Category Archives: gaming

Gaming with Bad Computers

Alright, so, in the article above this one I mentioned I’ve never had a good computer. I’ve always been able to play games to an extent, though.

There’s a ton of trickery you can do to run games on systems that can’t quite deal with them, and there are plenty of good games you can run on an awful system. Torchlight, Recettear, Warcraft 3, etc.

Trickery

Okay, so your game won’t run on the computer. Is it starting at all? If not, you probably shouldn’t bother! If you can somehow trick it into working, it’s likely missing key features, such as a shader model. If it’s running badly, though, there are some steps you can take. I’m ordering them on effectiveness vs. how jarring it is to have them lowered.

VSync: Are you running the game at 60fps with this on? Keep it on. If not, you should probably turn it off. Vsync’s usually only good if you’re over 60fps.

Resolution: This is the second most common thing you can lower to improve a game’s performance. Try not to get out of your monitor’s aspect ratio, though. On my 1366×768 laptop, I’d always go down to 1280×720 for performance.

Shadows: Shadows are the most common feature you can turn off to get a massive performance increase. The Unreal Engine 3 (Mass Effect, Borderlands, etc) is a good example of an engine with horribly inefficient shadows that drain your speed. The lack of shadows can be a bit weird to get used to, though, so always try setting them to low first.

Antialiasing/Anisotropic Filtering: Antialiasing is a MASSIVE performance decrease. You can usually drop antialiasing to 2x and still have everything looking nice, but below that’s always going to be rather jagged on a modern game. Anisotropic filtering has much less of a performance hit, so I usually leave it at 2x/4x if something’s running okay. It mainly affects textures that are at an awkward angle to view. If you want antialiasing with good performance and your system’s running a game okay aside from it, I suggest the FXAA injector from http://hotfile.com/dl/126721760/6694e76/injectFxaa_by_some_dude_10.7z.html

Model Detail: I see this as a bit less important than texture detail unless the game’s strongly focused on zoomins. I wouldn’t drop it all that low unless it’s a pretty large speed increase.

Texture Detail: This is where things start to get really noticably worse looking. Mid textures usually look okay, but low textures in a game make things muddy and N64-Esque often. I don’t like to drop this if I have to.

Special Effects: Dropping these options in a game can cause some serious ugliness. If you drop it to below high in League of Legends, the turrets go from firing projectiles to weird light circles. It’s not pleasant at all. It can be dropped to give a smaller performance increase than the above options usually.

Motion Blur/Depth of Field/Bloom/HDR: These are heavy shaders that effect everything going on. They’re also pretty greedy for resources. If you’re used to a game with DoF and you turn it off, everything’s a bit weird feeling for a bit. Turn ’em off and see how it goes.

There are other options that’re sometimes helpful! Never be afraid to tinker with options to improve how a game runs.

There’s a community over at http://9xxssf.info that’s dedicated to running games on the Intel GMA series of chipsets that I post on a bit. If you’re stuck in this gaming purgatory, I suggest it.

DOING IT HORRIBLY WRONG:

Okay, so you couldn’t get your game going, and you’ve been dropped on your head a few times. You HAVE to play modern games on your 1996 netbook, and nobody’s going to stop you, stand in your way, or offer you common sense.

So you start to do weird things.

Regretful things. Things that are just.. wrong.

Then you just start to forget what playable is.

Years later, they find you trying to play RAGE on an etch-a-sketch. Don’t be these people.

Don’t be these people.

Mass Effect: A Series of Opinions: 1

I’m not big on Bioware games.

Most of the gamers I know are, so I’ve been hounded to play them more. I feel like they’ve completely lost touch since the Infinity Engine days and their style is stagnating, and I haven’t had much of an urge, past a partial run of Mass Effect I did back when it came out. I put some time into Dragon Age, but it didn’t really run well enough on my computer.

I’m finally gonna give Mass Effect a chance again, I guess. I’m going to go into it without any judgment or grumping or anything.

Starting out, I’m going with female Shepard because male Shepard’s voice irritates me. I’m going with a combo of War Hero and Colonist for background. If I was going for Renegade, I’d probably have gone for Ruthless, but I’m playing this more like it’s a good person who’s had bad things happen to them and is fed up instead of someone brutal. I feel like those two backgrounds together play off each other pretty well, and fit the mindset I’m going for with the character.

I like those options in general. I feel like it would’ve been better if they’d skipped the intro segment where they read what you’ve chosen, though. It feels cheap that way instead of letting you forget about it a bit and then bringing it back up later. You get an entry in your journal with your history, maybe it’ve been better if you could get the whole thing from your computer on the ship instead.

Next up’s class. I really, really dislike these options. I know I can’t expect to get everything, but I’d like some sort of point buy system instead of this. I was going to go Soldier so I could have all the weapons (and because it amuses me to think that the only thing in the way of all the crazy biotic and superpowered opponents is someone with a lot of guns) but I was fussed at over AIM to use someone with powers. This meant my only two choices were Infiltrator and Vanguard, because I gotta have at least some armor/weaponry.

Which means I’m either useless with assault rifles and sniper rifles or assault rifles and shotguns, and both the biotic powers and shotguns are more appealing than tech and sniper rifles, sadly.

I absolutely hate how this game’s handled weapons. If you don’t have the perks for a weapon, you cannot use the weapon effectively. In the sniper rifle’s case, you can’t aim down the sights, which means it has a fullscreen-sized area it can hit. In the assault rifle’s case, it can’t be zoomed, making it pretty close to useless. There are large bonuses to the weapons if you’ve got the perks, is it really necessary to make them useless when you don’t? I’d be willing to use an underpowered shotgun occasionally, if it was the right time to use one. I’d be missing out on Carnage and the stat boosts, but dropping explosive ammo and an aim stabilizer onto the thing would still make it worth using instead of an actual menu hindrance.

So far, the shotgun and pistol are both pretty adequate. I’d like the assault rifle and sniper rifle, but the shotgun’s accurate at a great range and my pistol’s as close to fully auto as you can get and accurate to a large distance. I’ve got mods on both, but nothing good yet.

I don’t have much to say about the biotic powers so far. Throw’s utterly irrelevant for now, since everything I’ve fought up to this point (up to Fist) has known to keep its distance. Warp makes things deliciously weak to being shot, which I’m always appreciative of, at least. I wonder if mine and Wrex’s will stack. (check that out later, self.) I don’t have lift yet, but I’ve seen what it does in ME2 and I know that it’s an absolutely hilarious ability in general, so I’m looking forward to it.

The game’s equipment system seems slightly wonky. I got to Ashley at the beginning, was told to open my menu and equip the pistol she gave me, and had… an assault rifle. I had a set of Krogan and Turian armor from the crates in the intro, but by the time I got Wrex and Garrus they were already out of date. I’m slightly grumpy about how Mass Effect 2 got rid of loot, but I can see why someone would have a problem with it. Not necessarily enough of one to completely remove the concept, but…

Getting on with the actual game’s content, I started the game, talked to Seth Green and the others on the ship, and was dropped into the first area. Did you know Jenkins can equip any armor in the game, and any weapon, which will bug out during the cutscene? I haven’t tried it yet,but I will if I get to newgame+. Rest in peace, buddy.

The first few floating things are a good test, since anyone playing a game’ll try to shoot at them. The game throwing flying droids at you immediately afterwards is a good choice, since it starts the transition of Flying Harmless Thing -> Shooting Flying Thing -> Bipedal Shooting Thing. The first few Geth are absolutely harmless, and the rest of the mission’s a cakewalk on Veteran. The best part of it’s probably punching out the guy who’s off his meds because while it’s a violent thing to do, it actually seems like an understandable decision to make in the situation. The introduction of Saren’s kind of… ham-handed, though. He’s glowing malevolent blue in places, has wires coming out of him, and showed up during the middle of a Geth attack. You’d think a Spectre would be a little bit more.. noticable about such things, especially one who’s already familiar with the suddenly a bit more robotic than normal fellow.

The husks running around probably would’ve helped the thought jump of “Hey, Saren doesn’t look so good.”

I’m playing the PC version, so hacking things is Frogger. I’m glad, because it’s actually somewhat enjoyable. I don’t like that there’s a skill dedicated to arbitrary boxes and you can’t omni-gel ones you don’t have the electronics level for, though.

After that, there’s a jaunt over to the Citadel. I don’t like the citadel. It’s designed okay, but most of the actual cool design’s killed by the transit and the actual places you visit being rather mundane. Saren didn’t look as robotic in the meeting here, but the whole situation’s done nothing but make the council look antagonistic for the point of antagonism.

I scooped up Wrex and Garrus, forming my team of People I Actually Care About, then went over to Fist’s.

The entire shootout through Fist’s is the first actual challenge the game’s had. I remembered I had grenades at one point which blew the turrets up and Fist himself was far too easy to subdue, but the second wave of guards on the way out had me low once or twice. I was expecting the thing with Tali to give me much more of a distance to cover than it did, so I made it there with half the time remaining. That shootout was over incredibly quickly, and I scooped her up and went off to plot a bit more, then decided not to play any more that night, so.. yeah.

So far the game’s conversation’s gone pretty well since I’ve taken a mixed alignment approach, and combat’s following suit in balance. I feel like my party members aren’t doing very well, but that’s probably because I keep forgetting to make them go do things. I’ve looked over once or twice in combat and seen a teammate doing his absolute best to gun a wall down, though, which I don’t think’s my fault exactly.

That should be enough words for this. :p If you like, I’ll write up my next session and thoughts.

The Llano platform, AMD, and laptop gaming

Laptop gaming is a minefield. It’s not a hopeless thing like some people’ll convince you, but it’s never a substitute for a desktop unless you sink a lot of money into a system.

Laptops are, in general, kind of a series of price traps, designed to lure you in with promises of huge storage or large amounts of RAM, both of which are cheaper to buy and install yourself. Most of these trap systems tend to have extremely poor GPUs (the Intel HD3000, the GeForce 320/310, the AMD 6370M), a budget CPU (the Pentium Dualcores, the E-350/E-450, the Atom), or other bad features. These things cannot be replaced and the performance of them is terrible for anything but basic internet usage and non-entertainment tasks.

The budget gaming line’s been devoid of any merit whatsoever for a long, long time. You’ve basically had to shell out a minimum of $700 to get an acceptable experience, or have to deal with nightmares like the Intel GMA series of GPUs. Feel free to go over to Youtube and search for something like Intel GMA game and boggle at some of the stuff people’re going through to run games.

This may have changed to an extent with Llano, but I’m not entirely happy with the platform yet. Llano’s a platform that’s designed around having an AMD Llano core with an integrated Radeon GPU, which promises faster speeds than the HD3000. Does it live up to what it’s promising? Sure, I guess.

It’s most definitely faster than the HD3000 in GPU tasks, at least.

I’m falling into an awkward area with mine, though. If it’s a game that can use the quadcore (1.6ghz -> 2.1ghz turbo boost on mine), it tends to run badly because of how it’s bottlenecked by the GPU. If it’s a game that can’t use the quadcore, such as Killing Floor, it tends to have much larger problems, as the weak CPU can’t keep up with the GPU or with the game, leading to sub-20 framerates in any hectic moment.

I’ve been doing game tests over on http://www.youtube.com/user/ArcaneCossack?feature=guide and almost every game runs into the same problem. It’s either bound by the underutilized or underpowered CPU (Bethesda games, Starcraft 2, GTA4, Killing Floor), the GPU (Space Marine, Just Cause 2, Crysis 2), or both. I’ve actually had issues on here with the 5400rpm HD not being fast enough to stream textures and models, as well, which is totally new to me.

I got this a6-3400m/6520g machine for $434, though, and there are many games it can run. I’ve dumped 20 hours into Dawn of War 2 and Borderlands, Defense Grid: The Awakening runs fantastically, and Super Street Fighter 4 runs absolutely flawlessly at high settings. It’s a valid platform to play many games on, it’s just oddly picky about which ones it can handle.

I feel like AMD’s close to getting it, but the entire platform’s underperforming. I don’t know whether it’s inexperience with the concept or just the limits of technology, but if you’re on the market for a system, you might want to save and skip this. If you absolutely need a gaming laptop for under $600, the Llano line’s definitely worth looking into, but please, please try to get a system with a dedicated chip (like the k53ta) or a better processor, like an A8.

It’s definitely worth waiting to see what happens with Trinity after using one of these. AMD’s got potential, but it’s going to take some effort to claw out from under Bulldozer.

edit: 2/18/2012 thoughts: Don’t buy one that doesn’t have another GPU. Try not to buy one that’s not an A8 or a higher A6 than the 3400/3410.

Gaming in general

I play games sometimes. I haven’t really had the attention span to play any for long in quite a while, besides DoW2 with a friend of mine. I almost never finish a game.

I’m also notoriously picky, to the point of where my friends’ve just thought that I was being ironic. I genuinely do think FFX-2 owns. I’d rather play EDF2017 than most other modern games, besides, like, Vanquish. I feel like games should be fast and allow the player to do what they want, rather than be a series of cutscenes and hallways with shiny voice actors and token gameplay.

I’m primarily a PC gamer, though I’m genuinely cursed when it comes to computers. Every time I get something good, it breaks, so I’ve become used to playing games on horrid settings. :v This $434 computer (a6-3400m, 6520g) is by far the strongest computer I’ve ever had and I just got it a while back. I wouldn’t be surprised if it got hit by a meteor or something. (2/18/2012 edit: the screen died)

My favorite game ever’s probably Super Metroid. The STALKER series is fantastic, and I enjoy fighting games, though I don’t really bother to learn much in them. Maybe I’ll start doing game reviews.