmosphere of the game can be a lot to take in at times, but it all connects to the more significant vision of a ruined world.

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