By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Black Friday 2017 is on Friday, 24 November

Black Friday 2017 is the biggest shopping day of the year and it’s a really big deal: last Black Friday in the UK we spent a whopping £1.23 billion – and over the Black Friday week, we spent £6.45 billion.

On Black Friday last year Target was shifting 3,200 TVs per minute, and in the first few hours of Black Friday Amazon had sold over 100,000 children’s toys.

In the US, Adobe reports that online sales hit $3.34 billion, with $1.2 billion of that coming from people using mobile devices. The most popular purchases? iPads and 4K Samsung TVs.

It’s ironic that Black Friday drives so much traffic to websites, because it used to be about more traditional traffic: the name was used by US police to describe the chaos when everybody hit the sales on the same day. Black Friday still happens on the High Street, but increasingly the best deals – and the most shoppers – are online.

When is Black Friday 2017?

Black Friday is the Friday immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, so Black Friday 2017 will be on November 24th.

It’s the starting gun of the Christmas shopping season, and it’s famous for what retailers call “doorbusters”: deals so good that shoppers will try and break down the front doors to get at them. Inevitably that means it’s also famous for shoppers battling one another, with each Black Friday bringing a new bunch of YouTube clips showing people fighting over flat-screen TVs.

Things got so bad on Black Friday 2014 that ASDA, Wal-Mart’s UK brand and the firm largely responsible for bringing Black Friday to the UK, decided not to do Black Friday 2015 or Black Friday 2016 at all. That proved to be an expensive decision. Like for like sales in the 13 weeks to January 1 2016 were down 5.8%, the firm’s worst quarterly sales ever.

By comparison, in 2014 John Lewis UK reported that its Black Friday sales were the highest weekly sales in the company’s 150-year history.

Why Black Friday matters

Black Friday has transformed the Christmas shopping season, for better and for worse. James Miller, senior retail consultant at Experian Marketing Services, told the BBC that “there is little doubt Black Friday has dramatically changed the way people shop in the run-up to Christmas and has created an expectation of deep discounts that arguably did not exist before,” while a report by LCP Consulting found that nearly one-third of UK and US retailers believe that Black Friday is “unprofitable and unsustainable.”

Before Black Friday became a big deal, the run-up to Christmas was a great period for retailers: we’d buy loads of presents for others and for ourselves, and retailers would make huge piles of money. Then Black Friday happened, and all of a sudden many of us were browsing the bargains for the presents to put in Santa’s sack. Money spent on deeply discounted products in November is money that won’t be spent on more profitable products in December.

According to research by Verdict Retail, there is “no evidence” that Black Friday “stimulated demand”: Black Friday is essentially a black hole that sucks in a big part of people’s pre-Christmas shopping. We buy more but pay less for it.

According to Mike Watkins of Nielsen UK, “Whilst Nielsen analysis shows that Black Friday in November 2014 did not deliver incremental food sales it did serve to kick start what was the slowest start to Christmas trading in over 10 years. Perhaps that’s the primary objective in these changing times.”

Gary Booker, CMO at Dixons Retail, told Marketing Week that Black Friday negatively affects purchases in the following weeks: “It takes sales out of what would have been key early weeks in December,” he said, and multiple reports show that since Black Friday has taken off in the UK we’re spending less money on Boxing Day, our previous favourite for bargain hunting.

That means retailers need to think very carefully about Black Friday: they can discount in the hope they’ll make up for the lower margins with higher volumes, or they can decide not to take part in Black Friday and potentially lose sales to rivals who do.

Black Friday 2017 won’t be so crazy

Black Friday 2014 was particularly silly in the UK: while grown men and women knocked each other over to try and get cheap Polaroid TVs in supermarkets, men and women knocked over loads of websites too. Many retailers weren’t prepared for the volume of online traffic and their servers couldn’t cope.

Other firms that hadn’t thought Black Friday was a particularly big deal tried to get in on the action. The result felt rather like some firms were running around with a pricing gun, discounting whatever they spotted.

Black Friday 2015 was very different. Websites coped just fine – although some raised eyebrows with “oh! We’re so busy you’ll have to queue!” warnings that seemed more about marketing than reflecting actual demand – and retailers had a strategy in place. Where previous Black Fridays were crazy, Black Friday 2015 was calm. The difference? Planning.

Retailers knew what to expect, had struck deals with suppliers well in advance and approached Black Friday like any other shopping event. There were still bargains to be had, but it certainly didn’t feel like bargain-conscious customers were getting one over on panicking retailers.

Black Friday 2016 was different again: for many big-name retailers, instead of everything happening on one day, their sales were spread over an entire week from the Monday before Black Friday to Cyber Monday, the Monday immediately after. Cyber Monday used to be a separate event, the day everybody panicked and thought “oh no! It’s nearly Christmas and I haven’t bought any presents!” before visiting Amazon on their work PCs. But in 2016 it was just another part of Black Friday Deals Week.

As Experian’s Richard Jenkings told the BBC, “The Black Friday promotions at the end of November are the start of a longer, more drawn-out peak season, which begins with most of the activity online and then moves in-store as we get closer and closer to Christmas day.”

The best Black Friday deals from last year:

Every year, we load up with pizza and energy drinks to scour the entire internet for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. These were some of our favourite deals from Black Friday 2016.

£125 off the iPhone 7
Apple’s iPhone 7 may have been new but that didn’t mean you couldn’t get a Black Friday deal. With the code BLACKNOV125 you could get £125 off the up-front cost of an iPhone 7 – and no, the contract wasn’t more expensive to compensate.

£130 off the PS4
The PlayStation 4 is a brilliant console, and last Black Friday it was a brilliant bargain too: there was £130 off the 1TB model and bundles costing as little as £189. Very chopped 34% off the price of some of its PS4 bundles and Amazon cut 20%.

£40 off the iPad Air
There were lots of iPad bargains on Black Friday 2016 including £40 off the iPad Air, £30 off iPad Pros and up to £50 off iPad Minis. Apple wasn’t offering those discounts, but it did bundle gift cards with various products.

£900 off an LG OLED TV
How’s this for a discount: Black Friday meant a massive £900 off the LG OLED55B6V TV, bringing its price down to a much less frightening £1,899. There was also £550 off Sony 4K TVs and up to £300 off Panasonic TVs.

Huge savings on Xbox One bundles
The 4K Xbox One S was just £199 with Minecraft and Forza Horizon thrown in, and prices were slashed all over the place for every conceivable combination of console, controllers and games. There were good deals to be had on accessories too.

Why to expect from Black Friday 2017:

The last few Black Friday deals periods saw many retailers taking baby steps, but in 2017 they’re all grown up. That means they’ve been poring over their spreadsheet models since the last Black Friday, and they know exactly what they’ll be doing this year. And the first thing they’ll be doing is trying to beat Black Friday by starting their deals early. What started as Black Friday weekend became Black Friday week, and this year we expect some big-name retailers to start discounting long before that.

That makes sense for many reasons: it spreads the load on their websites and shops, and more importantly it means the news of their deals won’t be buried amid the avalanche of Black Friday announcements. So keep your eyes peeled – and keep visiting our deals page – from early November, and maybe even earlier than that.

Something we saw a lot of in 2016 and expect to see even more of in 2017 is a sliding scale of discounting: we noticed deals got bigger and better as the month progressed. That’s likely to recur in 2017, with reasonable deals at the beginning of the Black Friday period and more exciting but limited quantity deals on Black Friday itself. The emphasis will be on the more expensive products where retailers can cut prices but still make a decent profit.

Predicting the best Black Friday deals of 2017:

iPhone 8
We know that Apple’s 2017 iPhone 8 is likely to be dramatically different from the current model, we can reasonably expect it to go on sale in September or October at the latest, and we know that iPhone 8 Black Friday deals will be very popular – so this one’s a slam-dunk. Expect similar discounts to 2016 chopping £100-plus off the up-front price, and Apple to offer gift cards across the range. We’d expect some decent deals on iPads too as Apple refreshes the line-up this year.

Samsung Galaxy S8
Black Friday 2016 saw really good deals on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, with the Black Friday voucher code BLACKFRI2 wiping out the upfront cost altogether on a £29.99 per month contract. That was a fantastic deal, and we’re expecting to see similarly great Galaxy deals on the Samsung Galaxy S8 in 2017.

PS4 Pro
Black Friday 2016 was all about the PS4 Slim, and Black Friday 2017 will be all about the PS4 Pro. As with 2016 we’d expect the very best deals to be on bundles, with some of them costing only a little more than the PS4 Pro itself, so start working on your game wish list: a bundle’s only a good deal if it includes the games you actually want to play. Up to now, the PS4 Pro is holding its RRP but you can expect that to change later this year, particularly when Microsoft has launched Scorpio…

Xbox One + Project Scorpio
Microsoft’s got a pro console too, and unless something goes wrong with the release schedule it should be on sale long before Black Friday 2017. As with the Xbox One in 2016 we’d expect to see the very best deals on bundles, rather than on the console itself: there’s more wiggle room for the retailer there, so they can afford to be more daring with the discounts.

Black Friday 2016 was positively packed with TV deals, including nearly half-price deals on selected OLED TVs. High-end sets are where the really expensive RRPs are, and the ever-advancing world of telly tech means those prices can only be sustained for a fairly short time. If you’re in the market for the kind of TV whose price tag wouldn’t look out of place on a car, Black Friday 2017 could be a very good day for you indeed.

Black Friday 2017 FAQ: what it is, when it happens and where to get the best deals

What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving. It’s a day when retailers offer big discounts to kick-start the holiday shopping season.

When is Black Friday 2017?
Black Friday 2017 will be Friday, 24 November.What is Cyber Monday?Cyber Monday is the Monday immediately after Black Friday.

When is Cyber Monday 2017?
Cyber Monday 2017 will be on Monday, 27 November.What is Black Friday deals week?It’s the week that includes Black Friday. Retailers are increasingly offering deals before and after Black Friday itself so they stand out from the crowd.

Are Black Friday deals real?
Yes, although in some cases the discounts have been negotiated well in advance with suppliers. As with any sales you’ll see a mix of genuine bargains, discounted end-of-line stock and mysterious things found in the back of a warehouse somewhere. In 2016, consumer magazine Which? accused retailers of some pretty dodgy behaviour.

Where can I find the best Black Friday deals?
Right here on TechRadar of course! We scour all the top retailers’ Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals so that you don’t have to – and we tell you whether the deals are worth getting excited about too. Whether it’s a 4K HDR OLED TV or an Xbox One controller, if it’s discounted we’ll have the details here.

How do I get the best Black Friday 2017 deals?
Know what you want, know what you can afford to spend and know the market: you’ll often spot retailers charging higher than usual prices in October so they can offer amazing discounts on Black Friday. Pay particular attention to real prices, not RRPs: TVs are particularly bad for this, with sets whose RRP is eleventy billion pounds routinely selling for five hundred quid. Sites such as CamelCamelCamel and PriceSpy enable you to tell if you’re looking at a legitimate bargain or some timed tomfoolery.

It’s also a very good idea to be flexible: for example, if you fancy a Sony 4K TV then think about the features you want rather than a specific model number: the BRV123ABD54-88C-9218-B may not be discounted on Black Friday, but an almost identical set with the specification you want probably will be.

Can I get cashback on Black Friday deals?
Sometimes, yes. Your debit card or credit card may offer cashback on purchases, and sites such as Quidco often offer cashback for new customers of big-name online shops. It’s definitely worth looking into, not just for Black Friday but for any online shopping.

Am I protected when I buy on Black Friday?
Yes. In the UK, anything you buy from a company online is covered by a wealth of consumer protection legislation including the Consumer Contracts regulations, which give you the same rights as with any other online purchasing.

How can I stay safe on Black Friday?
Black Friday brings out the scammers as well as the sellers, so be wary of unsolicited emails or links to deals on social media no matter how legitimate they look: anything asking for card details or login details is a scam. Phishing sites do big business on Black Friday, so be extra suspicious – and if you’re on a PC, make sure your security software is up to date. Many suites automatically block known scam sites.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

The image of PC gaming as something that happens in a cramped study or a musty bedroom is fading. More people than ever seem to be happy plugging their rig into their TV and gaming on the sofa. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s comfier than an office chair.

Finding games that are truly suited for play in the living room requires a bit of research, though. After many hours of hard research, we’ve come up with 10 corkers. The things we do for you readers.

Some of these titles are picked for their ‘couch co-op’ support, others because they’re just the sort of thing we think you’ll want to play after a hard day’s work. A few are ready for a bit of generation-splicing family play too.

Do hardcore PC games make sense in the lounge? Some don’t, but Divinity: Original Sin absolutely does. While it takes inspiration from classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, which is best experienced in front of a monitor with a mouse glued to your hand, Divinity works like a dream in the lounge.

First, it supports gamepads, being optimised for PS4 and Xbox One as well as the PC crowd. And it’s one of the few giant AAA role-playing games you can play in co-op with someone else, on the same TV.

We’ve lost track of the hours we’ve put into Divinity: Original Sin, but How Long to Beat puts the average ‘completionist’ time at 109 hours. At under £30 or $39 (around AUS$59), you can’t argue with its value. It’s a flat-out great game too, one packed with humour.

A bit of a throwback to the days of 90s lounge multi-player gaming, Trine 2 feels like a classic platformer. But it also has great 3D graphics, smart modern physics and puzzles better than what we remember from back in the SNES days. Well, apart from The Lost Vikings.

What takes it over the edge into a lounge must-try is couch co-op, with no need for split-screen. You can use a gamepad too, for the ‘lean back and relax’ feel. Trine 3 also supports the same lounge-friendly stuff but we think the second game was simply better. The newer one is too short and needlessly makes the game environment full-3D, giving away the pure vibe of the first two Trines.

This is what you get if you take “one more go” gaming, times it by six and then square the result. Trials Fusion balances frustration and reward like a trial biker teetering along a tight rope.

You tilt your rider back and forwards, grappling with the physics engine to avoid smearing your rider over the tarmac. It’s a casual mechanic, amped up for hardcore appeal. In the harder levels you might end up kissing the track 100 times getting to the end, but as you can restart in a fraction of a second, you end up frustrated at yourself rather than anything else.

There are two ways to approach multiplayer here: you can take it in turns, one crash per go, or there’s a versus mode where you try to get so far ahead the other racers end up off the screen. A hair-pulling riot.

Have kids? You need to try one of the Lego games. There’s a whole bunch on PC, and the latest is Lego Marvel’s Avengers. This takes characters and scenes from both the Avengers films and maps them out in Lego.

It’s a bit of a button-bashing collect-a-thon where just about everything can be destroyed, bursting in a spray of Lego ‘coins’. Two people can play on the same screen, taking on the role of one of the Marvel heroes.

Don’t dismiss this as a ‘baby’ game, though – it gets pretty tough. If you can’t stand superhero nonsense, there are now absolutely loads of similar Lego titles, including ones themed with the Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and Batman brands.

What would happen if you merged football and arcade racing? Maybe no-one asked that question, but Rocket League still popped into the world and is incredibly moreish.

It’s fast, a bit silly and the physics is inspired more by pinball than FIFA. Rocket League is arcade fun, but it’s still very easy to get scarily competitive over.

It has a massive following online, but you can also play on the same TV, using split-screen. You have to see Rocket League in action to get a real flavour of what it’s about. Track it down on YouTube. There are thousands of Rocket League videos there.

Back when we were playing games in the 90s, their worlds were usually very rigid, hand-made things. Beautiful, yes, but sometimes you’d just wish you could rip them apart just a little bit.

Broforce is a what might come out if a group of now-30-somethings got together and devised their perfect game. All the characters are not-so-subtle rip-offs of 90s action movie heroes like Blade, John McClane and Blade, while the action is a flat-out side-scrolling destruction fest. And the graphics are pure pixel art.

Up to four people can play at once, turning the screen into a joyfully chaotic mess.

Not just one of the greatest lounge games but one of the greatest games, full stop, is Portal 2. Most of you probably know a bit about this game already, but for the lucky virgins:

In Portal you use a gravity gun to make little teleporter holes in walls and objects. You might send a ball through a wall, only to pop up through a floor somewhere 20m away. It’s a dazzlingly clever puzzle game, but one with bags of atmosphere and a great story too.

The extra lounge factor comes in when you get someone else involved. While great played solo, you can also tackle Portal 2 co-op.

Sometimes you just want a game to take you ‘somewhere else’ after a long day’s work. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons does just this, without asking for any massive time commitment. You can complete it in a handful of hours.

It’s a 3D action puzzler. A pair of brothers have to get to the Tree of Life to save their Father, and you have to guide them there. This is a quiet, contemplative game that gives your brain a light workout but will otherwise lower your heart rate and keep you all-round relaxed. It’s a delight.

Two people can play as well, each taking on the role of one of the brothers. Failing that you can switch between them on your own. The brothers helping each other to get past obstacles is the central premise.

Telltale’s adventure games make great lounge gaming fodder for a whole bunch of reasons. First, they feel right with a keyboard or a gamepad. There are no complex controls, which is why these classic adventure games work as well on phones as they do on PC.

Next up, anyone else in the living room is less likely to complain about you hogging the TV. The Walking Dead is a genuinely involving, often pretty emotional story. You’ll have your partner or house mate arguing with you over which survivor your should save. The game is split into TV episode-like chunks, although they’ll last for a few hours rather than 40 minutes.

Then, well, they’re also simply good games, balancing out story and puzzling. Telltale Games has been making this stuff for 10 years now. It knows what it’s doing.

Don’t like zombies? Other TellTale adventures worth checking out include Back to the Future, Tales from the Borderlands, Tales of Monkey Island and The Wolf Among Us.

Here’s a game you can just sink into blissfully, and forget whatever stresses have glommed onto you during the day. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture zaps you into a fictional, but entirely believable, rural English village in which all the inhabitants have disappeared.

You stroll about, following a strange and apparently alien glowing ball, discovering what has happened by finding audio diaries. If you have a nice surround system or a good pair of headphones, the atmosphere produced by the soundtrack alone is hard to beat.

It’s engrossing, but won’t bogart too many of your evenings. We finished it in around six hours. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

As TechRadar’s 3rd annual PC Gaming Week draws to a close, we’re going out with a legendary bang, thanks to our friends at Overclockers UK.

Overclockers is helping us with PC Gaming Week’s biggest giveaway yet, an all-AMD Overclockers Titan Xenomorph gaming PC, plus a sweet, Epic Series gaming chair from Noblechairs – totaling a whopping £1,619.95 or about $2,089.

However, only contestants that can correctly answer our hardest question yet will have a chance to win. To answer our brain buster and enter into in the giveaway, just click the link below:

But, before you, just check out what’s inside of this thing! With a setup like this, you’ll be well-stocked for a good, long while.

  • AMD Ryzen 5 Quad Core 1400 3.40GHz (Socket AM4) Processor
  • Sapphire Radeon RX 580 Pulse 8192MB GDDR5 PCI-Express Graphics Card
  • Samsung 250GB 850 EVO SSD 2.5″ SATA 6Gbps 32 Layer 3D V-NAND SSD
  • Seagate BarraCuda 2TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s 64MB Cache HDD
  • Asus Prime B350M-A AMD B350 (Socket AM4) DDR4 Micro ATX Motherboard
  • Team Group Vulcan T-Force 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 PC4-19200C14 2400MHz
  • Kolink KL-500 500W ’80 Plus Bronze’ Power Supply
  • Microsoft Windows 10 64-Bit DVD
  • Phanteks Enthoo Pro M Midi Tower Case with Window – Black
  • BitFenix Spectre LED RED 120mm Fan x 2

And, finally, just take a look at the gaming chair you could be lounging in while wrecking the competition! This is luxury PC gaming at its finest.

Thanks again to Overclockers UK for helping TechRadar put one helluva bow on our 3rd annual PC Gaming Week. See you next year for hopefully even bigger prizes!

Welcome to TechRadar’s 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

Want to run Android, but don’t want to buy a smartphone, tablet or Android TV device? Then this may be the answer to your prayers: Google has teamed up with Huawei to deliver the HiKey 960, a Raspberry Pi style computer board that runs Android.

Developed with teams at Google, ARM, Huawei, Archermind, and LeMaker, it was made primarily so that Android developers could code on a device using an ARM based chip like so many of the devices that run Android apps, rather than on Intel x86 chips.

But while it’s based primarily at developers, there’s nothing stopping anyone running it as a straight Android computer.

Top specs

It’s a powerful board too, in line with the top-end performance of Android’s big smartphone hitters.

The HiKey 960 has a Huawei Kirin 960 octa-core chip, which makes use of four high-performance ARM Cortex-A73 and four efficient Cortex-A53 cores. That’s the same as you’d find in the Huawei Mate 9. 32GB of storage is onboard along with 3GB of RAM. Frustratingly however, though the board’s Mali G71 GPU can deliver 4K visuals, the board’s HDMI 1.2a slot will limit it to 1080p output.

Elsewhere, the board offers 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, with PCIe m.2 slots for expanding storage and connectivity options, and 40-pin and 60-pin connectors for monitors and cameras.

Getting Android 7.1 working on the board won’t be as simple as “plug-in-and-play” however – you’ll need to work on your command line know-how and follow instructions laid out by Google. But as a learning project it should be fascinating. 

Launching in May, it’s priced at $239, which converts roughly to £185 or AU$320.

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By Kirk / News / 0 Comments

It’s been around a year since mainstream virtual reality made it into our homes courtesy of HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, backed up by mobile devices like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View. In the background, however, one of the biggest supporters of the VR revolution has been AMD.

The maker of processors and graphics cards has recently been in the news when it acquired Nitero, a firm which specializes in wireless VR solutions – and which Valve has previously invested in. 

By heavily investing in innovative virtual reality hardware that will benefit multiple platforms, it’s clear that AMD has a keen interest in the success of VR, and has some firm ideas about what the future holds.

At the recent VR World Congress (VRWC) event in Bristol, England, we caught up with Roy Taylor, Corporate VP and Head of Alliances at Radeon Technologies Group, AMD. Under him, AMD’s relations with Microsoft, Google and major games publishers and developers is managed.

He also deals with AMD’s partnerships in the VR field with film, broadcast, gaming and academic institutions, as well as platform holders such as HTC, Valve and Oculus. We were also joined by Pat Kelly and Sven Meseke, the co-founders of Nitero.

The future is wireless

AMD’s acquisition of Nitero – and the tech that it has produced – has been one of the most exciting stories concerning virtual reality for a while now, dealing with an irresistible mix of a huge, well-known corporation and genuinely innovative – and potentially game-changing – hardware. 

Roy Taylor agrees. “It’s very exciting, and the wireless technology can be very, very impactful in terms of the future of VR. We put up with wires today because we have to, in order to have the experience. But the wires are an issue in two ways; one is we are always conscious they are there, so some part of our mind is always going ‘don’t trip up,’ or ‘don’t pull it out of the wall.’  And that is the enemy of presence.”

“Wireless technology can be very, very impactful in terms of the future of VR”

Roy Taylor

Presence is that holy grail of virtual reality which helps people truly believe that they are present in a VR world. Anything that removes that – such as getting tangled in wires – can destroy that sometimes fragile illusion.

“The second thing is the enemy of movement,” Taylor continues. “You can only move to a certain degree when you’re connected with wires. When you take that away, we feel more willing, less inhibited, to kind of roll and move and dance and so on. So, for example, you wouldn’t dance… or maybe you would, but it would be uncomfortable.”

Always wanted to strut your stuff on a VR dance floor? Wireless virtual reality could make that a possibility.

The people behind the tech

But, how does this wireless tech work? Based on Kelly’s response, the tech seems as if it took some out-of-box thinking.

“So, we started with a 60GHz chipset with integrated beamforming … this produces very focused beams in the 60GHz spectrum – and the nice thing about 60GHz is that there’s nothing else there,” Kelly says. “So if you’re in a room and you have Wi-Fi blasting it doesn’t matter, there’ll be no interference.”

For Kelly and the team at Nitero, the next step was bringing that into VR. 

“We started with that, and a couple of months ago we started completely focusing on wireless VR,” Kelly elaborates. “And, that’s when we were thinking, ‘OK, how do you get this wireless stereoscopic video across at extremely low latencies so that the user isn’t affected?’”

Latency is an incredibly important thing to consider. If the pause between your command – such as moving your head – and the action being displayed in virtual reality is too long, it can lead to a pretty uncomfortable VR experience. For Roy Taylor and the team at AMD, this is incredibly important.

“That’s what we’re emphasising in the [VRWC] keynote,” Taylor says. “It’s going to be fast, fast, superfast. Faster than you can imagine. As fast as you think it’s going to be – it’s faster than that.”

“AMD are now a one-stop shop for everything you need to create the perfect VR experience.”

Roy Taylor

So, if Nitero already has the wireless technology in place for super-fast, low-latency VR video broadcasting, what does AMD bring to the table?

“If you think about a future solution which was going to need both a very strong and low power [consumption] CPU, and a powerful GPU, that also has low power draw, and a you have a memory subsystem, AMD has got about every part of the jigsaw,” Taylor explains. 

AMD’s expertise in building CPU, GPU and other parts of a computer means that with Nitero’s experience in wireless VR, AMD can now offer a complete package. 

“AMD are now a one-stop shop for everything you need to create the perfect VR experience,” touts Taylor.

High-end or mobile VR?

At the moment, there are two main tiers to virtual reality. At the high end, there are the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which offer cutting edge VR experiences, though at a steep price.

There are also more affordable mobile VR devices, such as the Samsung Gear VR, that use a smartphone to drive the experience. But which one is the most exciting? For Taylor, the answer is both.

“Personally, I crave the richest, deepest, most immersive VR experience possible, but in order for VR to be successful it needs to be accessible to as many people as possible,” Taylor says. “So, what I think will happen is we’ll see the market bifurcate between lower cost systems and VR experiences, which more people can get access to, but at the same time there’s going to be another set of people that are gonna want the very, very best they can get.”

Does this second group of people need to have an all-powerful gaming rig and expensive headset? Not necessarily.

“It can either be in people’s home for super enthusiasts who can afford those systems,” Taylor explains, “or through location-based experiences, where ticket sales will mean that the location owner can invest in richer experiences for their customers.”

Meanwhile, although the high-end VR market is already giving us some impressive experiences, what the future holds is also incredibly exciting.

“Think of the opening in the film Gladiator.” Taylor continues. “You know, we are going to be able to reproduce an environment where you could be one of 60,000, or one of 100,000, troops.” 

This could be a real generational leap over the games we have at the moment. 

“It’s interesting, when you think about games,” Taylor ponders, “you’re either the lone wolf superhero battling against hordes of AI, or you’re in a small squad.”

The future of VR, thanks to the hardware improvements the likes of AMD are working on, could soon change all that. 

“There’s no current VR experience that could put you in the middle of a massive battle,” Taylor admits. “Put you in the shield wall against the Vikings, or something like that. We’re going to be able to do that in the near future, and it’s going to be really exciting – and terrifying!”

It’s not just about the graphical fidelity of games that will improve, but the whole nature and usability of VR is set to change, as Pat Kelly points out, thanks to wireless VR. 

“Imagine you have your mobile headset, right, and you’re walking around, you’re in a car, you’re on the bus or whatever,” Kelly describes. “You come back home and you have an AMD CPU, GPU, in your PC, and with wireless technology you can actually access that power, where you can’t if you have a tethered system. So, we’re really excited at Nitero and now AMD for all types of VR.”

Light and powerful

Having a headset that is both light and mobile for when you’re out and about, yet can utilize more powerful hardware when you’re at home, is certainly very exciting, and could blur that distinction between mobile and high-end virtual reality.

So, could we see mobile VR headsets that offload the processing and graphical computing into a computer, so that we get a headset that is both powerful and light? 

According to Kelly, “that’s certainly one way it could go.”

Taylor agrees that making headsets comfortable is one of the most important things to consider. 

“If we’re going to put you in a prolonged experience, like with Fallout VR, or any of the things we’ve been talking about, that headset needs to be light and comfortable,” Taylor says. “Certainly, we need to solve the ‘pony tail’ problem [with wires coming out of the back of a headset], as I mentioned. There are better designs coming that will do all of those things.”

And, as Sven Meseke points out, this has applications beyond VR. 

”So, that use case can be translated into augmented reality in an interesting way,” Meseke says. “Imagine riding your bicycle to your office in the morning, and you have your AR glasses on, with very limited GPU abilities, but while you’re riding your bicycle you just need some traffic information and message alerts, but you’re really focused on riding. You get to the office, you open up your laptop and now you have an AMD GPU in there, and thanks to the wireless connection you have full-fledged AR or mixed reality”.

“This is the time right now for Nitero to come into AMD’s fold. It’s going to be awesome.”

Sven Meseke

By that logic, could wireless VR/AR replace monitors? In Meseke’s vision of the future, it would appear so. 

“You have your laptop open, you bring up Excel and open up your expense report and it’s done really quickly,” Meseke predicts. “So, wireless technology combined with graphics and processing, it really makes sense to bring these together in time to market, not just for VR but for AR. As Roy says, look at three years from now, what are we going to be doing. This is the time right now for Nitero to come into AMD’s fold. It’s going to be awesome.”

So, will we be seeing the fruits of AMD and Nitero’s collaboration in three year’s time? 

With a cheeky glint in his eye, Taylor responds with, “Oh, I think we’ll see something sooner than that.”

A tantalizing answer, but when we push him for any more info, he gives a vague – but great sounding – answer. “It will be sooner than you think, but not as fast as you’d like.”

Of course, for AMD’s vision of a next generation VR headset to be realized, it needs to talk to the platform holders and games developers as well. For Roy Taylor, this is his bread and butter. 

“We’re talking to all the players you would expect us to be talking to.” 

However, it is at places like VRWC where new relationships can be forged. 

“Part of doing events like this is that we’re also interested in the companies we don’t know. That we haven’t met,” Taylor says. “The guy and the girl working in their garages on some great breakthrough idea. Somebody at university working in a lab. We want to find those guys, too.”

Being able to talk to those unknown players is a key benefit for Nitero, now that it has joined AMD, as Kelly points out. 

“That’s a great part of the acquisition. As a startup, you couldn’t work with the folks in the garage,” Kelly admits. “We just didn’t have the time, or the resources and so forth. So, it’s really great to be at AMD where they have a much broader reach and scale than we could ever hope for as a startup.”

VR World Congress

VR World Congress – where we met – is held over three days in the heart of Bristol, a vibrant city in the west of England. With 2,000 attendees, 34 exhibitors and over 100 speakers, it is quickly become the event for virtual reality.

For Roy Taylor, having Bristol host VRWC makes complete sense. 

“All the GPU technology we know today was invented here. It came from David May, he invented the transputer, which was the world’s first parallel processor,” Taylor reminds us. “He came out of Bristol University, then formed a company named Inmos, and that technology rolled into and became the GPU that we know today.”

“So, I actually thought to myself, it’s completely apt and correct that there should be a VR event in Bristol. I think that’s really cool. We should celebrate the fact that, to some degree, you can say that the Brits invented VR. Well, we already invented the internet! Now we can say we invented VR.”

“We should celebrate the fact that, to some degree, you can say that the Brits invented VR”

Roy Taylor

Bristol, and the city of Bath just down the road, are becoming hotspots for tech companies, and in September 2017 a new collaborative VR space, the Bristol VR Lab, is opening. 

This will give various companies and academic institutes a space for research, development, product design, teaching, company incubation and investment within virtual and augmented reality.

Despite it being the first time Sven Meseke has visited Bristol, he agrees that it’s an ideal location for VR innovations. 

“You’ve got this rogue stuff like [the street artist] Banksy,” Meseke says. “You take high tech and that kind of art together, that makes great VR.”

“Ryzen is the perfect CPU for VR.”

Roy Taylor

Investing in the future

VR headsets, especially high-end ones, are already pretty expensive. There’s a worry that going wireless could increase costs, but Pat Kelly doesn’t think so. 

“We can’t really comment on the costs, but one thing to bear in mind is the cost of the cables that we’re taking away,” Kelly argues. “They are very long and thin, and are only going to get more expensive as the resolution goes up. So it’s not like we’re going to be adding costs, we’re going to be taking away significant costs in the system.”

“And, you’re not stomping on a cable that will eventually wear out, right? That you’ll need to replace,” Meseke adds. 

So, it could be that wireless VR won’t cost as much as we feared.

“Moore’s Law will take care of the costs,” suggests Taylor.

The scale that AMD operates at also has the potential to keep costs down, as Kelly suggests. 

“AMD knows how to produce chips and get them out the door, in a large scale. Again that’s another thing that attracted us to the acquisition.”

Of course, AMD isn’t new to VR, and with its recent Ryzen processors, and upcoming Vega GPU technology, it has been laying the foundations for tech that can bring us immersive VR. 

As Taylor explains, “that’s why I pushed for more [processing] cores. We need more stuff in scenes. More people, more objects, more bows, more arrows, more explosions, more trees. We always want more stuff, our real world is full of stuff. Cores and threads help. No question, you can draw more entities with the graphics card, and then render them, if you’ve got more cores and threads. So, that made Ryzen the perfect CPU for VR.”

“More, more, more, faster, faster, faster,” interjects Meseke. “It’s putting a lot of pressure on AMD. It’s a pretty bold move. Now it makes a little more sense, right? You take processing, graphics, and wireless. These are all things VR needs more of. AMD can now get it all done together. We’ve already done it with CPU and GPU, let’s keep it up with wireless.”

“Fallout VR will definitely mark the turning point.. It’s going to be a real game changer.”

Roy Taylor

The next big thing for VR

So, what does AMD see as the next big thing in virtual reality? Taylor is quick to answer. 

“Fallout VR will definitely mark the turning point, no question in my mind. I’ve played it, I’m fortunate to have access to it at Bethesda. It’s superb,” Taylor gushes.” “It’s going to be a real game changer.” 

Taylor wasn’t able to tell us any more about Fallout VR, but seeing as we love the Fallout series, we’re definitely looking forward to finding out more in due course.

“I also think another important thing is movement,” continues Taylor. “I can’t emphasize that enough. In a normal game engine, traditional movement systems in VR don’t work so well. They can tend to make you feel a little queasy. That’s why a lot of people use teleporting. But, with teleporting, you lose your sense of presence. So, I think fluid locomotion is a big deal.”

It’s about more than games

Of course, it’s not just gaming where virtual reality’s future lies. The wider applications of next-gen VR are particularly exciting, as Taylor explains. 

“We’re already seeing VR being used extensively in medicine. Soon, we’ll see it being used in city design and architecture. We’ll see it being used to sell real estate, VR being used in safety training.”

Science fiction could soon become science fact. 

“We’re seeing VR being used to understand space and time. We’re learning that with virtual reality, time can be distorted.”

It’s all gone a bit Doctor Who. How does it work? 

“You wear a VR headset for 30 minutes and it feels like five minutes.” 

To anyone who has lost an afternoon (or more) messing around in VR, this will be familiar. 

Taylor continues, ”We’re just starting to learn about how that works, but it turns out that when it comes to how we understand time and space, our brains are engineered for certain visual cues. And then you get environmental cues, and in virtual reality those cues are gone, they are distorted, they’ve changed. And with those cues changing, our brains are not quite sure how to calculate the time.”

It seems like we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what VR is capable of, just as movie directors were learning of new ways to wow audiences during the golden age of cinema. 

“We always see new technologies through the prism of the old,” says Taylor. “How could we otherwise? So, the early films looked like theater plays because that was the prism we understood. A lot of early VR looks like movies because that’s what we understand.”

It’s when we go out of our comfort zone, when we really start innovating, that VR will become remarkable.

“We’re not expanding our minds to realize that once we step through the window, the [area we can comprehend in VR] is infinite. Infinitely out, infinitely in,” Taylor posits. “So, we can look at the body and say, through VR, we now know much better how the body works. What we’re not thinking about is that we can go down to the subatomic level to understand DNA strands, and redesign DNA.”

Still not excited? 

Taylor continues, “At the same time, this is a media that lets us zoom out to explore black holes. And so, if you imagine an area of infinite depth, and we are actually looking at this much [indicates tiny amount] because that’s what we understand. Now we can completely redesign our thinking about depth. Not just between miles, but 10,000, hundreds of thousands of miles. Out and in.”

Once we really get a grip of virtual reality, the possibilities could be endless. “We start with a human concept about time and space, expand that … who knows what we’re going to invent?”

This kind of makes us feel a bit bad about using VR just to play games. But, as Taylor points out, VR has the ability to show us our place in the universe – and also closer to home. 

“It’s an exciting time ahead. Our kids are going to grow up with a totally different idea of what ‘Earth’ means,” Taylor predicts. “In Google Earth and VR, you start to think ‘why are we fighting? It doesn’t make any freaking sense. We are all actually just people on the same planet. Why do we have all these issues?’ It’s just ridiculous.”

Welcome to TechRadar’s 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s  favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.

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 Announced for pre-order a month ago, Microsoft’s Surface Studio all-in-one PC and Surface Dial accessory are now available to buy in Australia.

The Surface Studio, which features a ‘Zero Gravity Hinge’ that allows you to lean its 4.5K touchscreen down to a 20-degree angle for use as a digital canvas, starts at AU$4,699 for the entry-level 1TB Intel Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and a 2GB GPU, all the way up to AU$6,599 for the top tier 2TB Intel Core i7 model with 32GB of RAM and a 4GB GPU.

The impressive Surface Dial peripheral, which lets you interact with your work in a whole new way, giving you a number of digital tools to use when placed upon the Surface Studio’s touchscreen, is priced at AU$149.95. 

Both the Surface Studio and Surface Dial can be purchased now in Australia and New Zealand via the Microsoft Store, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman 

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10 things PC gamers hate

There’s no denying it – PC gaming is the king of gaming. Hardware is at the top of its class (and price range), the games look their absolute best. To top it all off there’s the infinitely customizable element of the platform. But friends, it’s time to vent.

Letting off steam while playing games on Steam is essential to keeping your body temperature down – even if your GPU temps are flaring up. You won’t win online if you sit there quivering with rage no matter what ‘smooth gliding’ setting your 20 million DPI optical mouse sensor is set to.

So count to 10 slowly and delve into the top things we love to loathe as PC gamers. Think of it as a form of therapy.

Welcome to TechRadar’s 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.

Rage Factor: 2/10

The feud between PC and console gamers is pretty much prehistoric, dating back to when Turok himself was still battling dinosaurs. Thought of as the pesky upstarts of the industry, consoles are blamed for diluting gameplay (and not to mention graphics). It even causing the death of PC gaming itself in the noughties. 

That turned out to be a load of rubbish, of course, as PC gaming continues to flourish.

The relationship between the two sets of gamers is set for an interesting turn as Sony and Microsoft enters the next age of consoles. Both the PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio are more like PCs than ever with bumped up specs and letting users tweak their graphics settings. 

Does that make them PC gamers? Man, hating is so confusing in 2016.

Rage Factor: 6/10

Ever wondered why your shoes have holes in? Or why you never have enough cash to go out?

That’s because you’re a PC Gamer and all of your pay packet has been spent on upgrades. This isn’t just a one off spend either, it’s incremental. 

Perhaps you want to install an Nvidia GTX Titan Xp to game in true 4K. Oh wait, you can’t, because you spent all of your money on the GPU already and have nothing left for the new processor to really reap the benefits. 

Of course, all of the above is also a benefit of PC gaming, but having to spend a month’s wages on a handful of components to get the best experience going is never going to be ideal. Upgrading is never-ending, so you’d better hope your wallet is too.

Rage Factor: 9/10

Windows is a a lot more stable since the heady days of Windows 95 and Direct X is friends with most hardware, but occasionally there’ll be one jigsaw piece in your elite gaming machine which has some sort of driver issue with a game.

Just as a boss appears, or even before the game begins, a critical error will inevitably pop up across the menu screen. Whatever it is, Device Manager will be a reluctant friend for a few hours.

Compatibility issues are as old as PC gaming itself, and they don’t seem to get better over time. If you’ve ever experienced an stubborn problem that you can’t solve after spending weeks reading websites and forums, downloading a game to a console and playing it off-the-bat with no issues almost makes you want to turn into a filthy casual. Almost.

Rage Factor: 5/10

NOOBs (always capped) come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re always annoying. Whether they’re participating in eSports or clan warfare, PC gamers are mostly a skilled bunch that don’t take kindly to these newcomers in games.

Certain malicious (or bored, one of the two) PC players enjoy nothing more than trolling with NOOBs. Like cats play with their prey, which can greatly reduce the amount of rage they feel when having to share the same server with them.

Rage Factor 10/10

Despite having several boa constrictors length of fibre optic cables snaking into your house, there always has been (and always will be) lag. 

One minute you’re next to a friend in Overwatch and the next they’ve warped to the other side of the map before you can say, “Cheers love…” It’s not big, it’s not clever and now you’ve been dumped off the server too. 

Lag is particularly rage-some as, if you’re living with other people or parents, it can be very difficult to do anything about your stuttering internet connection. Maybe it’s time to get three paper rounds and start saving up for that studio.

Rage Factor: 3/10

OK don’t get us wrong, Desktop Clients are fantastic, mostly. 

There’s the convenience of not having to leave the house to buy a new game, and there are constant bug fixes and online support. But much as people miss vinyl when compared to MP3s, there’s something comforting and exciting about opening a game box. 

Yes: they clutter up the house, but having an actual physical map for the whole of Skyrim is a little bit magical. The other issue is the need to be constantly online to play, and the numerous niggles when downloading.

Sometimes there’s no beating a physical product.

Rage Factor: 6/10

The ultimate way to display your PC gaming prowess is by constructing your very own dream machine. However that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare. And it’s not just the cost, but the painstaking amount of time and effort just to get it to actually boot up. 

Whether it’s attaching the cables to the motherboard correctly, getting freaked out by how much thermal paste to apply to the processor or merely losing an important screw, PC building can take a few years off your life with stress. 

And don’t talk to us about buying pre-built rigs – what do you think we are, rich?

Rage Factor 3/10

If there’s one thing PCs lack it’s interaction between several people in the same room. There’s nothing quite like playing bowling together on a Sunday afternoon or flexing your dance moves to the sound of Beyonce.

PC games may encourage human interaction in online gaming but there’s a level of jealousy (perhaps not rage) that can be levered at our sociable console brethren. 

Check out our list of best PC games to play in the living room article if you’re seeking a tasty slice of local multiplayer action.

Rage Factor: 9/10

Everything’s not all sweetness and nice in the world of PCs: trolls lurk everywhere and not least online. FPSs are fertile ground for them. They’ll teabag you, diss your playing style, camp like it’s going out of fashion and try to rile you until you rage quit. 

And it’s not just that – PC gamers can be hardware snobs too. Maybe they’ve been snooty about which type of RAM you decided to buy or have slated the fact you’ve downloaded a GameBoy emulator. Steer clear of all of these types as they will only make you rage.

Rage Factor: 4/10

Upgrades are great when they work, and it’s even better to revisit an old game to see the framerate go through the roof. 

This particular writer remembers never being able to play Wing Commander 3 (yes, I’m that old), so when I finally upgraded to a hallowed Pentium processor I revisited the then-ancient game to find out it was no longer compatible. 

Error messages were flying around and I wasted a few good hours on something I was destined never to see. So perhaps just resign yourself to never ever witnessing over 60 fps in The Witcher 3, not even in 2020.

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MSI has been one of our favorite gaming computer makers of late. That’s because, in the last few years, it’s introduced some of the smallest PCs we’ve ever seen – from a gaming-grade, Mac Pro look-a-like to one of the first backpack PC’s designed to power a wireless virtual reality experience. 

More recently, the company has introduced the Trident 3, a console-killing mini PC gaming system.

We caught up with MSI marketing manager Lenny Tang to get low down on how the company designed some of its latest and smallest gaming PCs.

Welcome to TechRadar’s 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.

TechRadar: Before the MSI Vortex, we’ve seen a few cylindrical chassis before, including the latest Mac Pro, what spurred MSI to pursue this form factor?

Lenny Tang: MSI strives to come out with unique products that fit into different usage and demand for the gaming PC market. When we first designed the Vortex, we aimed to see how much power we can fit into the smallest form factor.  Over the design period, we were able to fit in top of the line SLI graphics into a 6.5L cylindrical form factor.

TR: It’s amazing that the MSI Vortex only requires one fan to cool the entire system.

LT: The idea is to have this powerful PC not only fit as a gaming setup but also in the living room. One of the top design limitations we had was to keep the unit as quiet as possible.  Since we are able to build it into a cylinder shape, we were also able to fit in a huge fan on top that perfectly drew out the heat without making much noise.

TR: MSI originally introduced a VR backpack PC that looked a lot like a cyclist’s backpack, while the VR One sports a much more futuristic and vented design. What caused the shift?

LT: One of the top reasons why we shifted the design is to work out a lighter and smaller product without suffering in performance.

During the first introduction of the prototype design, one of the most common pieces of feedback from media and end users who tested it was air flow. The old prototypes blew heat out on the side, which could feel warm if you extended the arm too far to the back.

By redesigning the cooling system to exhaust away from the user’s back, we are able to keep the heat out of reach wherever possible, making it much more silent.

TR: There’s a striking resemblance between the Trident 3 and VROne in both shape and design. Did the experience of creating a VR backpack PC help with the creation of the Trident 3?

LT: There are two different design teams who thought of the Trident and VROne, but there is some resemblance across our product line.

Our notebook, desktop, VGA, and motherboard teams have weekly synergy meetings, which allows each team to help provide input and suggestions in order to make the best product possible. You can also see some resemblance across our VGA and motherboard

as well.

TR: When MSI developed the Trident 3, how did the team balance making the system as compact as possible while still being accessible and familiar enough for DIY upgrades?

LT: It was a huge challenge to start with.

The idea is to build a console-sized PC that can run 4K gaming. Of course, most desktop users want their system to be future-proof. We had surveyed the top three upgrade parts from our users and they said VGA, SSD and memory – that’s why we designed the unit to be easily upgradable for years to come.

TR: Between all of MSI’s compact systems, what is the hardest component to miniaturize or engineer around?

LT: Thermals is the most important component in our hardware. How can we keep the unit cool without sacrificing any performance?

We came out with a unique fan design for Vortex and Trident which is called Silent Storm Cooling. The specific airflow we create within the unit would be almost impossible without a combination of unique chassis designs and motherboards inside those units.

Of course, we need to keep the unit as quiet as possible so it can fit in living rooms or gaming rooms.

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The best concept art stems from the illuminated imaginations of game designers, who can bring a blank canvas to life with their ideas. Often concept art isn’t released until after a game is out, as it would either color players’ perceptions of the game or simply be a massive spoiler. Some concept art is made with no game to follow – it’s just left there in limbo as an idea of what might have been.

Limiting this list to just 10 wasn’t easy, as there is so much brilliant concept artwork around. Honorable mentions go to The Witcher 3, Sunset Riders, Mirror’s Edge 2, Tomb Raider… the list goes on.

Welcome to TechRadar’s 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.

Bioshock Infinite was inspired by a screwed notion of American Exceptionalism, which Canadian artist Ben Lo took to beautiful extremes. The hand-painted style is reminiscent of the Broken Sword series. We particularly love this image of the floating city of Columbia, which features an optimistic nuclear family surrounded by giant trumpeting angels. The game’s ironic imagery has been so effective that the American Tea Party movement have used it as part of their online propaganda.

Concept artwork doesn’t have to have cityscapes or spaceships. Welcome Cuphead, an upcoming platformer inspired by 1930s cartoons and developed by brothers Chad & Jared Moldenhauer. Jared takes the helm of game design, whereas his brother Chad is the visual guru. He created these fantastic early pencil sketches, depicting Cuphead in various animated states. They’re simple drawings that aren’t that far from the realized artwork that appears in the trailers.

Patrick O’Keefe, known to his colleagues as Senior Concept Artist on Battlefield Hardline, has also provided some brilliant artwork for Dead Space 3. In addition to cityscapes and game environments, he enjoys making up ad campaigns. He first started tagging when he was in primary school and was inspired by his brother’s hip hop collection and his home town of Toronto, which he describes as “a great graffiti city.” But, you don’t have to go all the way to Canada to see his handwork, just take a stroll around Battlefield Hardline.

Previously known as Relativity, this is a nod to M.C. Escher’s famous optical illusion wherein people on steps appear to defy gravity. The original version featured garish colors and sharper edges. Now re-titled as Manifold Garden, it’s easier to see the Escher influence. The palette has been softened, and the edges more pencil-like, but still defined. William Chyr’s game looks like a lithograph, its architectural drawing and brutalist utopia rolled into one.

All Fallout games start with the same concept: mankind is almost completely destroyed by its own nuclear paranoia which leads to the horrific consequence of mutually assured destruction. Unlike the other games in the series, Fallout 4 begins when the bombs fall. Stephan Matiniere’s chilling artwork captured just that moment. There are people desperately packing their belongings into cars, and a boy has just emerged from his home to see what’s going on. Among the debris and panic there’s a couple who are hugging each other, watching the show calmly resigned to their fate. Breathtakingly, it explains the first few minutes of Fallout 4 gameplay in one single image.

The understated palette of this image, crisp lines and stark landscape echo 1970s sci-fi movies such as The Black Hole or Silent Running. A mysterious crystal hovers ominously over a glowing planet and in front of a looming moon, and it’s difficult to tell if it’s a force for good or bad which adds to the power of the artwork. Say what you will about No Man’s Sky, but you can’t deny it had some of the most evocative concept art in ages – like an Isaac Asimov story in the modern era.

French artist Francois Baranger worked on the fantastic PS3 exclusive Heavy Rain before being asked to come up with concept art for Tom Clancy’s The Division. He specifically worked on the foundations for their 2014 E3 trailer that saw a normal family home turned into a defensive base with boarded up windows and crates of uncontaminated bottled water. In this image, the cheery Christmas window decorations contrasted with a bloodstained kitchen table and window. There are still echoes of home life with the picture on the fridge, but it’s a scene of desperation rather than domestic bliss.

An eye-watering amount of artwork is available for this PC and PS4 game – a fast and fun arcade-style shooter with RPG elements. The lead designer is Metroid Prime’s Todd Keller, who has an eye for sleek, sexy imagery. Todd Keller, Thomas Pringle and Craig Sellars all feature but what particularly captured our eyes was the character art by Callum Alexander Watt. The sketched features and costumes echo Yoji Shinkawa’s famous work for Metal Gear Solid. But do check out the other artwork as it’s all excellent.

This online co-op sequel was cancelled last year even though it went to beta testing. Thankfully, artist Billy Wimblett put up a selection of concept artwork, so even if you never get to play it, at least it’s possible to partially experience it. There’s oodles of character art, Demon Doors and a lot of scary plants. This picture is described by Billy as, “Dormant and “oh s***” states for a lair in Darkwood.”

The Deus Ex series of games has captured the futuristic imaginations of sci-fi and cyberpunk fans the world over for decades. The latest entry in the series, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided of 2016, had no issue inspiring the same dystopic feelings with concept art like this. Developer Eidos Montreal released a collection of concept drawings after the game’s release, showing a heavy Blade Runner influence on the newly-imagined world of Golem City.

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11 best RPGs to play on PC today

Update: New to our list is Deux Ex: Mankind Divided at number 11!

Sharpen your broadsword and start thinking about your favourite character stat because it is time to look at the PC RPG games you should all be playing.

We’re not going to be looking back to the early 90s with rose tinted shades and tears in our eyes this time, though. This list is all about the games we think anyone could play right now and happily waste a good chunk of their life on. Most of them don’t even need a super-powered PC to play at base settings either.

As this is all about role-playing games, you can expect a fair number of swords, spells and bearded folk to pop up. But we have a few picks for the elf-haters out there too.

Welcome to TechRadar’s 3rd annual PC Gaming Week, celebrating the almighty gaming PC with in-depth interviews, previews, reviews and features all about one of the TechRadar team’s favorite pastimes. Missed a day? Check out our constantly updated hub article for all of the coverage in one place.

It may be half a decade old, but Skyrim remains one of the most vital RPGs out there because of its incredible mod scene. If you played this game back in 2011 and put it to bed, give it another go with some of the graphics and immersion mods. It’s like playing Skyrim 1.5.

If you’ve not played it all, where have you been? This open-world fantasy epic makes it possible to spend hundreds of satisfying hours without even tackling the main story. Few games craft as rich a world as this, and there’s enough content to play the game as a whole bunch of different characters without feeling like you’re being funnelled into a single “hero” mould.

We won’t spoil the main storyline, but let’s just say it features more dragons than Game of Thrones, and you even get to wield some dragon power yourself. Purists may bang on about how Morrowind is the highlight of the The Elder Scrolls series, but if we were to play one of the games on PC right now, Skyrim is the one we’d download from Steam.

This is what you get if you take the DNA of Balder’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, but start making the game almost 20 years after those titles appeared. Pillars of Eternity is a classic isometric party-based RPG, a style that went out of fashion just after the turn of the millennium, but one that’s good to have back.

We’re not alone either. Back in 2012, ‘Project Pillars’ earned Obsidian almost $4 million on Kickstarter.

Pillars of Eternity is saturated with old-school role-playing flavour. It’s the story of a blighted land, and playing it is no cakewalk. You’ll need strategy, as hack ‘n’ slash tactics don’t work here. Combat is fluid rather than turn-based, but you can pause the action at any point to issue your party orders. If you played and loved Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale, you’ll feel right at home.

Ready for punishment? Dark Souls III is the latest game in the series that wants to make you cry. This is a new kind of grind. It’s not really about levelling-up your character, but a sort of mind-grind where you need to learn environments and enemy attack patterns to survive.

It’s like games from the old days, but those unflinching tangy bits are poured into a modern action role-player. Dark Souls III has the deepest RPG elements of the series to date too, even if we include Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne.

As well as choosing a class, your weapons have class-related skills that are a key part of getting ahead in Dark Souls III. It’s not just about carefully-timed thwacks anymore.

This game requires a certain mood, but for all its grim-ness, it’s frequently totally beautiful too.

If you’re after a classic western RPG with a great story, look no further than The Witcher 3. This game has more quality storytelling in some of its fetch side quests than some others have in their main storylines.

You are Geralt, gruff and grey-haired monster hunter chap, a sort of heroic land pirate type. This is a deep-dive adventure you’ll want to set a few months aside for, a bit like Skyrim.

These two duke it out as favourite accessible beards and swords RPGs, but The Witcher 3 snags the writing and moody-faced adult themes awards. While comparing the two feels natural, Skyrim is a mostly first-person game where The Witcher 3 is third-person like the other Witcher titles. It’s also not easy either. You’ve been warned.

If you want an RPG but have had quite enough of all the swords and sorcery nonsense, Fallout 4 needs to be on your to-buy list. As any Fallout fan will know, the game is set in a nuclear apocalypse, where every puddle of water pumps radiation into your skin and even the cockroaches are deadly.

Well, if you’re rubbish at the game anyway.

This time around, you wake up from cryostasis in one of the bunker Vaults to find your spouse killed and your son kidnapped. You have to find him, even though he was taken 20 years before you wake up.

Throw in some great quest writing and the ability to design your own little towns, and you have a bit of a role-playing winner.

It took about five minutes post-release for Undertale to be called a cult classic. It’s a story-driven role-player with a JPRG edge, but how it approaches its battles and its work is quite different from the norm.

In Undertale, combat can be non-violent. It’s what you want most of the time, because you’ll feel awful for hurting the game’s ‘enemies’.

Even how you fight isn’t normal. Fights take place as a bullet hell arcade-style game that plays out as your character and the enemy talk. It’s an RPG that prods your emotions. It might even make you cry.

We’ve been spoilt with ultra-high quality RPGs over the last few years. Dragon Age Inquisition is where to head if you find the Witcher 3 that bit too brooding and serious.

You play Inquisition as an almost Jesus-like figure. Marked with a sigil on your hand, you’re a chosen one, who can close up rifts in the sky that keep appearing. Neat, right?

As well as making you a bit of a medieval The Matrix Neo figure, your position means you end up with some political power at your fingertips, choosing who to tick off and not. Of course, this is the narrative story sauce atop a regular action RPG sundae. Dragon Age Inquisition is slightly less open than The Witcher 3 or Skyrim, based around large areas rather than an almost one-piece world, but it’s still massive.

If Pillars of Eternity dredges up the style of RPGs from around 2000, Legend of Grimrock II does the same for mid-90s dungeon crawlers. Where the first game in the series was an oppressive Eye of the Betholder-a-like, this second game is more like Lands of Lore.

If you’re 25 and under then that might not mean a lot, but it’s more colorful, far more open and — to be honest — much more interesting too.

How this differs from flat-out modern RPGs is that it’s a turn-based game where you move in squares and your attacks are timed. But it’s still a beautiful, smart and engaging game that feels more prepped for today’s gamer than most full-on franchise reboots.

It’s not often a publisher completely overhauls a game, then releases it for free to everyone who bought the original, but that’s what happened with Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition on PC. You get new quests, a re-written story and, partying like it’s 1999, perfected split-screen multiplayer.

A new-school, old-school smoothie, this is a top-down isometric party RPG like Balder’s Gate, but with turn-based battles and a much lighter style. It’s more comic than dark and miserable.

It didn’t attract as much attention as something like The Witcher 3 at launch, but is one absolutely worth checking up on.

If you don’t mind heading back a few years for your RPG fix, you shouldn’t miss Mass Effect 2. This is, so far, the sweet spot of the space opera RPG series from EA. It’s much more accessible than the first Mass Effect, and much less of a thin adventure than Mass Effect 3.

It is a grand space opera of a game, a sprawling story of warring factions, alien racial tensions and legitimately interesting characters that are much more than ciphers.

Mass Effect 2 is also a great RPG for those who might be turned off by standard role-playing trappings – like impenetrable stat screens and chat that sounds like it has been cribbed straight from The Lord of the Rings. This is an EA game, and has a lot of that big publisher accessibility to it.

Following in the footsteps of the previous Deus Ex games, Mankind Divided is an RPG disguised as a first-person shooter. That’s because, like Human Revolution five years prior, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is all about player choice.

You can punch through walls and confront enemies head-on or complete tasks using tactical stealth mechanics. It’s entirely up to you; the end result is equally rewarding no matter what. Depending on the way you play the game, you can unlock different weapons and abilities, also up to your choosing.

Choose carefully, however, as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is the kind of game where few can be trusted with the exception of the player character Adam Jensen. The political climate surrounding the game’s setting will leave you hesitant to trust anyone you interact with. After all, you yourself are a point of controversy – the augmented residents of Mankind Divided’s fictitious city of Prague are constantly subjected to discrimination and police violence.

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