Finally a blog article from me that is for the most all about my view of gaming (because there is nothing interesting about reading stories regarding Varoufakis being a sore loser in the Guardian).
We all have these moments where we go shopping, whilst there are no funds available. A situation I have been very familiar with, yet we still go browsing in many places to see whether there is something to work towards. This certainly describes my case and as I found out soon thereafter, I got myself into a mingled world of facts and none facts a lot more than I bargained for. So what started this?
I’ll be honest, ever since the release of Elite: Dangerous I have been living on the edge of my previous addiction. It is one of the most loved games I had ever played. I still think back with utter fondness playing this game on the CBM-64. Wireframe and low resolution were at the core of a game that offered such fun, its challenge and entertainment that left its mark on me ever since. I played the remake on the Amiga somewhere in the 90’s, but the original was still the soul breaker for me. With David Braben making the ‘now’ version for today’s PC environment and by adding not just a galactic map, but by almost mapping the ENTIRE galaxy, this game is now an entirely new revelation and because Sean Murray keeps on not giving a release date for his upcoming masterpiece No Man’s sky, my desire to play Elite: Dangerous increases. It is however not that simple, my PC (which still works excellently) is now 9 years old, so it cannot deal with today’s gaming. As I stated, there is no way to afford a new PC at present, which is why I kept on browsing.
Now we get to the issue: The amount of gaming systems out there appear to be a joke! I lost two days getting back into the field I had high expertise in, but as I moved to consoles (as keeping up with gaming PC’s became way too expensive, even when I had my good income), the market moved on (as it would) and I learned that changes had been many. Now, for the most I understand it all, but the diversity to learn what is needed to know is one that a non-hardware savvy person, gamer or not, is one that could boggle the mind.
It took me two days to get back onto the level of knowledge I once had. Even now, there are still diminishing gaps.
So, why is all this an issue?
Well, even though the graphics card was always an issue, in my days I moved from a Diamond Viper (which was top of the market in 1998) to a NVIDIA GeForce 6800 card (in 2005), which was again pretty high up (and not cheap), at this point I could game pretty much anything, I had the top of the range SoundBlaster and a good screen and I could game and compute my life away behind my desktop.
Now gaming has changed. For one, it is no longer really about sound cards, the system board has all it needs for gamers, so we are left with the proper processor, the right amount of memory and the graphics card. This is where the issue starts. The diversity of graphic cards is now a jungle, how can any parent choose the right system for their kid, or for that matter, how can any newbie gamer select the best card for their needs?
I can tell you right now that many shops are truly lacking in knowledge there. When you go to online places (which is an initial MUST), you get a boatload of options too. System prices range from 999 to 4299, so where is the best choice? In the middle or at the far end? Questions that many do not have and others state: ‘the more expensive the better’ (which is a truth to some degree). You see, at some point I decided to stay one hardware iteration behind, so that I could game at a very high level, yet needing a decently less amount of money. That truth in gaming remains to be an almost absolute truth. There is a new property in play, one that was never a real issue even 5 years is now a massive part, it is about the noise level of the graphics card as some of those bad boys make noise when they are working, which is not that dissimilar an issue from the Xbox 360 DVD drive and fan noise. So getting a quiet system is worth it. A lesser item is the power consumption of such a card, which at maximum uses as much energy as two PS4 systems in full gaming mode and at the price of $999 (just for a graphics card), that bad boy costs the same as two PlayStation 4 systems. So is gaming on the PC worth it?
That is the question you must ask yourself, especially considering that gaming will take another bang in hardware in 3-4 years, even as you might only need to replace the graphics card, you see a devaluation of 25% a year. That is the part many people are not always considering, which fair is enough. Now, the truth is that if you see some games like Skyrim, where some mods were made to truly blast the hell out of the word pretty, as an RPG fan, I would fold like a bad poker player at the mere sight of the created graphics, yet, I never felt that Skyrim was anything less than amazing on a console, and I knew that the PC was a lot better.
Fortunately for me Elite: Dangerous does not require the most massive card, so that system is a lot less unaffordable than any new system, but unaffordable it remains, so what is this about? First of all, people need to really take a look at what they are willing to afford online before walking into a computer shop. Places like http://www.pccasegear.com and http://www.mwave.com.au/ (for Australian consumers) are good places to take a first look. When you see the prices you are in for (that is before you add the keyboard, mouse and display), you need to see what the graphical needs will be, and moreover, how some games perform. In this I relied on http://www.tomshardware.com/ in the past and it is still around. It is here where we would read “In the graph, MSI’s card is listed at 34 decibels. This is done to represent just how quiet the Twin Frozr V solution really is. The meter wouldn’t register a reading two inches from the rear panel, even when the fans started up“, that is indeed one part that matters, another part is frame-rate, so how smooth is the game, this site gives us that too, although one setback is that Tom does not seem to test all resolutions whilst the new gamers all want 1440p and a few now demand 4K resolution performance graphs, but the new upcoming cards will likely show that too.
There are other sites that give good independent review of cards, just be willing to spend an hour looking at the different places before you go shopping, I have tried a few conversations out there and I can tell you now that these places (read: shops) are often devoid of true inside knowledge on cards, finding one gamer amongst that lot is a treasure, but also a hindrance, as you might find yourself overspending a bit sooner and a little more than you expected.
In all this, PC gaming will remain and there is no reason why it should not, but in this day and age that part is too often forgotten, and electricity, especially in the UK does not come cheap. The amount of gamers not considering their electricity bill is growing on a daily basis.
For example, 9.429p per 1kWh, 600W PSU means 0.094 x 0.6 x 24 = £1.35 per day, meaning that your gaming PC (if you keep it on all day) will cost you £495 a year alone. The Australian example is harder as energy suppliers seem to REFUSE to give out clear pricing, only when they know all your facts will they give you any information, making them slightly less reputable than the ice dealers in Kings Cross. So if we go by the same system and a 20c per KwH, we get: 0.2 x 0.6 x 24 = $2.88, which amounts to $1042 a year on power to the gaming system alone.
You might think that this is trivial, but in this day and age, in these moments, you better consider shutting down your PC. A friend of mine got scared as he got his quarterly bill, he now shuts down the computer properly. It is one of the running costs of gaming that people forget as they think it does not matter, and when you are renting in a university dorm it might not, but when you work, you are not working to be the bitch of Energy Australia, or EDF Energy for that matter, are you? At least UK power (www.ukpower.co.uk) gave me some decent prices to work with.
How does this relate?
Getting back on the horse is a term we see ourselves confronted with, because the term ‘is the juice worth the squeeze’ is becoming a predominant question in gaming, not just in PC gaming, the fact that several high profile cases have changed the industry is linked to all this. When we see Assassins Creed: Unity, with needing gigabytes in patches, where a game almost a year old is still receiving patches (number 5 was released 3 days ago). The gamer’s view of quality demand and the industry of lacking the ability to meet even the minimal requirement here is also affecting the choice of gaming system. Why spend $4200 on a system that will require patching for a year? And that game is not alone. Arkham knight is now treading that same line, an industry inherently unable to even meet basic expectations. And even though Witcher 3 exceeded expectations wildly, the new patch is massive at 7Gb and as Forbes is informing us (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2015/07/18/theres-a-problem-with-the-witcher-3s-new-patch/), where we see “the new patch means that The Witcher 3 doesn’t perform as well on either the Xbox One or the PS4, dipping down to 20 FPS fairly consistently in some of the game’s busier locales” gives clear indication that PC gaming is however much desired a path that is riddled with issues at a price so much higher than the console world.
So even if it were possible for me to get back on that horse, I have serious doubts whether the juice will be worth the squeeze, because at $4200 ($1999 is a more realistic choice in decent gaming PC’s) I would demand a decent level of perfection in gaming and even though the hardware meets it, it seems more and more clear that the industry is no longer able to meet these expectations, so even though I will require a PC at some point, my old one still (thankfully) suffices for non-gaming purposes and gaming on a PC is no longer truly surpassing the joy of a console.
Many will not agree with me on the latter and that is just fine, some will get great gaming on their PC when it comes down to World of Warcraft and League of Legends, yet when we consider the following headlines ‘Battlefield 4 – what can we expect from the summer patch?‘ (July 10th 2015), ‘Batman: Arkham Knight PC Version Fixes Not Coming Until Fall‘ (July 16th 2015), ‘The Huge Witcher 3 Patch Is Rolling Out Over The Next 24 Hours‘ (July 17th 2015) and the least said about ‘F1 2015 Errors, Crashes, Bugs, Performance, Low FPS, and Fixes‘ the better, with 2 patches within a week (including a day 1 patch) and as stated “PC community still seemed to struggle to get a decent gameplay experience” the question is not just about the massive cost of hardware, the issue becomes, if this industry does not up its game by a lot real fast, will there still be a long term future for these less affordable gaming PC’s?