Posts tagged Gaming

Budget Best Buy Gaming PC

Every 3 years or so I build a new primary workstation\gaming rig. My current system is about 2 years old so it’s not time for a replacement of it yet. But I had a need to build a system that guests at my house could use to game lightly on. Normally if your talking a gaming computer your looking at easily $1,000+ for low tier systems. I think I say ‘rock bottom’ gaming rigs starting at $800. My goal, I want to build a system for around $500. Oh yea it was that kind of weekend.

Best-Buy-Store

I wanted to get the rig up and running this weekend (for someone to use) so I decided to use Best Buy to source all my parts from. In my area we don’t have many independent computer stores with a good stock of parts so I was pretty limited in brick-and-mortar computer stores.

The goal here is not to build a top of the line or even a mid range gaming computer, but something that could run  a number of games on Good/Fair settings. This is also just to build the box itself, not the monitor\keyboard\mouse\speakers. But Best Buy has a good selection of all those items so it’s pretty easy to source those as well in one shopping trip.

Every Best Buy is different. I have a small one by my house with a very limited computer parts section. So I did have to drive to Reno to pick up some items, but otherwise in my small local store I found everything I needed. Which is pretty amazing, I’ve always thought that you can’t get good quality parts in Best Buy but I was blown away. There were some brand new GeForce GTX 970 cards in there, sweet!

I did a bunch of research and had a lot of computer’s opened up at Best Buy, the geek squad was more then willing to crack a case so I could look inside, but it sounded to them like a strange request. I finally decided on a Dell Inspiron 3847 (i3847-2310B). This system came with a  1TB 7200 RPM HDD, 4GB of RAM and a Intel Pentium G3240 processor. What I liked about this case was the openness. None of the custom crap that Dell usually throws into their cases or big blocks of plastic housing that makes it almost impossible to upgrade. Additionally unlike some other Dell cases this one will support 2 slot graphics cards. Now there may be a length issue, there are some SATA cables and connections that could mess with very long cards but otherwise it’s very accommodating.

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The case normally retails for $359.99. I saw the ‘on sale’ tag at my local Best Buy for $339.99. The store in Reno though had an Open Box version for $276.99, so I snatched that one up right away. The first thing you will notice about that case is that the PSU has no other available power outputs. So you cannot install another HDD, or Graphics Card that requires a additional power rail. I solved this with an Insignia 520W PSU from the store for $49.99. Now again this would not be my top 100 PSU’s to put into my own computer and Best Buy did sell high end PSU’s to my surprise but this rig just didn’t need it. Additionally I could have saved another $10 bucks on 320W one but wanted to make sure I could power a good graphics card.

Next item to take care of was the RAM, 4GB is just not good enough for doing anything of meaning on a computer nowadays. Remember that all the system processes on a Windows 8.1 box will take around 1GB to 1.5GB of memory. Add in additional processes like anti-virus, backup, email, chrome/ie, etc you’ll probably only have around 1.5GB to 2GB available for your game. That being the case 8GB is the minimum for me, so I picked up 8GB PNY Optima ram for $75.99. Again there were better ram kits available (a Corsair Vengeance kit) but PNY is a good brand and more then enough for this system.

Now for the big daddy of any gaming computer, the graphics card. At my local store the selection was very limited, but the store in Reno had way more higher end selection. But I was already back home when I found out my old card (PCIe 2.0) wouldn’t work as it’s a PCIe 16x 3.0 slot.  There was a 1GB GeForce GTX 750 for $149, a 2GB version for $159 and a GeForce GTX 760 on sale for $199. I’m not a fan 1GB cards, so I am currently testing the GTX 750 2GB version. The benefit of this card is does not require another power rail so you could plug it into a stock case without a new PSU. At my Best Buy there were no R9 AMD cards so I didn’t go that route, I’m usually an NVIDIA man anyways.

Initial testing yesterday went well, with Warlords of Draenor running on a mix of High/Ultra settings and not dropped below 32 FPS in LFR’s or the Garrison.

Budget Best Buy Gaming Rig

Part Item Cost
Computer Dell i3847-2310B $339.99
RAM PNY 8GB Optima $75.99
Graphics Card GeForce GTX 750 2GB $159.99
    $575.97

I was a little over my budget (my total is $564.97 with the open box case and PSU that’s not needed right now). Without the PSU I would have just barely been over, but buying everything at normal cost for $575.97 is a great deal. The thing I love so far, is that with the new PSU I have much better options to upgrade this system. The motherboard can take up to 16GB ram and an Intel i7 Quad Core (4th Generation) chips which is way more powerful then the current processor in there. The case also has plenty of room  so buying a new i7 you can buy a nice new CPU fan as well.

I haven’t’ decided if I’m going to upgrade this system any more; for example an SSD, more RAM, more power graphics card and a new CPU, but I have the option which is nice. I don’t know Best Buy’s Geek Squad can do these types of builds for people but it would be a good service and still cheaper then the $800 to a $1000 for a entry level gaming rig. I also don’t know if this is the way Dell is going with all their new systems, but if so major kudos to them, it’s refreshing to crack open a Dell system and it be normal and expandable. Also kudo’s to Best Buy for stocking some good options for PC gamers.

OnLive

The future of gaming is finally here and it is called OnLive. When I got back from vacation I made it a point to check out this new service, which recently started offering a Founding Members Program which waves the monthly fee for the services for a full year, nice.

The service is interesting to me on a couple of points. First it’s all online delivery of the latest games. Unlike GameFly which uses the standard Netflix model of sending out physical media, OnLive is all online, streaming delivery. Now that’s the future!

I have a Netflix account, have for almost 2 years. I have never received a Netflix disk in the mail. I only use their Instant deliver (online streaming) and it rules, although Netflix could speed up adding things to it.

Personally I don’t like physical media, it can get damaged or lost and after a while just ends up taking up space and adding to the garbage pile. Which is why I kept an eye on OnLive for quite a while and signed up right after the E3 announcement. I believe the OnLive/Netflix Instant model is the future and I’m all for it.

After getting the OnLive client installed on my computer I fired it up and started browsing. I decided I would purchase the 3 day pass for Batman Arkham Asylum and try it out. I noticed no input delay, no lag or anything that would tell me I wasn’t playing this game on my local computer. The sound was crisp and everything was very fluid. It took a little bit to get the game started, but that didn’t bother me at all. From my few hours of game play experience OnLive works exactly as advertised. I could use my keyboard and mouse combo, or my Xbox 360 compatible controller for almost any game I wanted, which is good because I cannot play FPS or RTS games with a controller, so the game type and input options were refreshing.

OnLive don’t do a very good job of communicate this, but the monthly fee is just for your access to the service, not the games themselves. I’m currently not paying a monthly fee so that doesn’t bother me, but depending on the retail cost of the service that might be a stretch. So far there seems to be three methods and prices for playing games via OnLive:

  1. 3 Day PlayPass ~$4.00
  2. 5 Day PlayPass ~$8.00
  3. Full PlayPass (Retail Price of the game)

So lets say your playing Final Fantasy 13 on OnLive, where it could take you 80 hours of game play to beat. Lets assume you can play for 4 hours a day on average, without taking a day off, that’s 20 days of play. Lets assume a 5 day PlayPass cost’s $6.95 and you need 5 of them, that’s a total of $34.75, not including your monthly subscription fee. I bought a 3 day PlayPass for the Batman Arkham Asylum game and only played 1 day of it, I think it’s most likely you won’t be able to all the days of your pass.

When you buy the full game on OnLive you get it until they remove the game from the service, some of the messages I read was that it would be available till 2013, so you get 3 years. If you can’t already tell I’m not 100% sold on the cost model for the service, if I GameFly Final Fantasy 13, I pay 15$ a month and can keep it until I’m done with it. I get 30 or so days at 15 dollars, compared to 20 at almost 35, not including the service fee. But I have to deal with the physical media and I have to have the console.

OnLive wants to bill itself as a service where you don’t need “top end hardware” to play games. But I think there missing the mark on this one. People already have Xboxes and decent computers. You can’t play RockBand on OnLive or have a Kinetic for the Xbox on OnLive, so people will have consoles anyways. OnLive should be focusing on instant access to the latest games and value, because they won’t replace a computer or console, but instead will be a supplement to it.

I’m truly excited about OnLive and if your even a little be into gaming you should give it a try, they have casual games like World of Goo to sports games like NBA 2K to FPS’s. I’m optimistic that the service will thrive and eventually find it’s place in the gaming ecosystem and give us consumers more of a choice, why pay the full price for a game you can beat in a night, buy a PlayPass and only spend $5.

Star Trek Online – First Impressions

I wouldn’t exactly characterize myself as a Star Trek geek or a Trekie as I’ve only seen a few TOS episodes and my favorite Star Trek is the last 2 1/2 seasons of DS9, the most hated Star Trek out there apparently. But I am a fan of Star Trek as a whole. I love the stories, the deep science and the very deep and intricate universe that is crafted. So when I heard there was going to be a Star Trek MMO my inner geek jumped with joy.

I  currently play two games, World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2. MW2 is going to be quickly replaced by Battlefield Bad Company 2 when it comes out. So I’m giving some first impressions as an MMO player and a Star Trek fan.

First thing I have to say it that it’s buggy and there are stability issues. But the game isn’t even a month old, with the pre-release customers getting access via the beta client on January 29th 2010 and everyone else on the US on February 2nd 2010 and Europe on February 5th. Could there have been things to help this out? Sure Cryptic could have had an open beta to stress the system and work out the stability issues. This is something that I’ve seen other MMO’s do and I think it works really well. If your luck your open beta users will also discover bugs and cheats that you can patch before paying customer start using the system. In three months if the game is still having this large amount of problems then you can gripe, but for now all I can say is be patient or play something else for a while.

Also unlike WoW, and I assume other MMO’s, the game doesn’t come with any free time. I think when I started WoW I had 30 days to play when I bought the game. Here you spend $60 bucks on the game and immediately pay another $15 for your first months of play, pretty crappy in my opinion.

My other gripes are pretty minor and will work themselves out in time. The economy seems extremely thin and a little messed up. The Exchange (STO’s version of the Auction House) is littered with long running highly priced junk. I have four currencies (Energy Credits, Starfleet Marks, Explorer Marks and Marks of Honor). This seems excessive in this stage of the game. WoW didn’t launch with that many and added them over time, which I think is the right way to go. The game just really teaches you some basics then throws you to the wolves. It took me forever to locate things on my galaxy map because you can’t zoom into a sector, you have to fly to that sector then look. I would love to be able to set a course to a system in another sector and my ship fly me there.

Cross zone and cross faction chatting is a mess. Each area you are in the game has multiple zones or instances. You can view this like Dungeons in WoW, where your 5 man is separate from others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a Deep Space Encounter (like a 5 man dungeon) and hear some dude screaming for help in a completely different zone. Once you get into sector space cross zone chat is like Alliance trade chat, it’s a mess and completely full of garbage. Cross faction chatting is going to lead to griefing and taunting, but for some people that’s ok and others not so much. The best thing is when you ignore someone it does it for their entire account, so they can’t get on another character and continue. This is a new MUST HAVE FEATURE for every MMO.

I’ve got an extremely long post thus far and all I’ve done is point out my issues with the game. But I really do like it. Space combat is a completely blast and I love the experience and 3D space fighting. I’m currently a Lieutenant Commander 6 (level 16 in WoW years) and I’m piloting an Escort, think of the Defiant from DS9 a little damage dealer like that. I love zipping around strafing the larger moving Cruisers, it’s lots of fun. Escorts are the DPS dealers in STO, Cruisers like the Enterprise in TNG, are the ‘tank’ class and Science ships, like Voyager in the series, are healers and buffers.

There are three professions, Tactical Officers, Engineering Officer and Science Officer and they provide the best benefit to those ships. Tactical in Escort, Engineering in Cruisers and Science in well Science. But you can piloting any ship regardless, it’s just the best overall fit.

You can leave the ship and be on an away team as well. Ground combat is a little clunky but completely tolerable. But I don’t play STO for the ground combat but it does offer a nice little break. I tried my hand at space PvP last night and had a complete blast with a few members from the Fleet (guild) I’m in.

Because I’m not max level and am still progressing through the content the game is fun and exciting. People who are already max level are complaining that there is no end-game content, although they did add a little bit a few days ago. Even if your not a fan of MMO’s, you really never have to interact with anyone. I would have no problems leveling all the way to the max level without joining a fleet or really interacting with other people. But I like social interaction when I play games so those are things I do engage in and have fun with.

There is so much in the Star Trek universe that I’m excited to see what the future may hold for Star Trek Online. Even if I don’t play more then a day a week or a few hours a month I’ll probably keep my subscription alive so I can relax from WoW or Bad Company 2 and blow up some smelly Klingon or some Borg drone every one and a while. If you like Star Trek but hate MMO’s pick up the game and try it. It feels more single person to me then any other MMO I’ve ever tried which I think works well and if you can find a way to disable Zone chat it would be space travel’ie, ship blowing up fun in the vacuum of space.

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