Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Budget Gaming PC Specs - The Frames per Second, Performance, and Bang-for-Your-Buck Dillemma

So after years of playing classic games, I've finally gotten tired of my procrastinating and bought a budget gaming PC. For a setup bottlenecked by a monitor that's capped at 1024 resolution, this thing can eat up any game thrown at it and crank it up to ultra-high settings. I'm in gaming nirvana.

The strange mix of euphoria (FPS: take that Tribesman!) and fugued contentment (RTSs: Oooh, beautiful foliage!) has been elevated to another level when I recently bought a back issue of PCGamer. Their recommended budget gaming PC components are as follows:

PSU: Generic 450W PSU
CPU: Core 2 e7200 2.53Ghz
Motherboard: MSI P43 Neo3-F
Memory: Corsair 2Gb DDR2-800

My budget gaming PC components and why I chose them after the jump.

With graphics like this on a budget gaming PC you know you want to click "Click here to read more..." So go ahead. Click.

What I bought:

[Updated: corrected a typo; it's not an "MSI P45 Neo4-FR."Apologies for the confusion.]

PSU: Generic 550W PSU
CPU: Core 2 e7400 2.80Ghz
Motherboard: MSI P45 Neo3-FR
Memory: Kingston 2Gb DDR2-800
Videocard: 9800GT

It's a tad bit powerful than what they recommended nearly a year ago and I'm very happy with what I have. Ran Red Alert 3 and the thing can crank up the highest graphic settings no problemo. F.E.A.R. runs at a minimum of 42 FPS at maximum CPU and video settings. This budget gaming PC swallows and practically spits out Tribes: Vengeance (another game in my collection that I'm very fond of); it can throw out Ultra-high graphics at smooth framerates every time I go out to hunt Phoenix rabble.

Reasons why I chose the above components:

PSU: Why generic? I plan to sell this thing in 2.5-3 years. Buying a $100 branded PSU doesn't fit with the plan. Why the 550-watt rating? Any PC hardware enthusiast knows that generic PSUs can't supply their specified wattage. Buying a 550W PSU is safe for my setup.

See my article about keeping a PC well beyond the 2-year mark.<<<

CPU: It has only been in recent years that developers have started taking advantage of quad-core CPUs. Even now, only a very small percentage has optimizations built into them. I'm a retro gamer and
my target bracket---games that have been made in 2005-2008---only requires a modest CPU to run them; I've no need for the Quads. It's interesting to note though that I was going to buy a 2.6Ghz CPU but local shops told me that there's only a negligible price difference between the e7300 and the e74 so I bought that.

Why 2.6Ghz? There's an article that showed that after the 2.6Ghz mark, improvements in frames per second isn't worth shelling out the extra smackers needed for a better CPU. I bookmarked it in another computer. I'll post a link to it when I get back from the holidays.

Motherboard: Now here's one component that I shelled out more than I wanted to. The board has several features that I won't be using. For one, I don't need RAID. And what with the video card of my choice, going for an SLI setup would have been folly (better to buy a more expensive card than going for an uber expensive setup that's going to deliver a relatively insipid markup in performance). I don't even overclock so I don't need
MSI P45 Neo3-FR's heat sinks. Bummer. I was going for the no-frills MSI P45T-C51 but sadly, I couldn't get a hold of it. The black-and-blue budget motherboard should have been nice to look at. Instead I got a motherboard that's amazing to behold:

Why a P45 motherboard?

The P55 is still very expensive here and to wait for prices to go down would mean waiting for the next Ice Age. (It would have made more sense though --- overclock-friendly climes going with a new PC. Yum --- and brrr.)

The P35 has only PCIe 1.1 (compared to P45's PCIe 2.0). Sure, there's only an infinitesimal (2%-10%) difference but hey, it's there so I'm taking it. (There's also the irrational, dejecting feeling of buying a board with a chipset that's three generations behind mwehehe.) No P35 for in my drawing (and budget) boards thank you. But that's just me; P35 motherboards perform well and they are cheaper.

Read more on P45 vs P35 performance gains: Tom's Hardware's PCI Express 2.0 Graphics Cards Tested and NeoSeeker's Intel P45 & G45 Launch

Memory: I've read time and again from numerous forums and sites that buying 1033Mhz RAM modules isn't worth it. 800Mhz is still the sweet spot for gamers on a budget. I'm using a 32-bit OS so no 4gig kit for me. A tip though: do some research, understand the dangers, and tweak your RAM modules' latency settings in your rig's BIOS. I dropped mine from the default 6-6-6-18 SPD settings to 5-5-5-12. The performance increase is, again, negligible but every little tweak counts.

Videocard: It has only been recently that the 8800GT showed signs of finally retiring from the gaming scene. It's doing this slowly though ---- the 9800 videocards are essentially revamped designs of the powerful 8800GT. I don't have a titanic display at home so purchasing a video card that can run most games at 1680 resolution is the perfect solution for someone who only has a 17-inch AOC monitor --- the extra juice can be used to bump up those shadow and anti-aliasing settings. I'm planning to buy a new display in the months ahead though.

>>>Click here to

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Red Alert 3 Gameplay Video (9800 GT; 1024 resolution; High Settings)

So I bought a new PC. Tinkered around with the Red Alert 3 demo, Gamecam, and VirtualDub and ohboy, you gotta see it for yourself:

All settings maxed out at 1024 resolution. This thing is a monster. I need a new monitor...

Part 2 of 2 after the jump.


>>>Click here to

Saturday, December 12, 2009

League of Legends Tips and Strategies

[UPDATED: Dec 12, 2k9]

This is by no means a complete guide. I've posted this as a list of things that I keep forgetting ingame. Hopefully others will find this useful as well.

I'm using Kayle the Judicator at the moment and usually equip her with tanker/support items. (Others break away from this usual build and use tanker-DPS items.)

League of Legends tips and strategies after the jump.

* This is the most annoying: people insisting on Champion kills when your team has already dominated the match. People overconfident in their powers continually go solo, traipsing across the maps and wiping the terrain with any enemy Champion they see. Oftentimes, the opposing group will then form up and push from multiple locations. They win, your team loses. KNOW WHEN TO END THE GLOATING AND PUSH! Two people pushing while the other three are playing Chuck Norris is a disaster. Someone will get ganked and/or they will outpush you. I've almost forgotten why I quit DotA a year back. Again: KNOW WHEN TO END THE GLOATING AND PUSH!

* Support heroes should not waste their time healing/tanking for newbie feeders. Stick with the heavy hitters of your team. You will ensure that they get more kills between shop trips.

* When using Kayle, remember that Reckoning slows down enemies while Divine Blessing speeds up you or your target ally. This is useful for chasing down dying enemy Champions or helping a dying ally flee.

* Don't even so much as touch an enemy Champion while you're in range of their turrets. Be careful of AoE spells and abilities --- if they harm your adversary, the turret will start to fire on you.

* When playing DPS Champions, don't invest too much on Health items. I once had a teammate who bought two Ruby Crystals for his first items. He was controlling Ashe.

* Use the ping feature (hotkey: G)! It confers a greater tactical advantage when used wisely. Ping if you need help. Ping to warn teammates they are in immediate danger of getting ganked. If an enemy hero goes into the jungle to escape/take a roundabout route to ambush one of your mates, ping the vicinity where he vanished or where you think he will appear.

* In a large battle, take note of who your mates mark (the ping feature can double as a target marker; simply ping the enemy champion you want focus fired).

* Focus fire! Enemies go down faster if your team does.

*If possible, go after the squishes (low armor and/or HP champions) first before taking care of the tanks. Tanks, by their very nature have enormous amounts of health. It takes a very long time to kill one. In RTS PC games, skirmishes are decided in seconds, not minutes. You may well lose a skirmish if you target a tank.

* For the love of God, don't try to teleport back to your base alongside or in front of your tower when low in health. I take absolute glee sniping low HP champs with a one-shot kill from a nuke. Really if this happened to you, you just gave the enemy a ROFLNuke moment. Get some distance between you and your enemy before teleporting.

* Above. Get some distance between you and your enemy before teleporting. Many times in mid/late games I've hunted down for teleporting enemies after a battle. When you're low in life after a battle, find a safe place before teleporting. Don't assume that a battle is over just because you've killed one or three champs. A zealous nuker might be hunting for you.

* Gank! Early game, try to see if someone's dying. At level 4 or so, if you an enemy on an adjacent lane who's hovering on the brink of death, mark that champion and arrange for a gank. The first team that goes on a ganking spree holds a great advantage for most of the game. I can gauge the chances of success for a particular match by observing teammates. Getting killed by towers a few times? That's fine, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone doggedly pushing separate lanes and ignoring pings even at level 6-8? Disaster. Expect your team to be owned. (Unless the opposing team is equally idiotic and mimics the same asinine behavior.)

* This tip isn't mine; I'll have to search who wrote this. Word to this effect: It's your responsibility to observe the minimap; if you're at the front lines (or worse, across the river) and the enemies have gone missing, don't wait for a warning from your mates. GO BACK. There's at least a 75% chance they're all playing Booboo and have brought their friends along. Your mates are not your babysitters.

* Play the babysitter. Ping and warn your mates of an impending gank if you sense it. Call out "MIA" whenever you notice enemies are missing.

I'll be adding more League of Legends tips and strategies here.

>>> The download link and an HD trailer of the game can be found HERE

>>> See more downloadable free full version real-time strategy (RTS) games HERE

>>>Click here to

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Download Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne Patch 1.24c

Blizzard just released another patch again, bringing up Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne to version 1.24c.

Detailed information about Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne patch 1.24c and how it can be obtained after the jump.

Just login to to download the Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne 1.24 update.

Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne patch 1.24c introduces changes to the Frozen Throne PC World Editor:

Warcraft III v1.24c Patch Notes PC World Editor Changes:
- Increased max map file size from 4 MB to 8 MB.
- Added the ability to store hashtable handles in a hashtable.
- Added GetSpellTargetX and GetSpellTargetY natives.
- Added a new base handle type \"Agent\" of which many types now extend from.
- Added a SaveAgentHandle native which can be used for saving most handle types.
- Added a JASS optimization dealing with global variable change events.

- Fixed a few false positives caused by the \"return bug\" fix.
- Fixed a crash related to hashtable reference counting.
- \"Shadowing\" global variables with local variables no longer is possible.
- Fixed a type conversion dealing with operators (i.e. adding a handle with an integer).

>>>See more Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne resources (where to place NGL One professional map files to view Warcraft III: Frozen Throne replays, micromanagement resources, gameplay videos, links to important strategy articles, etc) HERE. (Scroll down to see more.))

>>>Download Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne Patch 1.24c from HERE (Gamespot)

>>>Download Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne Patch 1.24c from HERE (Blizzard Support)

>>>Click here to

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ancient Precursors: Before Borderlands There was S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

I got amused that I totally forgot about one of the apparent inspirations for Borderlands. Released in 2007, the first-person shooter put players in the role of a mercenary-scavenger who has to delve into the ruins of Chernobyl, a radioactive "hotspot" that's spewing out mutants and creating paranormal activities. The game is a shooter-RPG hybrid in that it features an inventory system; players can fill this with loot they'll scrounge up in the course of the game.

Borderlands might offer unique cel-shaded visuals set in a post-holocaust setting but years before it got released, the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (yes, it is now a series!) rocked the gaming world with its immersive atmosphere, player-controlled plots, and---need I say it?---multiple endings. It must be the closest thing to Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with guns.

(Borderlands fans: don't get me wrong. I play the game too. With teammates who revive you, coordinate with each other, Borderlands is a blast to play! This is just a tribute to one of the innovative "elders" of the gaming industry.)

Gamespot's video review (back when Jason Ocampo was still with them --- is he Pinoy?) after the jump.

>>>Click here to