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NVIDIA SLI & Intel Core I7 Extreme Ed. CPUs Power World's Fastest Desktop Gaming PCs

NVIDIA today announced that system builders worldwide are now shipping the fastest PC gaming platforms ever built, thanks in part to NVIDIA SLI technology and the just-released Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition processors and X79 chipset-based motherboards.

The combination of NVIDIA SLI technology -- which allows for multiple GPUs to run on a single PC -- and new X79-based motherboards allow gamers to customize their PC experience with up to four NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPUs, including the GeForce GTX 580 and GTX 570, the world's fastest DX11 GPUs. Licensed by the world's leading motherboard manufacturers -- including Intel, ASUS, ASRock, EVGA, Foxconn, Gigabyte and MSI, SLI technology is crucial for playing this year's hottest graphics-intensive games, such as the recently released Battlefield 3 and upcoming Batman: Arkham City with detail, resolution and immersion settings cranked up.

Minecraft: 2.5 Year Beta Finally Goes Gold

Yes, after 2.5 years in the making and over 4 million sales, Minecraft has finally gone gold. This is the game with the charmingly blocky graphics where the player builds their cartoon world out of blocks and must hide from monsters at night. It will be officially released at the inaugural MineCon event in Las Vegas this Friday. Developer Markus "Notch" Persson head of studio Mojang announced it had gone gold on Twitter:
So, yes. Minecraft has gone gold.
Sources: CVG, www.minecraft.net, http://minecon.mojang.com

PC CoD Elite No Show: The Backpedal!

Today, we brought you the depressing news that Activision are unlikely to bring the Call of Duty social network called Elite, to the PC platform, despite all their loyal PC gamers, who have bought every iteration of the game going and in particular helped them achieve their blockbuster sales of $400M last week. This delight came courtesy of this tweet:
@thejuggz We are working towards a universal Elite experience but we cannot guarantee if or when a version will be available for the PC.
Well, what do you know, but it looks like Elite is coming to the PC platform after all. Yes, you heard that right. In a tweet a while later, Activision claim to have "misspoken", like this:
We misspoke. Our goal has always been to provide a free PC offering for ELITE. Stay tuned for an update as timing is still being determined.
So PC gamers will at least get the free version. Fantastic. Still second class, but better than nothing. Probably best to keep a close eye on those tweets and a sceptical outlook on this one until it happens. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Loyal PC Call of Duty Gamers: No CoD Elite For You?

Just over a week ago, we brought you frustrating news that the brand new Call of Duty Elite social network was going to be delayed for the PC, once again leaving the PC gaming crowd feeling like second class citizens compared to their console counterparts. Now, in a bitter blow, it appears that the Elite service may shut out loyal PC gamers altogether. Plus, as is typical of big companies, the message was delivered in the most terse and disrespectful way possible, via a short Twitter tweet:
@thejuggz We are working towards a universal Elite experience but we cannot guarantee if or when a version will be available for the PC.
So, that's it then, PC gamers may never get it and there's no explanation why. One can only surmise that it's due to the alleged "security issues" previously alluded to. Therefore, hopefuls will just have to wait on tenterhooks for an undefined period of time. So, the biggest sales launch in history isn't enough to convince the company to support the PC platform? It looks like detractors of the Call of Duty franchise have a very legitimate axe to grind this time, doesn't it? Probably the best way to view this unfortunate news is that the benefits weren't worth it anyway.

Sandy Bridge-E Benchmarks Leaked: Disappointing Gaming Performance?

Just a handful of days ahead of Sandy Bridge-E's launch, a Chinese tech website, www.inpai.com.cn (Google translation) has done what Chinese tech websites do best and that's leak benchmarks and slides, Intel's NDA be damned. They pit the current i7-2600K quad core CPU against the upcoming i7-3960X hexa core CPU and compare them in several ways. The take home message appears to be that gaming performance on BF3 & Crysis 2 is identical, while the i7-3960X uses considerably more power, as one might expect from an extra two cores. The only advantage appears to come from the x264 & Cinebench tests. If these benchmarks prove accurate, then gamers might as well stick with the current generation Sandy Bridge CPUs, especially as they will drop in price, before being end of life'd. While this is all rather disappointing, it's best to take leaked benchmarks like this with a (big) grain of salt and wait for the usual gang of reputable websites to publish their reviews on launch day, November 14th. Softpedia reckons that these results are the real deal, however. There's more benchmarks and pictures after the jump.

BF3 Cheaters Enjoy A Bantastic Time!

Just like any good design implementing security by obscurity, hackers and cheaters will find a way to exploit the system in no time flat. In this instance, DICE said via Twitter that cheaters have "found a glitch that allows them to use the Engineer repair tool or the EOD Bot to garner tens of thousands of points in a match." A beautiful and satisfying cheat if ever there was one, really letting you get on the wrong side of your fellow player! However, there's this small problem, since developer DICE has now cottoned on to underhand tactics and is banning these sporting gamers en-masse. Isn't retribution wonderful?

Via Twitter, DICE reported, "This week we've banned hundreds of offending accounts and have stats-wiped accounts for exploiting (such as boosting)..." and they also ask for honest gamer's help in nailing the culprits, "To report players cheating or boosting send us a direct message to this Twitter with a screen shot of the Battle Log Report." There is also a problem with the Sony PS3 version of the game, which will be addressed with a patch, soon. This suggests that the bug is in the core program code, rather than a platform-specific implementation. Finally, one should always strive to behave honestly and ethically in life and it looks like in this instance it really pays off. Here's wishing all honest players an enjoyable time playing BF3, free from cheaters.

Source: computerandvideogames.com

Modern Warfare 3 Sets Record for Biggest Entertainment Launch

Shattering its own day-one sales records, Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, announced that its highly-anticipated Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has become the biggest entertainment launch ever with an estimated sell-through of more than $400 million and more than 6.5 million units in North America and the United Kingdom alone in the first 24 hours of its release, according to Charttrack and retail customer sell-through information.

This marks the third consecutive year that the Call of Duty franchise has set day one launch records across all forms of entertainment, something no other entertainment franchise in any medium has ever accomplished. Last year, in North America and the United Kingdom , Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops had estimated day-one sell-through of $360 million and in 2009, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, set day-one records with estimated sell through of $310 million, according to Charttrack and retail customer sell-through information.

On November 8, 2011, millions of fans attended more than 13,000 midnight openings at retail stores worldwide. According to Microsoft, after just two days, the number of gamers playing simultaneously on Xbox Live set a new peak concurrency record.

Steam Hack More Severe Than Thought: Change Your Password NOW

Gabe Newell of Valve has issued a statement that the forum hack they experienced over the weekend actually goes much deeper than they thought. The criminals accessed the main database containing such goodies as user names, hashed and salted passwords, game purchases, email addresses, billing addresses and encrypted credit card information. Apparently, no personally identifying information was taken - but we await the result of the full investigation before breathing a sigh of relief. Due to this serious breach, TechPowerUp advises all Steam users to change their account password immediately. People starting up their Steam client will now see the following message from Gabe Newell about this:

Steam Forums Get Nailed By Hackers

Valve, a company that operates solely online, takes its security pretty seriously and has a good reputation in this area. However, at the time of writing, its Steam forums are down, having suffered a hack attack earlier today. Visit the forums now and you see a message saying "The Steam Forums are temporarily offline for maintenance. Your patience is appreciated." This attack was apparently done by hackers who want to offer free game cheats (but one should be wary of stealthy malware payloads) since before the forums were taken down, they had planted this message:
Ever wanted to dominate the servers you play on with guaranteed results, but you were too afraid to cheat because of ban risks?
The rest of the message then recommends a website where one can obtain all sorts of illegal game cheats, hack tools and porn. Some Steam forum users even received an email with this text, such as this NeoGAF user. There's no indication that any user's account information has been compromised. However, if you haven’t yet set up Steam Guard, now is a good time to do so, along with changing your password when the forums come back online. Also, be sure to use different a password for every login. Of course, many other gaming forums have been hacked in the past and just this year saw many hacks against such big names as Nintendo, Sega, BioWare, Epic Games and of course Sony, which was hacked many times over in protest at their business practices, such as removing the OtherOS feature from their PS3 console.

Source: 1up.com

Commodore 64 Replica: The Ultimate PC Enthusiast Retro PC Gets An Upgrade

The original 8-bit Commodore 64 computer was very popular in the early 1980s, but the original company eventually closed down in the 1990s, having launched their 16-bit Amiga range in the meantime as the C64s successor. For a while now, replica C64 models, packed with the latest PC technology, have been made by Commodore USA, a different company that has purchased the original Commodore brand.

Since last summer, they have been selling a replica for $999 powered by an Intel CPU. This PC, called the C64x Ultimate (model number: C64x-UL) included a dual core Atom D525, NVIDIA Ion 2 graphics, 4 GB RAM and a 1 TB hard drive. A barebones version is available for $349 without a motherboard, just the keyboard and case, allowing the customer to add their own hardware into the retro box. However, Commodore USA has now upgraded their offering with a considerably more powerful CPU. This version is the C64x Extreme (model number: C64x-EX) which includes a 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7-2720QM CPU, mini-ITX motherboard and PSU, 8 GB DDR3 RAM, DVD writer (slot loading) 2 TB 7200 RPM HDD, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The back panel has the following ports: legacy PS/2, USB 2.0 x5 (one eSATA combo) USB 3.0 x2, Ethernet and three audio jacks. Video connectivity is looked after by HDMI, DVI-D and VGA outputs.

NVIDIA Investigates TDR Issues, Requests Sample Cards

Guru3D reports on a post from NVIDIA tech support on NVIDIA's forums regarding TDR issues (Timeout Detection & Recovery problem (display stopped responding but has successfully recovered)). These problems centre around Battlefield 3 and Windows Media Centre, which NVIDIA can't reproduce, so it looks like the problems may be with specific card models. NVIDIA rep ManuelG posted:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare3 for PC: Exclusive Developer Info

callofduty.com has published a blog entry from developer Infinity Ward / Sledgehammer detailing some of the features and improvements that will be in the upcoming MW3, to be released on November 8th:
I'm extremely excited about the PC version of Modern Warfare 3 this year, because we’ve been taking your feedback since Modern Warfare 2,and the franchise as a whole, on what you wanted to see in the PC version of Modern Warfare 3 and the team at Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games has put aton of emphasis on delivering a PC experience that brings in all the great things we added in Modern Warfare 2:
Lobby System, Matchmaking with a Party, Matchmaking for Public Games, Steam Integration (Friends List, Server Browser,Achievements, Join on Friends)
While combining it with your favorite features from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare:
Dedicated Servers (Join your favorite or set up your own,without any 3rd party hosting requirements), In-game Server Browser that allows you to filter by ping, map, gametype, hardcore, voice, password, and more. In addition, we're supporting PC specific features that give you even more control over your experience like RCON, Custom Game Saving, NoGFX / Audio Card Requirement on DS.exe, Voice Chat, and SSAO.

Walled Garden Outfit Valve Accuses Apple Of Operating A Walled Garden

You've got to laugh at the hypocrisy of big companies sometimes. It's a well known fact that Apple operates a very closed and controlling walled garden eco system with all of their products, courtesy of the late Steve Jobs. Examples include the iPhone, which can only purchase apps from the official Apple apps store and the iPod, which can also only sync with iTunes, both due to deliberate vendor lock-in using a combination of hardware and software DRM (Digital Restrictions Management). Apple claims that this is to ensure a seamless, consistent and high quality user experience. Savvy users know this to be only half the story, instead it's there to shut out competition and lock you in to Apple for everything in order to charge high prices for allegedly "premium" product. The only way to avoid this, is to jailbreak the devices (break the DRM) which conveniently (for Apple) voids the warranty on these expensive gadgets. Thankfully, this process is no longer underground, due to a recent court ruling that said jailbreaking was legal, much to Apple's displeasure.

However, the equally closed Valve, with their Steam gaming platform and it's account-based DRM has accused Apple of being a closed system! They are also "concerned" about it. This happened in an interview between Bellevue-based Valve's Gabe Newell and leading games investor Ed Fries at the WTIA TechNW conference. This has been reported in The Seattle Times in Brier Dudley's blog.

Battlefield 3 To Duke It Out With Modern Warfare 3 For Supremacy

BF3 and MW3 are both being released at nearly the same time, just a couple of weeks apart. Since they both target the same high-end gaming audience, there's going to be some very stiff competition indeed between the two games. What's interesting is the chest-beating that Patrick Liu, producer of developer DICE, is doing. He believes that BF3 will take on and make a severe dent in market share for MW3, although he admits that Activision will be hard to push aside:"From what I've seen of Modern Warfare 3 it looks great, as usual. I think we're going to put a huge dent, so to speak, in [Activision's] market, but they're a behemoth. It's not easy to move them... although I believe that we have already done that, with Battlefield 3's campaign so far. But at the same time, from a developer standpoint, we really focus on creating our own game and making the best that we can. We set the bar quite high for ourselves, and that's usually the biggest challenge for us." From the looks of it though, it looks like he wanted to set it even higher, but it would have taken too much time:"I know that the game is never actually done - we can always improve the game. We have lots of ideas on how to improve this, so if we could we would push Battlefield 3 back a year or two maybe. But that wouldn't make any sense. So the biggest challenge is really our own requirements for ourselves." Who wins the battle of the ratings remains to be seen.

Source: SPOnG

Modern Warfare 3 new trailer, Redemption SP. Graphics as good as BF3?

There’s a great new single player trailer just out for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It continues the story from the previous game and looks excellent, as you might expect. However, since it’s coming out at the same time as Battlefield 3, one can’t help compare the graphics quality between the two. MW3 seems to look like an evolutionary improvement, but still looks like "computer generated graphics", while BF3 appears to define a whole new level of realism which isn’t that hard to mistake for the real thing if it's not looked at closely. Go watch it over at Guru3D at 720p and decide for yourselves. Note that watching the video directly on YouTube requires a free account registration due to the strong nature of the content, but not on Guru3D.

Source: Guru3D

Ditch The Restrictive DRM: Happy Customers Equals More Profit

Rice University and Duke University are the latest in a long line of educational institutions to fund research on the effect of using restrictive Digital Rights Management (DRM) to try and control levels of so-called "piracy", which is allegedly reducing sales of content-only, infinite goods/virtual products, such as music, movies, computer games and books. (Some observers writing about DRM replace the word "Rights", giving us the phrase Digital Restrictions Management, which seems a more accurate description of what it's really about and removes the veneer of legitimacy from it. When buying DRM'd content, you are buying digital handcuffs, nothing more, nothing less.) The universities sponsored a study called Music Downloads and the Flip Side of Digital Rights Management Protection and what it found is that contrary to popular belief amongst the big content companies, removing DRM can actually decrease levels of piracy and increase sales. The fact is that DRM is always broken by hackers and pretty quickly too, often within a day or two (there isn't a single one still standing) leaving legal users who work within its confinements with all the restrictive hassles that it imposes, while the pirates get an unencumbered product to do with as they please. How is this progress?

Mirror's Edge Fans Should Keep Holding Their Breath For The Sequel

Mirror’s Edge received good reviews when it was released and has been quite popular with gamers who unsurprisingly, want a sequel. This is especially important in the case of Mirror’s Edge, as this game is single player only, so it’s not something a gamer can come back to time after time. However, a sequel has never really been on the cards for Electronic Arts, since it didn’t sell as well as they had thought it should have and rejected a prototype ME2. Now, developer DICE have been busy with other projects such as upcoming blockbuster Battlefield 3, but good news could be on the horizon, since Electronic Arts are adamant that Mirror’s Edge is an important brand for their portfolio. SPOnG recently interviewed Patrick Liu from DICE and asked him if he thought that the games market would be receptive to Mirror’s Edge 2. He answered:
Yeah, definitely. I think it’s something that people are ready to get into again. We see that there’s a huge fan following, it’s almost like a cult! And we know what strengths we had, and what weaknesses we had in that game. If we were to release a new game, we’d know what to improve and how to reach a broader audience. So I definitely think there’s a market there.
Good news then for Mirror’s Edge cult members, err, fans, keep holding your breath!

Source: SPOnG

R&D: TDK Uses Lasers To Double Hard Disc Capacity, Helping Save HDs From Extinction

Here’s a development that will bring joy to those that prefer to hear mechanical noises from their hard discs instead of the inky silence of the new solid state drives. The current perpendicular magnetic recording technology used in today’s hard discs are due to hit a brick wall within a couple of generations or so. This will finally give SSDs the chance to make mechanical drives obsolete once and for all when their capacities increase and the prices drop. To get around this, TDK intend to use lasers coupled with a high coercivity material to achieve this capacity improvement. The coercivity value of a material is a measure of how difficult it is to magnetize ie how strong the magnetizing field needs to be. A material with low coercivity, is easy to magnetize, but it can also lose its magnetic imprint (north and south domains) easily, especially with densely packed data and is easy to erase with stray magnetic fields and to some extent, physical shock. Conversely a material with a high coercivity value can be damned hard to magnetize, but will keep its magnetic imprint much more stably and crucially for data storage, can retain much smaller magnetic domains, giving rise to greatly increased storage capacity for all that ever increasing avalanche of crucial data, such as music files, dodgy videos and humungous video game installs.

Sandy Bridge-E VT-d Broken In C1 Stepping, Fixed In C2 Stepping, Shortly After Launch

PC enthusiast customers and companies running corporate datacentres looking to buy into the new Sandy Bridge-E platform may want to wait a little while before handing over their hard-earned money to Intel. The initial batch of C1 revision Sandy Bridge-E processors have a bug – “errata” in Intel terminology – in them with VT-d, which means that hardware accelerated virtualization doesn’t work properly with them (software only mode is unaffected). The feature when working properly, allows all hardware acceleration to work on the hosted operating system (virtual machine). This would allow things such as hard drive controllers to work, plus applications such as high-powered 3D games, typically First Person Shooters, to run at nearly full speed and the full Windows Aero desktop to be displayed on the hosted OS, as the hardware features of the graphics card can be used. Therefore, working VT-d is a critical feature for these kinds of applications.

In Development: Full-On, High Performance 3D Gaming Right In Your Web Browser

Mozilla are developing a full-on 3D game engine for their Firefox browser. It looks like having a viable high performance game engine built right into the browser could allow first person shooter type games to reach a much wider audience and possibly even raise the bar for integrated graphics - we're already seeing this with the upcoming Sandy Bridge E processors. The project is called Paladin, which is developing the Gladius 3D gaming engine. To help test it, a basic 3D game, RescueFox has been prototyped, although that’s not going to be developed further, but forking is welcomed. We’ll let the Mozilla development blog take it away from here.

PC Exclusive Game: Gotham City Impostors Beta Begins October 5

The 1UP article is short and sweet, so I'll quote it in full, after the jump. Essentially, Steam activation codes have gone out to invited beta testers. This is a private beta, so testers cannot discuss their experiences with the public unfortunately and it all goes live on October 5. Specs seem quite reasonable too, so the game should play quite smoothly on midrange hardware. This looks like a cool game worth waiting for, so check out the video.

Electronic Arts' Massive 2012 $1.6m Battlefield 3 Tournament: Consoles Yes, PC No

While PC gamers are getting understandably excited about one of the year's biggest releases, which is guaranteed to have standards-setting graphics at least, there's a kick in the teeth waiting just around the corner. EA and Virgin Gaming have teamed up to launch a massive BF3 contest with $1.6m in cash and prizes - for consoles only. Yes, you read that right. And the reason? Consoles are the "gold standard". That's the aging console platforms reported on TechPowerUp a few days ago. GameStop's president Tony Bartel said in an interview with IndustryGamers:
We continue to believe that the console is a strong platform and will continue to be the gold standard.

AMD Releases Catalyst 11.9 WHQL

Here's the latest Radeon Catalyst driver suite for all you Radeon graphics card fans! It has one major new feature:
Enables AMD HD 3D technology support on DisplayPort panels, such as the Samsung 750 and 950 series 3D displays
which sounds very cool and is begging to be reviewed and benchmarked, plus quite a few fixes:

EVGA GTX 580 Classified + watercooling Doubles Core Clock Speed!

The EVGA GTX 580 Classified 3072MB, previously announced on TechPowerUp, is now available to buy according to this forum post by an EVGA product manager - in limited quantities, of course. According to Gaming Blend, this card can amazingly reach a doubled 1.6GHz core clock when overclocked using waterblocks - GTX 590 eat your heart out! This card also has custom designed VRMs to take all the extra power that the card will use, which means that they won't squeal when the card is overclocked hard and also when running intensive applications such as Folding@Home.
UPDATE: Turns out that 1.6GHz overclock was actually achieved using LN2, not water. To confirm it, click the EVGA promo link after the jump and see the extreme cooling section video, or just skip directly to the YouTube video here.

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