Posted on May 22, 2014 by William George
There is a game in development I have been following for almost a year now, and which I am extremely excited about. For anyone who was into PC gaming back in the 90s, the genius behind the Wing Commander series of games and Freelancer has returned to the game scene, to create the ‘best darn space simulator ever’: Star Citizen. It is a very ambitious project, entirely crowd-funded, with almost $44 million raised so far from its fanbase. Because this game is being crowd funded, the development team has opened up to the game’s backers - giving information out in a consistent stream, and details that would normally only be delivered to a publisher that was funding the game. We are the publisher, in a sense, and getting to be this involved in the process of making a game is fascinating and engrossing to me.
Ever since we started developing oil-submersion aquarium kits in 2007, we've been repeatedly asked if you can submerge the hard drive in the oil along with the rest of the components. Our answer has always been a yes for SSDs and a no for traditional platter hard drives. While we are very confident in our answer, we have never actually tested to see exactly what happens. So, to finally set the record straight we decided to take the plunge and dunk a hard drive into mineral oil.
Several months ago I set a challenge for myself, build a small form factor system with a low wattage power supply to play modern titles at decent video settings. The goal was to use a low profile video card, modern components, and keep things as quiet as possible.
Windows 8 launches this fall, on October 26th to be precise, and it is shaping up to be the most controversial Windows edition ever. Past versions like Vista and Millennium Edition were underwhelming, certainly, and others like Windows 95 and XP changed the face of Windows dramatically - but each new version has generally been an attempt to improve the user experience. Some focused on better performance, others on a newer and sleeker interface... and while there were both successes and failures Microsoft has managed to maintain dominance in the PC operating system market.
The latest version of Windows, however, has a lot more to it than just a shiny new taskbar or updated applications: it represents a shift in the whole interface from a traditionally mouse-centered approach to a touch-centric design. The last time that Microsoft tried to add an interface option to Windows was Media Center, which was introduced part-way through the life-cycle of Windows XP and brought a ‘ten foot’ interface designed for use in a living room. That was simply an added interface option on top of the normal Windows UI, though, while Windows 8 has completely removed large parts of the traditional interface that PC users have become accustomed to.
MechWarrior Online (often shortened to MWO) is an upcoming "free to play" action simulator, the latest game in the well known MechWarrior series which is in turn based on the BattleTech tabletop game and novels. For those familiar with the franchise the setting is going to put you right at home: you are a MechWarrior, piloting a 20-100 ton bipedal war machine called a BattleMech. The graphics and controls are greatly updated from previous games, the last of which was published more than a decade ago, but the core game-play is very similar.
The main difference from past games is that they tended to be single player, story-driven games - which had small, tacked-on multi-player game modes. MechWarrior Online lives up to its name in that it is all about online multi-player battles - there is no single player option, and no specific story line. Instead, the game is set within the BattleTech universe at a specific point in the established history. Time in the game's setting is progressing in a 1:1 fashion with the real world: each day there are news announcements pertaining to events going on in the fictional future time period, and eventually this will be integrated into a meta-game where territory is actively fought over by players. That all has yet to be implemented, but should be a huge draw for both competitive gamers / groups and long-time BattleTech fans when it arrives.
Heroes of Newerth (HoN) is a free-to-play Action Real-Time Strategy (ARTS)-style game loosely modeled after the classic Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, and it's currently one of my favorite games. ARTS games have a top-down view similar to an RTS (eg. Age of Empires, Warcraft, Starcraft) but emphasize single-unit development and de-emphasize base building. Each person starts with control of a single unit or 'hero', and often controls only that unit for the entirety of the game. Teams compete in 3v3 or 5v5 games usually lasting 30-60 minutes depending on game mode.
Welcome to the first in a short series of blog posts we will be doing here at Puget Systems. The theme of this series is our favorite games, and it will include posts about current and upcoming games which our employees are excited about. Hopefully our readers can learn about new games through these posts, and get a feel for the sort of system specs that run them well. First up: World of Tanks!
We sell all sorts of computers here at Puget Systems, and one of the more popular requests is for a gaming computer. In fact, we have designed one of our main brands around gaming - the Puget Deluge is an excellent system to consider for a gaming rig. Some gamers come to us already knowing what specs they want, but others are seeking more detailed guidance on what processor, video card, and other components to go with. The exact advice we give depends on the situation: the sorts of games they are interested in, the screen resolution they plan to run, their budget, and other preferences. However, a lot of that advice can be distilled down into the following basic principles.
One of the services we offer here at Puget Systems, aimed at high-end gamers and enthusiasts, is overclocking. It is a practice that has been around for quite some time which involves pushing the processor in a computer beyond its rated clock speed. This can provide an additional performance boost without the need to spend more money on a faster processor, though there are some trade-offs involved: additional heat and stress above and beyond what the CPU may have been designed to handle.
Many of the computers we sell here at Puget Systems will be used for playing games, and we also get a lot of folks wanting to run two (or more) monitors. Sometimes those goals intersect, and in those situations I have had people ask if they needed to get a second video card so that using additional monitors will not impact their performance for gaming. I myself use two monitors here at work, which has been a great improvement in usability, but I don't play games in the office. Because of that I've had to fall back on anecdotal evidence when this topic comes up, and make educated guesses depending on individual scenarios. Rather than continue in that approach, though, I wanted to get hard numbers to support my advice.
Puget Systems has been in the business of building computers for 11 years now, and we know what we are doing when it comes to assembling top-notch custom computers. It is a bit insulting, then, when a parts manufacturer puts out a warning which appears - on the surface - to indicate something we do is resulting in anything other than the highest performance possible. Yet here I am, to let you know about just such a notice that nVidia's latest driver software is giving when using their graphics cards in certain configurations.