You may have noticed that Blizzcon happened over the weekend. During this time I was able to talk with team members from NVIDIA showcasing their latest technology, including the SHIELD, G Sync and ShadowPlay.
Blizzcon has a largely narrow focus on games developed by Blizzard, but also in attendance at the show are PC hardware manufacturers. I had time this weekend to stop by the NVIDIA booth to learn about some of the new technology they are working on, most of which is available now.
First off we have a new monitor GPU communication feature called G Sync. Your video card is constantly sending refresh data to your monitor. Unfortunately your monitor refreshes this information at a fixed rate. Because they are at different rates this will cause image tearing and stuttering. Starting in early 2014 Asus and Phillips will have G-Sync compatible monitors which will talk to your GPU and sync up the refresh rate for a much smoother experience. It might not sound like a big deal, but looking at a side by side comparison of a rendered pendulum swinging really highlights how much stutter is caused by the out of sync refreshing. I hope more hardware developers adopt this technology and make this a new standard. If you don’t feel like waiting for these monitors to be available, Asus and NVIDIA will soon be releasing a DIY kit for users to replace a board in specific monitors.
Microsoft and Sony have announced their plans for next generation video capture for consoles and now PC gamers are getting a similar solution. NVIDIA has developed a game DVR they are calling ShadowPlay, which is available now in the latest version of the GeForce Experience. ShadowPlay has the automatic option to record the last 10 minutes of gameplay (20 min if using Windows 8) into a temporary file that is then saved when you want it to. This makes sharing crazy gameplay experiences a lot easier than it has been in the past. One of the biggest differences in ShadowPlay versus other software based capture solutions is that NVIDIA puts the workload on the GPU instead of the CPU. This means that the game performance will take far less of a performance hit, a huge benefit for competitive gamers. While no streaming functionality is available in the current version of ShadowPlay, NVIDIA is working on Twitch integration for a 2014 release.
Not too long ago the portable android gaming console from NVIDIA, SHEILD got an update adding a lot of features. One of these features was console mode. In this setup users connect an HDMI cable to their SHIELD to output the video at 1080p to a television set. A bluetooth controller is used when in console mode. With console mode comes the ability to stream some of your PC library over your home network . You need to have a Geforce GTX video card and NVIDIA only supports just over 50 games. However the internet community has been able to get an additional 100 games to stream into console mode. This is a great idea and major competitor to Valve’s SteamOS concept which has not yet hit the market. Right now the GameStream for SHIELD only streams in 720p, but with a later update (and the purchase of a 3rd party USB ethernet adapter) gamers will soon be able to stream their games in 1080p. NVIDIA is working to bring more games to their GameStream service, and is determining which get supported based on popularity and relevance.
The SHIELD doesn’t just play PC games, it has access to the huge existing library of games on Google Play. Games can be played with the built in touchscreen on the SHIELD or thanks to the newly released Gamepad Mapper. With this easy to use tool players drag and drop on screen representations of physical buttons. NVIDIA has made a ton of existing profiles for Android games, but still let you design your own if the mobile game you love doesn’t have one yet.