PC Building Simulator is (most of) the fun of building a PC—without pricey GPUs

Samuel Axon

The “simulator” genre of PC games was already pretty meta, but it has now reached a new level with PC Building Simulator, a game currently available via Steam Early Access. In it, you build desktop PCs (mostly the gaming variety) by opening up the case, installing components, plugging them into the motherboard for power, and more, all in a 3D simulation. (Sorry, no VR.)

After a few hours of testing, we were surprised at how fun it actually is, even though it’s quite basic. And in this time of crypto-inflated GPU prices holding upgrade plans back, it might just fill a hole in some PC enthusiasts’ hearts.

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Steam will now auto-scale VR resolution to max out your GPU

Just before the launch of the SteamVR-powered HTC Vive in 2016, Valve released a hardware testing tool to establish a minimum GPU power baseline for virtual reality. Now, with the impending release of the higher-resolution Vive Pro, Valve is updating SteamVR to ensure that higher-end headsets will work well at a variety of GPU power levels.

The auto-resolution scaling system, as described in a Steam Community announcement today, measures “how many ‘VR megapixels per second’ we believe your GPU is safely capable of for the majority of applications available.” That number is then used to calculate the appropriate native resolution for the VR app being run, regardless of the display resolution of the attached VR headset.

That means systems with high-end GPUs will automatically see VR apps “up-res’ed” to “fully utilize” the power of the graphics card, Valve writes. The effect of that change will be most apparent on high-end headsets like the upcoming Vive Pro (which includes two 1400×1600 resolution displays) and certain Windows Mixed Reality headsets, but this kind of native “supersampling” can improve the clarity of VR apps even on years-old, “low-end” headsets like the Vive and Oculus Rift (which both have dual 1080×1200 displays).

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Oculus Rift is now the most popular VR headset on Steam

When the HTC Vive launched in 2016, one of its major advantages over the competition was supposed to be its integration with the Steam platform through Valve’s SteamVR standard. Last month, though, Valve’s regular Steam user hardware survey found that Oculus Rift users now outnumber HTC Vive users on Steam for the first time.

The Rift now represents about 47 percent of all VR headset users on Steam, according to the survey, sneaking just past the Vive at about 45 percent. Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality initiative, launched late last year, accounts for just over 5 percent of the VR users on the platform.

Oculus Rift usage on Steam started shooting up last summer, right around the time Oculus slashed the price of its Rift-and-Touch-controller package to $399 in July (the HTC Vive would later drop from $799 to $599 in August). Reported Rift use on Steam climbed from 35.7 percent of VR users in July to 46.9 percent in September after the price drop. That jump also followed a July update to Oculus Home that let Rift users launch SteamVR apps directly via Oculus’ platform rather than going through the SteamVR interface.

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Nintendo accused of illegally denying refunds on pre-orders in Europe

 Nintendo has been accused of breaking European law by not allowing consumers to obtain refunds on pre-ordered games. Read More

Major payment company: “Fewer and fewer use cases” for bitcoin payments

Stripe is one of the most popular ways for small online organizations to accept credit card payments. And in 2014 it became one of the first major payment processors to support bitcoin payments.

But a lot has changed in the last four years. The bitcoin network has become a lot more widely used, and with popularity comes congestion and high fees. Last month the median daily transaction fee—which had been just pennies prior to 2017—peaked at $34. This figure has declined substantially this month, but is still around $5. That’s a lot if you’re just trying to buy a cup of coffee.

So on Tuesday, Stripe argued that it was ending support for bitcoin.

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Your Bitcoin is no good here—Steam stops accepting cryptocurrency

When Valve first started accepting Bitcoin as an option for Steam purchases last April, the cryptocurrency was trading around $450. Today, with Bitcoin surging past $12,000 per coin, Valve has announced that “Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin.”

Transaction fees charged to customers using Bitcoin have surged throughout 2017, Valve says, peaking at $20 last week from a starting of about $0.20 when Steam first started using the currency. With Valve unable to control these blockchain-linked costs (passed on from third-party Bitpay), the company worried that it was leading to “unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin” (though apparently these are costs Bitcoin users as a whole have been willing to shoulder of late).

Bitcoin’s extremely volatile valuation has also gotten in the way of its usefulness for Steam users, Valve said. With Bitcoin values changing so rapidly, the amount of Bitcoin needed to cover a purchase can change significantly between the time a purchase is initiated and when it’s completed. Fixing this situation with a quick refund or a request for additional payment incurs more of those high transaction fees, Valve says.

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Windows Mixed Reality headsets get SteamVR games and apps November 15

As promised back in August, all owners of Windows Mixed Reality headsets who are running Windows 10 will be able to run much of SteamVR’s library of VR software.

This is an expansion of the SteamVR preview program for Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which was previously open to developers but will open up to all users on November 15. Interested users will be able to navigate from Microsoft’s VR hub to Valve’s and select from SteamVR software there.

SteamVR is best known for games like EVE Valkyrie and Project Cars, but several apps are available too. For example, Virtual Desktop allows you to use your computer’s desktop in a VR space, and Google’s Tilt Brush is a VR painting experience. This preview program is a beta test, so not every app or game is expected to work perfectly right now.

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Another Windows VR headset enters the fray with Samsung Odyssey

Microsoft announced today that yet another company is going to build a virtual reality headset for its Windows Mixed Reality platform: Samsung.

The Odyssey headset looks to be a cut above the other headsets from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo: its dual-AMOLED screens are slightly higher resolution, at 1400×1600 rather than 1400×1400, and the field of view is 110 degrees rather than 95. It’s also a little more adjustable, with a flexible interpupillary distance, to match the headset to your eyes.

The device will go on sale on November 6 and cost $499 with a pair of motion controllers.

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