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Archive for the ‘gaming’ Category

Vista and gaming, a bad combination?

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Last week we posted a new poll on the main site asking readers if they thought Vista is hurting PC gaming, and while I don’t necessarily agree that the question is a completely fair and valid one to ask just like that, looking at the partial results I have to say my experiment has gone just as I expected.

Despite of a mixed initial response from consumers and a growing acceptance for the OS today – after multiple patch releases and more mature drivers getting out of the door – Vista is still getting a lot of bad publicity in Internet circles, especially the blogosphere. It’s not surprising then that over 50% have responded “Yes” to the poll (that Vista is indeed hurting PC gaming). The rest of responses so far are divided between “No” and some maybes, from which the most voted is that high requirements hurts PC gaming more than Vista does or ever could.

And so, what is TechSpot’s official take on the matter?
I wouldn’t dare to say there’s one single answer that satisfies all the staff preferences – especially when we have Per refusing for so many years to upgrade to XP, for god’s sake! :). Personally, Vista has never been a problem for me bar the occasional disk thrashing nuisance, as long a I ran it on a moderately fast system, preferably dual-core setup with 2GB of memory.

Today, the OS is noticeably more polished and things can only get better with SP1, nevertheless the hardware rule still applies if you want no slowdowns and you are used to be a full throttle multi-tasker in XP. Gaming is a completely different world just because driver implementations can make it or break it, but if our recent tests are enough to make a case, (if you have a fast system) and can live with a marginal drop in fps, then you are ready for it, forget about dual booting and learn to live with the better OS.

Written by Julio Franco

January 24th, 2008 at 1:30 am

Drivers and Windows Vista

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Mostly when people post something about Vista it’s either bashing it or praising it, however those two camps generally agree on one thing; that drivers have matured quite well since its release.

I’m gonna create a third group now; they are both wrong!

UAC, admin accounts, memory requirements and all other stuff aside, I’ve concluded one thing: unless you have a very very top of the line computer you have no business running Vista. And this has actually nothing to do with Vista itself at all, quite the shame because that leaves me out on an otherwise easy punch in the stomach :D

You might have seen my post about performance in Crysis with the 7900GT. I just ran some tests with a 8800GTS 512MB now. What I can conclude from this is that XP will give you 63% better performance in Crysis compared to Vista if you have a 7900GT, and only 16% better if you have a 8800GTS 512MB.

In other words, it’s not just Creative that releases miserable drivers, Nvidia is quite high on the list too (though they still have a long way to catch up with Creative, IMO :D)

Written by Per Hansson

January 3rd, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Unlike Creative’s SB X-Fi, the Auzentech X-Meridian works fine with 4gb+ RAM

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Just got me a new computer, went with 8GB RAM.
Felt sensible since it costs about as much as a day’s lunch. Put it in my Asus Maximus Formula, along with a Creative SB X-Fi ExtremeGamer.

Took the absolutely latest WinXP x64 drivers off Creative’s site, only over 1 year old.

Launched up Crysis and was greeted with most sounds missing and no 5.1 at all, some of the sounds from my front speakers were mirrored in the rear speakers though. Read up a bit on some forums, there I found the great info that Creative’s very fine drivers fail to work in 64-bit OS’es if you have 4GB RAM or more. It’s good to know Creative’s testing team has the right priorities. Making sure 4GB of RAM works in a OS that has as its main advantage access to more RAM should not be a priority. Oh, and it seems they have been feeling this way for over a year, because those threads were quite old… (I did pull out some RAM (2GB in total) and the sound in Crysis was then just as it should, perfect 5.1 positional).

But then I logged into Windows Update and found some drivers dated June 2007, so I installed those. Now I lost all 5.1 sound completely, even in Winamp I could only get Stereo, but at least they were WHQL certified, so I know the drivers must be well written and be of good coding practices up to Microsoft’s top notch standards.

Next I took out that very nice soundcard and put it someplace nice.

I then installed my X-Meridian, fired up Crysis with 6GB RAM installed (I haven’t gotten my mobo to POST with all 8GB, so that’s why). Wasn’t expecting much, but got perfect 5.1 positional sound. I don’t know if Crysis supports EAX or not, but it wasn’t something I noticed. I did notice the improved sound quality however.
But I did so more in Winamp, guess I had gotten used to the fine sound output by the Jamicon badcaps on the X-fi, oops, was that a typo? caps I meant…

Written by Per Hansson

December 7th, 2007 at 12:01 am

Posted in blog,gaming,hardware

Halo 3 is a modern MDK

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While spending some vacations away from home for Thanksgiving I had the chance to play a few Xbox 360 games that my relatives owned and I personally hadn’t give them a chance for trying or buying myself. As always it was pretty fun playing Guitar Hero in a large group, and once again, Fifa was a disappointment when compared to the more realistic Pro Evolution Soccer series.

But there it was, the highly hyped and regarded Halo 3. To be honest, I had lost all faith in the Halo series when I played Halo 1 on the PC… not a bad game, but nothing compared to whatever was around at that time for other shooters. But now the series has become a major driver for Xbox console sales, and while many console owners don’t know better (when it comes to FPS), I was still pretty interested in seeing what the latest Halo game brought to the table.

Of course, this is not a review of Halo 3 but merely some impressions from a PC/console gamer that until today had completely ignored the evolution of the series.

Halo is a very linear shooter, so whatever you can like from Crytek’s Crysis freedom is not there. But you still have vast areas to explore and a very appealing mission-oriented gameplay that looks good on a large HDTV and is very well complemented with a strong musical score.

In general it seemed like a solid game, especially for a console shooter, but the buttload of reviews out there have told you that already. Now from the perspective of this long-time PC gamer and somewhat of a console gamer, Halo 3’s style of gameplay just kept me reminding me of MDK, a true gem of third-person shooter developed by Shiny Entertainment that was released back in 1997 for the PC, Mac, and later on the PlayStation.

Whatever “MDK” meant is still wide open for discussion, but if you have been around long enough and had the luck of playing the original PC version of MDK then you will know what I’m talking about. It was one of those games bleeding originality and one that you wanted to play from beginning to end non-stop. The wikipedia entry of MDK also reminded me of other details about the game like its software-based rendering engine that was developed with the Pentium processor in mind (I believe it relied heavily on MMX extensions, go figure!) and obviously did not require any type of GPU.

At the end of the day, I don’t see myself buying Halo 3 or playing it much at all. Especially when I still have work to do upgrading my PC for playing Crysis on all its visual glory (call it a PC geek guilty pleasure), but for those console lovers, Halo fanboys alike, you can put yourself to rest because the mere comparison of Halo to an old time gem like MDK can only be considered a huge compliment.

Written by Julio Franco

November 23rd, 2007 at 10:44 am

Posted in blog,gaming

Crysis is AMAZING

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Every true PC gamer had this week marked on their calendars, Crysis the spiritual successor to Far Cry is out and I can tell you this is one game that will live up to the hype. By now you have probably read some of the reviews, even played the demo yourselves, and seen our videocard test where we show you a somewhat harsh reality that Crysis, being the most graphically advanced game out there, takes a toll on performance and you will need a very fast system to enjoy it to the max. Those with slower systems can still run it though as the engine scales relatively well.

But Crysis is no tech demo, the guys at Crytek have once again built a great enjoyable game upon a good engine and game software platform. I was very pissed off a few years ago when these guys did not get all the recognition they deserved for Far Cry (the original PC game) but it’s likely that won’t happen again.

I also wanted to mention that the full game happens to run a bit faster than the demo. I can’t quantify on the exact difference but from what I’ve seen on my own PC running the same first level, it seems overall smoother with a few things fixed here and there gameplay-wise, too. Looks like the developers were hard at work in the last few weeks between the demo and the full game release with last minute optimizations. On a GeForce 8800 GTS 320mb card I had to turn to some low quality settings to get really smooth gameplay on the demo, but on the full game I’m running comfortably with all at medium at 1680×1050, which is not too bad.

Finally, to get you on a positive Crysis mood here’s a YouTube video depicting some graphics capabilities using the Sandbox editor on DirectX9 with “very high” settings:


Written by Julio Franco

November 18th, 2007 at 3:02 am

ATI’s new Radeon HD 3870 is no 8800 GT killer…

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Our friends at Legion Hardware were the first website in the whole net to post official benchmark numbers for AMD/ATI’s latest videocard the ATI Radeon HD 3870. It definitely paid off living in Australia for our good friends as they were almost 18 hours early to the game…

The bad news are however that the Radeon HD 3870 is no GeForce 8800 GT killer, which is what many of us were expecting. Instead ATI will keep playing the pricing game, where its HD 3850 model will be the fastest card available on its price range (~$180), while the HD 3870 is expected to undercut the GeForce 8800 GT by some 25% at $225, offering on average the same decrease in performance.

Radeon HD 3870 benchmark

With apparently no further plans from either camp until early 2008, the mid-range cards will likely be selling like hot cakes during the holidays. And while this kind of performance has never been so affordable, neither Nvidia or ATI has brought us a true next-generation product that will let us play Crysis comfortably with any setting we throw at it, heck I wouldn’t have mind paying $500+ for such a card!

But again, whether you like the 8800 GT better or prefer to go ATI’s way, both products fall within a price range that we wouldn’t have imagined just months ago. Competition is king in this industry, now let’s just push those cards in retail, we don’t want to hear “out of stock” for the rest of the year.

Written by Julio Franco

November 15th, 2007 at 6:03 am

Posted in gaming,hardware

Street Fighter, the later years…

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I didn’t know if adding some humor would be a good fit for the blog, but let’s say because I’m still trying to set the tone here (and keep those updates coming), let me experiment with a video from CollegeHumor.com that I just found to be hilarious. I’m sure many ten-somethings, and pretty much all twenty, thirty and forty-somethings will be familiar with Street Fighter, or so I hope…

This is only the first part, look here for the next episodes

Written by Julio Franco

November 9th, 2007 at 7:38 am

Posted in blog,gaming,humor,video

Run Crysis in Windows 2000

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Per has done it again! As far as I’m aware he was the first and only source for bringing Bioshock to Windows 2000. Crysis is yet another (great) new generation shooter that officially only supports XP and Vista, but he has managed to bypass that limitation and get the demo fully working on his trusty Windows 2000 rig…

To play Crysis on Windows 2000 you need three files, powrprof.dll, dbghelp.dll and xinput1_3.dll

You can get powrprof.dll from a Windows XP or 2003 install, the version I used which worked was 6.0.3790.3959 from a 2003 SP2 server install. dbghelp.dll is used by many games, the version I took was from my Steam directory, version 6.7.5.0

You can find the xinput1_3.dll in the latest DirectX monthly redist (or the Bioshock DVD if you followed that guide too). In the extracted archive open the file APR2007_xinput_x86.cab and extract the xinput1_3.dll file.

Please read the complete instructions here. You may also be able to get some support from our community if you come across any problems. In addition, here are some benchmarks he ran on Win2k, XP and Vista 64-bit. You can also get a full scoop on Crysis’ videocard performance and scalability from our article posted last week.

Written by Julio Franco

November 6th, 2007 at 5:05 am

Posted in gaming,tips & tricks

Crysis single player demo is out…!

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If you thought the release of Mac OS X 10.5 was the big news for Friday, think again. In the wider PC world, or in PC gamers’ world for that matter, the release of the eagerly awaited Crysis sounds like more exciting news. The demo came unannounced after a delay early this month, but it’s now out there so what are you waiting for?

The demo includes the complete first level, dubbed “Contact,” which will give you roughly 45 minutes of gameplay. In addition, Crytek is packing in the CryEngine 2 Sandbox game editor, giving the community the opportunity to get familiar with the tools they will have at their disposal before the actual game ships on November 16.

As a side note, Nvidia has released new Forceware beta drivers (169.01) that are optimized for use with this SP demo. If you ask me it’s ridiculous how you need to upgrade drivers every time a new major title is released, it happened with Bioshock, UT, and now Crysis. But anyway, pick your OS and download here.

PS: In all fairness, the release of Leopard are exciting news. Certainly the #1 candidate for the most polished and user-friendly OS currently available.

Written by Julio Franco

October 26th, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Posted in gaming,software

Fix for running Bioshock in Windows 2000

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This little tweak has been available from our forum for a few weeks now thanks to Per who apparently is still running the old trusty Win2k (and you thought you were being conservative keeping XP for a while longer). It has been confirmed by users this should work for both demo and full versions of the game that officially only supports XP SP2 and Vista.

To play Bioshock on Windows 2000 you need two files, dbghelp.dll and xinput1_3.dll:

  • You can get dbghelp.dll from a Windows XP or 2003 install, the version I used which worked was 5.2.3790.3959 from a 2003 SP2 server install.
  • You can find the xinput1_3.dll on Bioshock’s install DVD or in the root directory of the demo zipfile in a folder called “dx redist” Open the file APR2007_xinput_x86.cab and extract the .dll file.
  • Now you need to open it in a HEX Editor, I use Hex Workshop.
    Search for the textstring: “TraceMessage” and replace that with “GetUserNameA”
  • Place both .dll files in the games install directory under \Builds\Release
    (Don’t overwrite the files in your winnt/system32 dir!)

That should do the trick! You may want to install the latest videocard drivers available, too, since both Nvidia and ATI have addressed bugs and optimizations targeted to Bioshock. More information and user feedback on this fix can be found in our forums. Enjoy, and thank Per!

Written by Julio Franco

October 18th, 2007 at 3:41 am

Posted in gaming,tips & tricks