New computer help

February 8, 2011

It’s time for some new hardware around the house, and while I keep up with technology somewhat, I’m hoping there are a few of you out there who are really into building PCs and can help guide me here.

I’m not actually looking to build a system myself, so this is more a review of the parts and any recommendations people have for builders (my current system is an Alienware, but it looks like they are little more than a splash screen now before you get right into the Dell shop, so no go on that). Also please let me know if some major hardware release is coming in the next month or so that I should wait for, if any.

I’ve looked at Falcon NW, AVA Direct, and Digital Storm. Anyone else I should take a look at? I’m trying to keep things around the $2-2,500 mark. The one area I know will be upgraded before any other is the video card, so I’m not looking for anything top-shelf there. So far the GTS 450 is looking like a solid card, but again, looking for suggestions to get the most for the money here.

I’m hoping I can get a system with an SSD to load the OS, and then a secondary, 1TB drive to store games on. Can that be in Raid 0? Does that setup make sense for gaming, or should I just keep things simple and go with a more standard Raid 0 config using two ‘normal’ drives?

I also like having a sound card, since I have nice Turtle Beach headphones that actually use the 5.1 setup rather than a headphone jack. Big difference between the Fatal1ty model and a more standard X-FI? Along with that, anyone have a good experience with the Killer NIC cards?

For the ram I’m trying to future-proof a bit by going with 6gig. I’ve seen options for 12gigs. Any reason to go that high, now or for the near (1yr-ish) future? Big difference between the 1333 sticks and the 1600?

Finally, the only liquid cooling I would go with is the maintenance-free kind. Just not willing to mess with liquids around a 2 grand+ system. If fan cooling works, I’m ok with that. I have read that the i7 processors overclock well, so cooling is a consideration for that.

With all that said, here is what I have configured over at Falcon NW that just fits into the budget. I’ve looked at similar systems over at AVA and Digital Storm as well.

System Details

Chassis
ICON2 – Black Anodized
Chassis Logo Insert
White Light
Chassis Fan Kit
Standard Fan Pack
Power Supply
750 Watt Modular
Motherboard
Rampage III Extreme
Processor
Core i7 950 3.06GHz
Processor Cooler
Mach V Liquid Cooling
Processor Overclock
Mach V Processor Overclock
Memory
6GB (3x2GB) 1333MHz DDR3
Video Card
GeForce GTS 450 (1GB)
Sound Card
X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty Pro
Networking
On-Board Ethernet
Hard Drive
64GB – SSD – 6GB/s
Hard Drive 2
1TB – 7200RPM – 6GB/s
Optical Drive
24x DVD Writer
Media Reader
Internal Media Reader
64-Bit Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium
Warranty
3 Year Warranty – Parts and Service


Rift: Breaking things down a bit

February 7, 2011

On Friday a good question was raised regarding Rift: what does WoW 2004 mean, and why does Rift have it over themepark MMO X?

Part of this is, of course, highly subjective. What I feel is a plus for Rift you might feel is a negative. What I find novel or interesting you might see as a glaring issue. This is, after all, my take on Rift and how I see its spot in the genre.

I think there is some confusion when I write that Rift is 2004 WoW, because some assume that means Rift plays like a 2004 MMO, and it does not. It plays like a 2011 MMO, it’s just not 2011 WoW in all the right ways. Rift has a lot of the 2011-ish changes that are an overall plus, like public grouping, AoE-looting, mobs dropping quest items 100% of the time (and letting multiple group members loot the item off a corpse, which is huge for those ‘collect 10 items’ quests when you do them with others), and many other current-day improvements over an MMO from 2004.

Most importantly, it has all of the ‘basics’ of an MMO down. It might sound silly that almost 15 years in we are still pointing to having the basics down as a major plus, but that says more about the genre as a whole than it does about Rift. Yet no matter how innovative you are, how impressive feature X might be, having the basics down cold is very important in a themepark, because it allows your players to actually focus on whatever you are trying to sell to stand out rather than having them distracted because your UI has issues, your animations feel ‘off’, you have item-looting lag, or countless other ‘little’ things that have really soured past MMOs. I’m seeing this aspect of Rift under-reported because it’s not something that jumps out at you right away, but in many ways this is why WoW was so successful at launch as well. Because the basics worked, people were able to focus on the innovative-at-the-time breadcrumb quests, the well-designed early zones, and some of the better early instances. Deadmines would not have been as memorable in 2004 if the core of WoW was not as solid.

Rift also feels ‘next-gen’ here in terms of some of its more important systems. In 2004, a talent tree was a solid innovation that brought depth to a class. In 2011, the soul system is a solid evolution (balance aspects aside, as I’ve not seen enough of things to really judge things), and makes the old way seem, well, old. Same goes for rifts vs PQs. When WAR came out, PQs were indeed something very new and interesting. But version 1.0 of PQs had some terrible flaws; the two main ones being loot distribution and population balance/interest. Rift, with PQs 2.0, takes steps to fix those two issues. For loot, rather than handing out one purple bag that everyone wants (that, even if you get #1 in a PQ you might not get if no purple bag was offered), rifts hand out currency that can be cashed in for whatever item you want at the time. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it IS a step forward.

More than loot however, population and interest is what really doomed PQs in WAR. Rift seeks to solve this issue, and from my experience so far, and looking ahead based on that experience, I think they will succeed. Were PQs were static in both rewards and locations, rifts are more dynamic. They draw more attention to themselves, and are more likely to grab player interest as a result. On a themepark level, they have more impact than WAR’s PQs, and bring some action and ‘life’ to the area you are in. They also blend with questing far better, as they can open along your way or right at your quest spawn, and while you can still try and avoid them, it’s more noticeable and ‘in your face’ than the designated areas in WAR.

I also always view a themepark as something to explore and learn about, and the more you have left to uncover, the better. In a way, this is the fatal flaw of a themepark to me, because the discovery and ‘newness’ phase is limited, and once it ends what’s left is sub-par compared to a sandbox MMO. A sandbox evolves not just because the code changes, but because the players of the world change as well. That just does not happen as much in a themepark, because so much (if not all) of the content is you against the code. So with all of the above, Rift also has all the newness that comes with a new game. We don’t have cookie-cutter builds yet, we don’t have youtube videos of every raid boss, and we don’t have a ‘right way’ to do X. How long that lasts will depends not just on the work Trion has already done, but how they go about things post-launch. Hopefully the pace they set during beta is at least partially sustainable, and hopefully whatever ‘end-game’ they have is not flawed like MMOs from 2009-10.

Rift feels like 2004 WoW not because it’s a giant leap forward for the MMO genre, but because like WoW at launch, it feels like the right mix of ideas from the last few years, all combined to create something greater than its parts. In 2004 WoW did not set the MMO genre ablaze with feature X or Y, it just kept everyone logging back in day after day because it felt so solid. Rift to me has that same feel. New enough to be interesting, similar enough to be comfortable, and polished in all the right areas to be just fun and enjoyable. It’s a subtle mix, but it’s one that ‘average’ MMO fans eat up.


Rift Beta 6: That old WoW feeling

February 4, 2011

Rift beta 6 starts this weekend, and I’m actually looking forward to it even more than beta 5 (in part because I’ve learned they don’t wipe character, so Aria and I will actually get to see the 15+ish game, including hopefully a dungeon). Rift has been an interesting title for me so far in terms of hype and expectations. It was not until beta 2 or 3 that I even started looking into it, and playing beta 4 I was not totally sold. I think I’m sold now, and my guess is beta 6 will seal the deal.

It all still goes back to my original hope for Rift, a 2011 version of 2004 WoW. I prefer sandbox MMOs over themeparks, but I’m not totally against their style either, if it’s done well. 2004 WoW did it well. I’m seeing that Rift is like that as well.

I also fully believe that those who accuse Rift of not reinventing the wheel, and that it will hurt the game are not only a tiny minority, but also missing the point. Delivering a themepark that ‘feels’ like 2004 WoW is indeed doing something different. Different for 2011+. WotLK and Cata changed WoW, moving it more than a step away from the game that launched in 2004. LotRO and EQ2 have gone F2P, with all the ‘joy’ that comes with that decision. SW:TOR is down 500k subs before it has even launched.

Point being, there really is no game today that does what WoW originally did so well, and I don’t believe that in 7 years or so, player preference has changed so much that delivering a polished, worldly themepark (by 2011 themepark standards) that looks good, plays well, and brings one or two ‘look at me’ items (class system and rifts) is something that is going to drive people away. It won’t fill up a press release with “we are doing this and no one has ever in the history of the universe considered such a thing” statements (or Trion will try to deliver them and look bad, but if PR is the weakest part of your game, I’m ok with that), but it will get people to play it, those players will get sucked into its gameplay much like WoW sucked people in, and six months later, people will still be subscribed (assuming Rift’s end-game does not completely bomb).

There are also some interesting intangibles, such as Trion’s current update pace and response speed, what exactly is the PvP going to be like (I’ve not read or experienced anything related to it, but in it’s own way, WoW world PvP was enjoyable in bursts), and how is the end-game going to play out with how the class system works (tough to have healer/tank shortages and all that).

Best thing since sliced bread? Nope. A good time for the months ahead? Most likely, and considered what happened with themepark MMOs in 2010, THAT is a giant leap forward.


WordPress going F2P!

February 3, 2011

The F2P/RMT model is nothing new to the MMO genre, but today’s email from WordPress about premium blog themes is the first time I’ve seen such a direct sale of blog-ish content. League of Legned’s style skin sales, now available for your blog. Seems odd, but I guess it was only a matter of time.

Up next, free burger at McDonalds; ketchup is 50% off this week! Just $3 to get a seat, $5 buys you a clean one.


With or against, it’s still more than a queue

February 2, 2011

Tobold, after all these years of blogging, has finally figured out that it’s more fun to troll WoW fans than it is to provide for them. Welcome to the club.

My trolling aside, there is one thing I would like to expand on. In this post, Tobold predicts a solo-only WoW in 2020 (reasonable, given Blizzards update pace). Half take it for what it is, the other half can’t wait for the day. I welcomed Tobold to the MMO niche, to which Tobold replied:

I’d argue that wanting to play *with* other players is a different niche than wanting to play *against* them. So while I’m not moving into your niche, maybe we can consider ourselves as neighbors.

Now there are few interesting bits here. For one, you can’t play against people in a game like Darkfall without also playing with them. And I don’t just mean playing with my clan against another, but even the clan we are fighting. We are fighting a known group rather than whatever team some queue matched us up against. Rivalries happen, forum wars become an active part of the game, and victory or defeat mean more than just a +1 on a scoreboard. That is massive multiplayer interaction, the very raw and basic principle that separates an MMORPG from a single player game or some online lobby. It happens whether we are talking about a clan war in Darkfall, a market war in EVE, or a friendly-but-not competition in ATitD. Regardless of the rule-set, competition against others makes for great content, content MMOs deliver in spades.

Random, cross-server dungeon pugging is technically group content, but only technically. It generally totally lacks any of the social aspects of group content, and as Tobold’s post shows, many wait for the day where they can replace those anonymous humans with bots, if only because bots don’t go afk, don’t play ‘bad’, and don’t ninja-loot. And while I don’t want or need those type of players in whatever MMO I’m playing, there is no doubt a market for them as WoW has shown. A market much larger than that for those who do wish to play with and against others. But at that point, we are no longer talking about an MMO, at least not by my definition.


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