Sunday, March 24, 2013

Maximum Redundancy

Installing and playing Crysis3 on my pc has made something crystal clear: my gaming PC is an ancient machine. This is somehow ironic. First of all because I am a big PC gaming advocate boasting about power and secondly, because this machine was assembled to play the cryengine (in the form of Crysis). Which ran like treacle on my previous PC, causing me to had a mental revelation that it desperately needed a replacement. And so I invested one of my very first wages into a new PC.

Back then, I also got the chance to get my hands on Windows Vista. I liked the rock solid performance of the thing, it never crashed. It was however, quite a memory hog. Making it clear that from day one that I wasn't quite done upgrading. After a RAM update, from 2 to 4GB, I upgraded my Nvidia GFX 8800 to a ATI 4780, which I had to replace later on with a Nvidia GTX 460. The CPU got upgraded from a Intel duo E8200 to an Intel q9505. This last upgrade almost didn't happen because the line of processors had become obsolete at that time, it had been for a while, and as such wasn't being sold except for reparations. That was only just two years ago.
Yes, this is by far the oldest PC I've ever had. If I keep it around for another half a year, it'll be 6 years old. But it's still going, pretty much without a hitch if not a chug. From the Vista days I noticed that the HD would sometimes tick, tick, tick and tick, making programs hang until the ticking ceased. At first I thought nothing of it. This was a new PC, what could possibly be wrong? So I ignored it. However, Vista picked up a few issues and got less dependable. The system files got broken and repaired a bit too frequent.
To fix it, I got Windows 7! installing it over Vista may have been a mistake but for a while, all was well. The ticking HD however was still there. A minor nuisance! Or so I thought. It started lasting longer. It certainly sounded mechanical enough to worry me slightly. So the inevitable happened and I got a blue screen when the system started ticking on the windows startup screen. This would have sent me in a vengeful panic, BETRAYAL MOST FOUL, if I didn't have most of my data backed-up or in the cloud.


However I was slightly ticked off at the delayed start-up. When the windows repair process ticked to a grinding halt as well, I was rather more annoyed. I started making plans to deal with this PC.
So I switched it off and twiddled my thumbs for a while in a suitably malicious manner. This happened on a hot summer evening, so I tried really hard to keep my senses in the simmering swampy city heat. Later that evening I had cooled down. I switched the PC back on. Mercifully, it booted just fine and I was relieved. I blamed the heat for the ticking problem. And it never got that bad again.

Until last January.

It finally dawned on me: the many reboots, error-checking and error repairing the system had to do, seemingly without reason, have had their toll on the files on the disk. Many important system files were 0kb in size. I could no longer adjust my keyboard and mouse settings because the configuration windows no longer existed. A DISASTER!


Because this was the middle of Black Ops 2 season and I wanted to toy around with my Razer Imperator's sensitivity settings. My indignant rage instantly returned in full force. THE HUMANITY!


A full system scan of whatever prompt command launched it showed me that there was no easy way to repair this avalanche of system errors.

That was the drop. On my hands was a PC that didn't have all the necessary (or unnecessary) functions and that couldn't go on. So I considered just getting a new PC, as I figured an upgrade was long overdue. But of course I had another option: reinstall windows 7, the 64bit version this time. The more economic option too. And in a way a small upgrade if it meant I could access the full 4gigs of ram. So I backed up all my remaining data and I mentally prepared myself for the fresh, blank windows desktop I'd eventually reach - and the experience of a most profound horror vacuum you only get when you see your own Personal Computer devoid of all the personal stuff.

the experience of a most profound horror vacuum you only get when you see your own Personal Computer devoid of all the personal stuff.

But also, happily, free of errors. Efficient. And this time I was surprised to see, or rather hear, no more ticking.
The system performs well again. But enough to keep it for another year? I think not. As I mentioned up top, Crysis3 isn't good to this PC. I play on LOW everything and even had to dig into a few custom configurations to disable default high-end features, just to try to keep the frame rate near 60fps. Truth be told though, 30fps may even be too much to hope for. Crysis3 is of course only one game, and I can play other games that aren't Crysis3 just fine.

As a new console cycle is revving up and new game engines are about to appear. It makes sense to get a new PC now and aim a fair bit higher than the new console specs. A guarantee it'll be able to play whatever game comes out in the foreseeable future. And I don't intent to skimp on the budget this time. A good PC can last a very long time even on a budget, so It's well worth the investment. At least that's what I think.
I'm still holding off upgrading for now though. We already have definitive info on the Playstation4: it's very much like a PC. But we still need to see exactly what Microsoft will do with the next Xbox console. Already it seems that the AMD dominated console hardware could influence PC game performance - the next Xbox and WiiU both also use AMD-made silicon. Should games be coded for the AMD graphics cards like the latest Tomb Raider was, it might not be the best idea to get an NVidia graphics card. It may be a bit too early to tell. More research is needed, as it is every time I purchase a piece of hardware. I am curious though, to learn what has changed.