Tag Archives: video games

LCD Native Resolution and Games

I’ve been thinking of my next PC. It will be a beast all around, and totally more than I need, but on par with what I want. One of the components on this mythical system is the Dell 3007WFP, a 30″ LCD monitor.

Everyone knows bigger is better. Ok, yes, except for penis size (you heard Shannon Doherty in Mallrats, a good size means small). But for monitors, 30″ has to be better than 24″, right? Well, maybe.

The problem is something called “native resolution”. That’s tech talk for, “if you use a different resolution, it will look shitty”, at least in comparison. And you didn’t shell out all that money to look at something with subpar clarity. You can usually switch to a lower res in an even multiple. In other words, if the native resolution is 1280 x 1024, you can cut that to 640 x 512 and still have it look good. You’re now using four pixels to represent one, so it’s still a square.

You might be asking yourself, “Why would I want fewer pixels? We just established that more is better!” And if you live in the 2D world, you’re probably right. Watching movies, surfing the web, reading email – no big deal.

But most games create a 3D world, and that world is computationally intensive, and that intensity is resolution-dependent. The higher the resolution, the harder your graphics card has to work. A couple years ago I bought a Radeon X800 Pro graphics card, which was definitely high-end at the time ($400 retail [1]). I bought it to play World of Warcraft at high resolutions. The game played fine for a while, but eventually it would sputter and stall and crash. Maybe 15-20 minutes into it [2]. Then I upgraded damn near everything else, but it still crashed. Obviously, the good folks at Blizzard wouldn’t provide a resolution choice that was impossible to play with state of the art equipment. And if they did, well, their tech support people would tell you right away. “Lower your resolution! That setting is for hardware that hasn’t been invented yet!” Well, I never heard that, but maybe that kind of honesty only comes after you’ve fetched all their rocks. I finally broke down and lowered the resolution and some effects, and voila, it ran smoothly for hours. Same thing happened with Oblivion.

Oh, when I say high resolution, we’re talking 1280 x 1024, not 1600 x 1200. 1.3 megapixels. My card maxed out at about 1024 x 768, less than .8 megapixels.

In other words, nowhere near the 2650 x 1600 native resolution of the Dell 3007WFP. Simple math puts that at 4.24 megapixels, more than 5 times the max res. of the X800. The card is now 2 years old, understood, but it’s still not bottom of the barrel. Even so, let’s discount it. Let’s look at the awesomest card on the market, the GeForce 7900 GTX SLI. $470 on PriceGrabber.com. According to the VGA charts at Tom’s Hardware, that card only gets 20 FPS on the benchmark for Oblivion run at 1600×1200 with everything on, in an outdoor scene (very common in that game). I don’t know if that’s single or dual card setup, but they also say that an extra card only buys you a 30-40% boost. And remember, while 1600×1200 may sound high (and it is!), it’s less than half of 2650×1600! Assuming the complexity scales linearly with resolution [3], you’d need a card 3 times more powerful than the best card available. And probably a stronger CPU, too. And that’s on a game released months ago. What happens when you try to run future games, using DirectX 10? You’re probably stuck running in 1325×800, if that resolution is even offered by the game. Most likely, you’re in a crappy looking non-native resolution, just so you can get the game to run. What a waste!

Luckily, there aren’t any games driving me to build this beast, not even the upcoming Neverwinter Nights 2. Alas, the original plan of waiting for Diablo III is still in effect. I’ll have to find something else to waste stupid amounts of money on. Perhaps a bigger penis…


I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken. I thought I might not be throwing enough money at the problem. Well, Tom’s Hardware’s $10,000 PC – with quad SLI (that’s four videocards bridged together) – gets less than 18 FPS on Oblivion outdoors. Granted, it does well on all their other game tests, but I don’t want to play those games! Check out Tom’s PC anyway, it’s an interesting read.

[1] Amusing story about that. Friend went to a major electronics store, let’s call them Pommes Frittes, or Fri’s for short. Wanted a Radeon 9600 with DVI for his pricey Apple LCD. It’s on sale for $130, but when he goes to buy it, it rings up as $400. He points out the price tag and the sale sign to the cashier, who agrees and charges him the marked price. He goes home. He opens the box. Inside: another box. This one says Radeon X800. It’s price tag says $400. Clearly, some shennanigans going on at Fri’s, probably a warehouse guy setting himself up for some extra take-home pay, which my friend inadvertently thwarts. But it’s win/win, as I buy it off him for $250. Huzzah!

[2] If you know the game, it also happened as soon as I took a gryphon ride.

[3] This is a really big assumption, but I have a hunch I’m being lenient.

Make love not Warcraft.

I haven’t watched South Park in about 8 years, but last night I was flipping through channels and stopped dead on what I thought was some sort of game demo.
Turns out it was a South Park episode all about the game “World of Warcraft” and since I know some Crack Team members are into this, I had to watch it. Much of the episode includes actual gameplay.

The story line goes: There is this high level player going around killing characters for no reason. I guess that normally characters have to accept a duel before risking their characters’ lives? Well this guy is such a high level that he overrides this rule.

The staff at Blizzard Entertainment is worried because the guy can “kill” administrators’ characters, so even they can’t stop him.

Cartman and the gang figure that if they spend every waking hour for months on end (in hiding) they might reach a level high enough for the four of them to defeat him.
Can the gang of four, with the help of Stan’s dad(a noob) and Blizzard’s banned “Sword of a Thousand Truths”, defeat the serial killer?

Quotes from the show:

Blizzard staff: What kind of person would do this?
Blizzard President: Only one kind. Whoever this player is, he has played World of Warcraft nearly every hour of every day for the past year and a half. Gentlemen, we are dealing with someone here who… had absolutely no life.
Blizzard staff: How do you kill… that which has no life?

[think about that for a minute]

Blizzard staff: There are over seven million people who log on to World of Warcraft! Are you telling me all those people’s characters are going to die, and there’s nothing we can do to save them?
Blizzard President: Yes. And it won’t be long before everyone gets really really frustrated and stops playing altogether. Gentlemen, this could very well lead to the end of the World…… (of Warcraft).

Cartman:[Trying to convince others to join his cause.] If you had a chance right now to go back in time and stop Hitler, wouldn’t you do it? I mean, I personally wouldn’t stop him because I think he was awesome, but you would, right?

Playstation 3 Delayed, Cut Back

Sony announced that the PS3 will be delayed in Europe, and cut U.S. Christmas shipments in half. Add to this it will cost $500-600, versus $300-400 for XBOX 360, and >$250 for the Nintendo Wii, which confirmed it’s shipping on time. Apparently there are technical and/or supply problems with the Blu-ray components. Getting a Blu-ray player with your console is decent, but I haven’t seen a $600 console since Neo-Geo. Are they gonna have $130+ games, too?

E3 Shrinks

E3 is scaling way down. Surprisingly, the reasons are reasonable. The video game industry no longer needs a big event to garner the attention of the press, and May is too early to display games scheduled for fall. It’ll now be a place to do some press conferences and let the bigwigs network. Since they closed it off to the public this year, I don’t think anyone really cares. I guess this is good news for PAX.

Penny Arcade

Masterchief recently pointed me towards Penny Arcade, a gamer-oriented online comic strip. They’ve also started the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), an alternative to E3 for consumers (E3 are being dicks about letting in non-industry types). I was going to hit Seattle until air fares skyrocketed, which I am against. Anyway, the strip is pretty hilarious, here are some I liked:

My thoughts on pineapple pizza exactly
D&D online misadventures
She knows what you’ve been watching
I’m pretty sure Blizzard doesn’t need to do this, with their license to print crack
On the benefits of manga
Why I still feel self-righteous about quitting WOW
Fun at Fry’s?
An accurate portrayal of WOW’s patch distribution
What are friends for?

Gamefly = Superfly

The marketing people at Gamefly probably are trying to figure out how to send me a check for that one, but anonymity is far too important for an ass like me to give up contact info on a public forum. Instead, I would ask that they donate the money to a young aspiring nurse, cuz the world needs more nurses. I suggest going to a local strip club, cuz I met a bunch of ladies there who were going to college to be nurses, naughty, sparkly nurses.

If you own an XBOX 360, with the exception of Call of Duty 2 and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, I haven’t found a single other came that required more than a few days of my time to be finished with them. In the 3 weeks I had Oblivion with Gamefly I saved an assload of cash (though I am sure I will buy a used copy some day to play it again). For all the other games I got on Gamefly, there was not a single one that had any replay value in my opinion. Most of them I would have actually been quite mad about if I had purchased them at full price. Before Gamefly I researched purchases quite a bit, and was much more cautious with the games I tried, so on the plus side I guess, I tried some games that I would not have considered otherwise, and, of course, they sucked.

This is leads me to what really what makes Gamefly rock. See, most reviewers are soulless whores of the gaming industry. Then only decent reviews I have read in quite a while were at Penny-Arcade, while reading their comics. Seriously, their comics are one of the only sources of decent game reviews I have found, which is kind of like watching the daily show for news. For some reason, the idiots at all the major game sites figure you won?t remember the steaming pile of crap that they gave an 8.5 out of 10 to when you are reading their next ?review?.

The bottom line with Gamefly is that it saves a ton of cash. For $15 a month, I avoid buying $60 games. Simple math is that in 4 months I have spent what it would have cost for a single game, but I played 10 of them, which would have put me back $600. I would have played fewer games if some of them had been a bit better, but that hardly makes the service less compelling. The only ?downside? of Gamefly is that it is a bit slower than NetFlix, but then I live like 40 miles from a regional NetFlix center, so I usually have single day shipment from them (yes, I send a movie on Monday, it gets to them Tuesday, and I get my next one on Wednesday, which is pretty cool).

In the extended entry (if it works) are some mini-reviews from some of the games I played from Gamefly (not all were for the 360, but I need to fill in between their release schedule):
Continue reading Gamefly = Superfly

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

Finally picked this up, and am just getting the hang of it. For a more detailed review by far better gamers than I (Masterchief and Zbalance) read these comments. Haven’t had much time to play, but was disappointed with the lack of online help and the pamphlet of a manual. Yes, I’m one of those geeks who reads the manual before he does something.

Coming from WOW, I’m used to automated updates and tons of UI mods. Oblivion has many content mods built with their construction set, but very few UI mods. No nifty Lua scripting engine to make UI tweaks easy. Another interesting file type available, surprising because it’s been forever since I’ve played “adventure games”, are saved games! One useful one puts you right after the tutorial (with all possible loot) and right before you choose your final stats. I’m also used to many dedicated strategy sites, including a few professional ones. There are far fewer for Oblivion, and IGN has decided to charge a subscription for their guide. Booooo! Anyway, I found some useful links that I thought I’d post. If you have more, please let everyone know by commenting. Thanks!

Oblivion Character Creation Tips
Lockpicking Made Easy!
The Alchemy FAQ

I could really use a guide on magic. And a game that didn’t hang when you switched to window-mode.

Edit: The game now crashes my system, apparently due to some video driver or performance issue (and I have a decent card: Radeon X800 Pro). I recommend others hold off until a general bugfix patch is released.

Neverwinter Nights 2

It has recently occurred to me that I have forgotten enough about World of Warcraft (WOW) that I am probably at the point of no return. In other words, the time I’d have to spend remembering how to play the game, customize the interface, optimize my character, etc., feels like more effort than its worth. So I’ve been thinking about finding a new game to waste time on. As a couple people have pointed out, Elder Scrolls Oblivion is out, but I’m not sure I’d like the play style. Since there’s no demo available, I’ll pass. (I’m guessing that a game that takes up 4.6GB of hard drive space can’t be easily shrunk to demo size.) In reading the description, they are really after casual WOW gamers, as they list short challenges as a primary selling point; big challenges (that require 5-40 of your friends to be online and up for the same challenge) is one of the biggest complaints about WOW.
     So I was pretty happy to hear that they are making Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2). I was a little worried when I read that they’re using the same game engine as NWN (Aurora). But the full truth is that Bioware is just providing Aurora to Obsidian, who is modifying it significantly and has renamed it Electron. Yes, that means Bioware is not actually developing NWN2, just helping a little.

The Good:
+ Follows D&D 3.5 rules
+ All races and classes from NWN, plus new ones like Duergar, Drow, Aasimar, Tiefling, Wild Elves and others that aren’t as cool (meaning evil).
+ All classes and prestige classes, plus new ones like Arcane Trickster (rogue plus wizard/sorcerer)
+ Improved graphics based on DirectX 9 and Pixel Shader 3; old game engine != old graphics

The Bad:
– No epic levels, at least to start with; cap at 20 again
– No psionics, unless you’re an illithid. And you can’t play an illithid. Boo!
– No mounts, gotta run everywhere on foot, just like in real life. Because horses weren’t invented back then… Boo!

So overall, pretty cool, except it’s not due until 9/1, according to EB. That means I’ll have to find another game, or stay productive until September. I’m pretty I sure won’t make it that long.

P.S. I got most of this info from the Wikipedia entry.

And We’re Back!

So there’s been a paucity of posts since my whirlwind romance with World of Warcraft. Alas, the infatuation has faded. I still play, and plan to for some time, but its hold over me has been broken. I think I first realized this the weekend I spent more time reading about J2EE than playing. There have been other things on the plate, and I wasn’t sure how to get back into this. Mind you, this is still a group blog, nobody else was prevented from writing here. Of course, nobody’s prevented from reading, either, but that doesn’t stop them. (I am a master of circular logic).

Anyway, Blizzard released a game patch, which means my big set of community-created addons (Cosmos) has probably been broken, and it will take a couple days to fix it. Luckily, my characters will be gaining rest bonus (extra xp for time spent away from the game, basically rewarding you for not using their servers while still paying them money). So no big loss, and I’ll again be suckling at the teat of mother Blizzard in a few days time. ‘Til then, I write!