Can my toaster run AoC? – Concerned Wal-Mart shopper

There has been a good amount of debate lately about Funcom’s decision to release a high system requirements game with Age of Conan. The debate often drops into the very familiar ‘gameplay vs graphics’ debate.

Leaving the gameplay aspect aside, let’s talk graphics. We seem to be in an odd age where we are confusing computer gaming with consoles. People seem to think going out and dropping $500 at Wal-Mart is enough to play today’s games at high settings, and if they can’t, it’s the games fault. You know what box at Wal-Mart can play games at max settings for $500? A PS3 or an Xbox. I’m sorry your on-board graphics, or that $1000 PC you bought two years ago can’t run Crysis at 1900×1200 with 16xAA, go figure…

It’s amazing to read people bitch about performance in games, only to find out they have the graphic power of a toaster in their machines. Rumor has it you get crazy lag online with a 14.4k modem too…

The system specs for AoC are fairly clear; it’s a high-end game. Maybe if you have a midrange system you can turn everything down and play it, but then don’t be surprised that it looks like shit, and don’t blame AoC. If you have a Wal-Mart system, WoW runs great on those, play that or Runescape.

As for all the ‘killing their market’ talk, consider this: maybe Funcom is only aiming for the high-end niche? If a movie makes 50 million at the box office, is it a hit? If it’s got a Blair Witch budget, it’s a smash. If it’s Waterworld… well someone just got fired. My point is looking at sales or subscription numbers is rather pointless if you don’t know the budget and expectations. Is it that unreasonable to think that maybe Funcom thinks they can make a profit catering to a certain niche, that niche being 18+ with high-end rigs? Does every MMO going forward need to compete with the WoW demographic?

AoC, right from day one, made it fairly clear they don’t aim to please everyone. Instead of getting caught up on how the average gamer might not find AoC accessible, lets instead focus on the fact that Funcom is trying something different, trying to bring a little diversity to the MMO space. If you hate the combo system and PvP focus, you have plenty of other options.

To expect every new game to run well on old hardware is foolish, as is the assumption that there is not a market for graphic whores like myself. Yes I’m still looking for quality gameplay (news flash: everyone is), but bonus points if that gameplay comes with DX10 graphics. Last I checked, Nvidia is doing quite well as a company, which means there are plenty of others willing to spend $200+ on a newer card to enjoy some eye candy.

Graphics are also a two way street. If I can’t run a game, that’s a deal breaker. But if a game is stuck in 800×600 with low res textures, that’s also a deal breaker for me. For example, while StarCraft or Diablo still have amazing gameplay, the fact that they look like pixel throw up on a 24′ monitor means I won’t be playing them, or any game with similar graphics.

27 Responses to Can my toaster run AoC? – Concerned Wal-Mart shopper

  1. Snafzg says:

    I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pushing the graphical boundaries on a PC game, but I hate the progression rate between PCs and consoles…

    A next generation console will come out every 3-5 years and every game developed during that time period will “work.” A next generation PC video card will come out every year and the new PC games are always pushing the limits. You still can’t find an affortable PC that will play Crysis the way it was intended to be played. And any game released 1-2 years after you purchased your latest system will run very poorly on it.

    Factor in “competitive multiplayer” and the problem becomes even worse… In Halo 3, the technical battlefield is balanced because you’re both playing on the same console. In AoC (or any MMORPG) PvP situations, the player with the best system will have the technical advantage.

    I don’t think most people like spending RL money to remain competitive in gaming.

  2. syncaine says:

    Well consoles age quickly, and you don’t have options to upgrade.

    Plus, PC gaming can be flexible. Sure to run Crysis maxed right now would cost a fortune, but in a year it won’t, and Crysis will still look better than anything on an xbox or PS3. If you have a decent rig now, you can run AoC at moderate settings, and when you upgrade in a year or so, crank it to max.

    I did that with NWN2, first time I played it it was at mid settings, and when I got my Alienware, I replayed it at max. It was almost like a totally different game, and made the overall purchase that much better. Same with LoTRO, at release I had it near max, and now with everything cranked and DX10 on, it’s so smooth and gorgeous, it really makes playing it very enjoyable.

  3. sid67 says:

    There has been a paradigm shift in the computer industry over the last five years. Prior to 2003 or so, computer hardware upgrades were largely driven by dramatically increased CPU power. As more processing power became available, software developers (led by Microsoft Windows) released major product updates that took advantage of the CPU enhancements every 2 years. A CPU upgrade often necessitated a new motherboard which then necessitated new memory and video cards. In effect, even people who custom built systems often upgraded an entire computer every 2-3 years.

    From 2001 until 2007 however, Microsoft had no major operating system releases. The software baseline (Windows XP) remained very unchanged while simultaneously, CPU makers started hitting a wall where the computer bottleneck in performance was largely memory and hard drive related rather than a CPU problem. Older computers were able to keep up with performance demands by upgrading other components like memory, hard drives or a video card. The net result is that computers became more affordable to the average consumer and people needed to upgrade less often.

    From a “marketing” perspective, it’s in a software developers best interest to develop for the lowest common denominator possible that can still provide the desired software experience. In the past, a gaming companies market traditionally consisted of bleeding edge technologists. In part, this was because the technical challenges were so steep at times that it required someone reasonably knowledgeable in technology in order to game on a PC. However, software innovations like DirectX have dramatically simplified the process for both software developers AND users. In fact, 90% of the customer support issues are largely driver related and can be fixed with a driver update that is very easy to install.

    The end result is that more people are playing computer games and the average gamer is no longer the bleeding edge consumer. The curve is certainly higher than the average computer user, but it’s far less steep than it once was in the past. However, even gamers have largely been trained that the only upgrades they need to make are to the video card and memory. In a mass market game like World of Warcraft, this reality is even more distinct than in the something a bit less mainstream like the FPS genre.

    A game like AoC has steep enough requirements that it would require an entire new computer for many people. In 2001, I think the average “gamer” would have accepted this as progress. Today, computer users have been trained to view upgrading a bit differently. This issue isn’t unique to the gaming industry. This is largely the major complaint about Windows Vista. That system requirements requires a computer upgrade and people who don’t want to upgrade are often advised to just continue using Windows XP.

  4. syncaine says:

    While all true Sid, you are describing the mass market WoW population.

    What if AoC is not aiming for that target. It’s reasonable enough to think that Funcom looked at WoW and said “we can’t go head to head with that”, and instead went for a niche. If you budget for a niche, and hit it, you still make a profit.

    And while plenty of people buy $500 email and internet comps, I think the market is large enough to also cater to the other side, those with high powered rigs that are looking for the newest eye candy. Games like Company of Heroes, Bioshock, and Half-Life show that the market for high-end games is indeed alive and well.

  5. sid67 says:

    Oh I don’t disagree with you, Syncaine. There could be several contributing factors to Funcom’s strategy. As you point out, they may be focusing on a “niche” at first and then over time hoping the consumer base will grow as more computers are able to handle the system requirements. Developing a game also takes a bit of a crystal ball and I don’t doubt that they looked to follow Microsoft’s lead. Two or three years ago when they began the development cycle, they could have looked at Vista and said, ”most people will upgrade with the next release of Windows”.

    I think the debate stems from whether or not AoC is viable competition against World of Warcraft. As you remark, it may not be Funcom’s intent to take Blizzard on head-to-head but only to appeal to a very specific niche in the MMO market. However, if someone is making the comparison to WoW, then the whole discussion about limiting market opportunity through high system requirements takes on a lot of relevance. My post, above, is really more to point out why the marketplace is vastly different than what long time gamers have traditionally come to expect. Any viable future competition against Blizzard is going to need to consider the expectations of that market if they intend to create the next WoW. The fact that Funcom ignored it really does eliminate them from this conversation.

  6. swiftvoyager says:

    I fall into the category of hardcore gamer who builds his own machines. My current game rig was quite good at one time, but I’ve heard that my ATI X1600 Pro PCIE card won’t do very well with AoC. While this fact will prevent me from rushing out to pick up the pre-order of AoC, I WILL eventually upgrade my graphics card. I’m only waiting for the price point on a significant upgrade to reach my spending threshold. One thing I like to do when I upgrade to a new graphics card is try out a game I couldn’t play before. Perhaps I’ll give AoC a try BECAUSE of the high system requirements. It’s always great to find a game that really shows off the best of what a graphic card can do.

  7. graktar says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an MMO having the option for cutting edge graphics, but my issue with Funcom’s route is one of scaling. At max settings it looks great and runs ok on top end machines. At moderate settings it looks ok and runs ok on good machines. On low settings it looks terrible and runs terrible on average machines. Why should a brand new game look worse AND perform worse than a game that’s 4 years old? Why can I play EQ2 on high settings, but barely move AoC on low? That’s what doesn’t make any sense — they have clearly catered solely to the high end machine with no thought put into low-to-mid end support. Reasonable people don’t expect the game to look fantastically better than older games on an older computer, but I think it’s reasonable to expect it to look AS GOOD as current games on an older computer.

    Also, I seriously doubt Age of Conan can afford a niche market subscriber base unless its a very large niche. Funcom has been developing AoC for 5 years and has spent 10’s of millions of dollars. This isn’t Blair Witch . . . this is closer to Waterworld.

  8. Jason says:

    Syncaine, I don’t think that Sid is saying ‘you must only develop a game to take away WoW’s market share’. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite.

    AoC is very, very clearly after a very, very niche market. It’s a game that will almost certainly garner an ‘M’ at launch in the US, if not an AO rating. I’d imagine that similar ratings will prevail through the rest of the regions it’s launched in. On top of that, the engine is designed to push systems to the break point if you want it to look as advertised, and there are a LOT of reports coming out of closed and open beta that the minimums pecs to run the game.. well, that they aren’t.

    Is this a bad thing? Nope, not at all. Doing something different in the MMO market is good. It’s something that needs to be done, with the seeming prevalence of games that are taking bits and pieces from WoW and re-implementing them, in some cases well(LoTRO, as much as I personally dislike it) and in other cases, not so well(PotBS, which I don’t like either, but at least there the sub numbers show I’m not alone). AoC is moving in a good direction, but I don’t think that they’ll pull the numbers they need to support the development team they’re currently claiming(150-200 in the interviews I’ve read).

    Ultimately, you’re very much right. A game’s success isn’t measured in subscriptions at all. However, they are, and should be measured for success by how well they do in the market place. EVE Online is a perfect example of a VERY successful game, even if there are less than 200k active subs(just a guess, based on the nightly concurrent numbers I see, plus alt accounts. Vanguard, likewise is a great example of a flop. All sorts of hype, with zero delivery. The required specs were through the roof, the game was touted as hardcore this, that and the other, but ultimately the game fell flat on its face for all of those reasons. AoC can certainly succeed in the same vein that EVE does, but it’s walking a paper thin line, and could easily wind up like Vanguard.

  9. Jezebeau says:

    Aye. I’ve been paying attention to the performance I get out of $2500 desktops with the games that come out within a few months of buying the new box. Even with that kind of investment, I often get sluggish performance at medium settings. Investigating further, even people with bleeding edge hardware can’t play some of these games on high settings. PC game developers have, for the past five-ish years, been releasing games ahead of the hardware needed to run them, probably assuming upgrades will continue at the rate they have in the past. It ruins so many games when the majority of the budget has obviously gone into graphics at the expense of gameplay-oriented level design, smooth movement, etc..

    Personally, this has just driven me towards well-made older engines (like Source), and independant games. Time for more Dwarf Fortress.

  10. Rog says:

    Funcom has made a niche game on many levels and I really don’t think niche is a bad word here. If anything, the game is getting way more attention than expected.

    No matter how much people claim high system specs hurt games, it’s just something people whine about. Crysis has sold very well compared to other games lately. Oblivion did fantastic, despite so many moans that it would tank under the requirements too.

    Now, this all said, there ~IS~ a big problem right now with brand new PCs being underpowered with cheap crappy parts and lame onboard Intel graphics. There’s a class action lawsuit against Microsoft for Vista that’s directly related to this.

    But the finger wagging is all pointing in the wrong direction: Gamers should be blaming the crappy hardware, not the games.

  11. Jason says:

    Except it’s not always the hardware. I know plenty of system builders who don’t skimp on parts, and they’re having issues running AoC. Memory leaks, video glitches, the whole nine yards. That’s got nothing to do with hardware, and EVERYTHING to do with bad code.

  12. syncaine says:

    Its an issue with both with AoC. It seems to have both high requirements AND some faulty code.

    The bad code is inexcusable, but high system specs (and in turn, great looks) are a design decision, one that Funcon consciously made. Nothing wrong with aiming for that niche, as plenty of other games that people have mentioned have done so and done very well.

  13. ScytheNoire says:

    And the game is out? No?

    Funcom has to learn from Hellgate. Hellgate had a ton of memory leak problems, and in the Beta, many of us told them they needed to be fixed. We begged them to delay the launch to fix all the bugs from bad coding. The refused, and they got burned.

    So we have to wait for release to see if they fixed the coding problem.

    But the problem lies more in the hands of idiot gamers who think every game they should be able to play at max detail. You get what you pay for, and if you didn’t pay for a top-end gaming PC, don’t expect top-end graphics.

    I’ve put PS3 and Xbox360 graphics next to my 8800GTX KO on a 24″ LCD, and consoles look like crap compared to the PC. Once again, you get what you pay for. Consoles though can never keep up with a top-end graphics card.

    So PC gamers just have to be intelligent enough to realize they have to upgrade their PC, and realize they have to run their system within the limitations of their hardware. Don’t try to run AoC maxed out if you are using a video card from four years ago.

  14. Rog says:

    It’s also not as insanely expensive to get a decent PC with the specs that will play suitably. You can way overspend with some brand-name Dell, eMachine, HP, etc. and still get a horrible PC.

    I keep hearing stuff like “my 6 month old PC should handle this” and they might even post their specs, but all I can do is shake my head thinking about how the major manufacturers skimp with cheap parts every step of the way. Just having the specs isn’t always the solution.

    Laptops for example, my girlfriend’s mother has an HP HDX “dragon” and the thing is a monster, the specs are very high for a laptop and it’s huge, more of a all-in-one luggable. But having seen her play side-by-side with us during LAN gaming (yeah, we’re oldschool), it should be so much faster given the specs. I’m sure it blows many desktops out of the water, but it doesn’t match the machines us geeks build for ourselves.

    The PC games market needs this stuff to get easier, you shouldn’t need a ton of know-how to buy a good PC. It’s pretty irresponsible of the manufacturers to sell so much junk and Microsoft bears some responsibility too when they’re plastering “Vista-ready” on anything that installs drivers.

  15. [...] of Conan’s launch — the Open Beta was extremely buggy and nearly unplayable for some, the system requirements are pretty demanding, and now it appears that players who paid $5 extra to get early access to the title may be shut out [...]

  16. sam says:

    You forgot the obvious source of aggravation. Every part of computer hardware has dropped drammatically in price except High end graphics cards. So Those 250 to 500 dollar graphics cards are way overpriced compared to all the other components.

    Someone who just bought a 700 dollar computer with good specs is probably going to be a hit with some severe sticker shock to discover that he needs close to the price of the computer to get his graphics card up to par with his processor.

    I think WOW just accelerated what was already happening. PC’s are becoming more like TV’s. Something people buy every 5 or 7 years. Not every 2. And no matter how good the games get it’s going to be a niche market for any company that aims for the top.

    But maybe thats what AOC wants. a nice profitable niche.

  17. Okay says:

    A niche is not profitable in MMOs.

    The way for non-standard MMO like AoC to profit is to get people to switch MMOs to theirs due to their ingenuous design, not to attract new gamers like WoW did/does.

    If a large number of people actually want to switch MMOs but can’t because you decided to make graphics needlessly advanced for an MMO…well then good job, you are an idiot and your company should/will fail.

  18. Okay says:

    Also I forgot to point out that niches are not dictated by graphics but rather by game design and uniqueness. Frankly to most gamers and especially MMO gamers, graphics are far, far, far less important than gameplay.

    A game that looks like WoW or Guild Wars doesn’t really need to improve its appearance

    So all in all, the more customers you have the more money you make (obviously.) Denying potential customers access to your product isn’t ‘finding a niche,’ it’s stupidity.

  19. Two Cents says:

    Half of the problem, is the crap OEM systems that people still insist on shelling out their hard earned money for. DO THE MATH. You can build a PC today with: 3.1GHz core 2 duo ($250), 8800GTS ($300), mobo, 4 GB RAM, HD + extras for about $1000. If you already own a decent LCD (say, 22″ widescreen), that’s all you need to run Crysis on max settings at 1650×1050.

    If you are shelling out $2500 for a system that can’t run games that come out 4 months later, you’re buying the wrong systems.

    Kudos to blizzard for the job they did with WoW. All you hear is that is has dated graphics but for my money, even though that’s true, I still think the game looks awesome.

    In any case, this situation has been the same for 15 years. If you don’t buy a crap PC in the first place, you can play every game reasonably well for at least 2 years. If you’re willing to lower the resolution and settings a bit, you’ll get another 2 years out of it.

    What many people don’t understand is that with PCs, it isn’t just “you get what you pay for”. The key to a good PC is high quality parts, not necessarily the sticker price.

  20. sid67 says:

    Frankly to most gamers and especially MMO gamers, graphics are far, far, far less important than gameplay.

    This is soooo true. Of course, most game developers seemingly have no clue that this is what matters most. I’m starkly reminded of the games available when Compact Disc players started getting incorporated into computers. There were LOTS of these puzzle type games (Myst, 11th Hour) that had dazzling real-life movies and graphics that were never before seen in a computer game. They had a lot of novelty value at first, but most people quickly realized that the games themselves had little substance. By no means do I say we head back to the days of poor graphics and sound quality, but I will say that “back in the day” a good game like Civilization was largely defined by it’s innovative gameplay rather than the eyecandy. A lot of developers lost sight of that key fact. Blizzard never did, which is why they always made quality games.

  21. Broken says:

    Today the game finally arrived in my country and i went out and bought collectors edition. I bought my computer within 1 year ago, but still running windows XP with DirectX 9. I can play oblivion IV with decent graphic and it runs pretty smooth. But when i started to play AoC i had to turn down the graphic to the lowest at the advance video options whitch means lower than super nintendo and still i have problems with framerate. So now i have to run out and spend a fortune on computer hardware to even play the game, This is sad as i meet the recommended system requirements on the game package except Vista and DirectX 10.

  22. KJG92 says:

    Just wondering but how well would my comp run Age of Conan?

    Nvidia GeForce 6800 series GPU
    AMD anthlon 64 proc. 3500+, mmx, 3d now, ~2.2Ghz
    1G of ram.

    (don’t have vista)

    plus im planning on getting a Gig more of ram.

  23. DARKFALL SUPPORTER says:

    AoC isn’t unique and hardware isn’t a “niche” market. Game play determines a “niche” market.

    “DARKFALL ONLINE” is a truly niche game and deserves the title not AoC. AoC fundamentally is just a EQ clone like every other game for the last god damn decade. There is nothing revolutionary or unique about AoC except the fact that they understand most gamers are graphic whores who lack brain cells for determining what a fun game is. For example, Eve Online, Shadowbane and Ultima Online all beat the pants off any new mmorpg’s game play with half the budget, time, sophistication, resources and foresight.

  24. Broken says:

    To KJG92

    You’re comp will be able to run Age Of Conan, but on the lowest graphic and still a bit of framerate. I recommend you to at least upgrade you’re video card and yes one more gig ram.

    The system requirements is Recommended system requirements
    OP: Vista or XP Vista or XP
    processor: 3GHz, pentium 4 Intel Core 2, Duo 2.4GHz or better
    Memory: 1GB RAM, 2GB RAM, 32GB free hard drive space
    32GB free hard drive space

    Video card: Shader model 2.0: 128MB Shader model 3.0: 512MB
    nVidia GeForce 6600 nVidia GeForce 7900GTX or higher

  25. KJG92 says:

    thnx.

    was also wondering, but would dual video cards both
    Nvidia GeForce 6800 series GPU
    work as efficiantly as using one of the newer ones (like the 88000 gt) for running aoc?

  26. syncaine says:

    I would say no KJG. Plus the new cards, especially the 9600gt, are dirt cheap while providing some solid performance.

  27. MichaelL says:

    Whats a niche market today is going to be the norm once AoC matures, but I disagree with your statement about AoC bringing something new to the genre, its at the end of the day a WoW clone, so nothing new.

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