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Dastardly31

A Question for PC Gaming Experts

22 posts in this topic

I have recently fallen into the spell of PC gaming. Realising that my favourite games can look and run better on a PC has changed everything for me.

Now being an avid Double Fine gamer, I realise that if I want the best experiences for their games, I have to go PC. So, my question to y'all is....

Where the hell do I start?

I have no idea what to look for in a PC, what size RAM, what graphics card, does it plug into my HD TV? The list is endless.

My current laptop (my only PC) has these specs - RAM - 7898.... That's all I can find about my laptop. I have games from Steam like, Assassin's Creed that apparently qualify to run on my laptop, but are still very jarry.

So, if you and I walk into a PC shop and I ask you, "OK, I'm a hardcore gamer, and I want a machine that is a beast and won't need updating often, price is not an issue." Where would you start?

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The video card is the most important part in a gaming computer, and pre-built computers commonly skimp on the video card so make sure you really look into that. You can get by with a somewhat slower processor for gaming (within reason) though most non-cheap computers already have great processors so that shouldn't be a big issue. RAM is by far the cheapest and easiest thing in a computer to upgrade, so don't be too concerned about the amount of RAM in the computer (as long as it has at least 8GB, you're good to go).

Virtually any computer bought today can be plugged into an HD TV. All they need is HDMI output and that's really common now.

This is a great website to check when you're trying to find out how good a video card is. Don't be too worried about what exactly the numbers mean, just be concerned about how the different cards compare to each other. The performance difference between cards with similar-looking model numbers can be astounding. This is another great website to check once you've narrowed down your selection and want to compare a few video cards against each other.

If you aren't willing to build a computer yourself, a reasonably valued bang-for-your-buck pre-built gaming computer will probably go for between $1,000 and $1,500. High end rigs are often $2,000+. Do research, find reviews, ask around, and make sure you aren't getting ripped off, because certain manufacturers are notorious for overpricing their computers.

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Whereas I know hardcore gamers will insist on building your own machine- I've found it a lot cheaper and simple to just buy a non-customized computer and it's just as good IMO. I got a top-of-the-line one for $1000 and I haven't had any problems running any of the latest games. In the modern age there's never going to be a single machine that will be top-of-the-line for more than 2 years at best- but your PC should last a good 5+ years at least. My old one lasted me 10 and I still use it for retro gaming. I will say that building your own computer is an educational experience, and a memorable one at that. That's probably why hardcore gamers are so big on it- sort of like working on your own car. It builds a stronger bond so you'll love the PC more.

Oh, and for PC gaming these days Steam certainly makes it much easier. Just download it for free and then you'll see awesome deals like every single day.

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I will say that building your own computer is an educational experience, and a memorable one at that. That's probably why hardcore gamers are so big on it- sort of like working on your own car. It builds a stronger bond so you'll love the PC more.

This is very true. Some builders even give names their computers, like how some car enthusiasts name their cars.

My computer's name is Strudel.

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Thanks guys these comments are really helping.

I found this bad boy at my local computer chain, love to get your opinions on it -

http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/asus-cg8480-uk001s-desktop-pc-17392831-pdt.html

Price conversion GBP - US Dollar is $2,660.57, but for Wales that's a steal.

That's just about as high-end as a single-GPU setup can currently get, so It'll definitely run anything you throw at it. I've never bought a prebuilt computer from ASUS, but I've never had a problem with their hardware (My last two builds both used ASUS motherboards), so it'd probably be a reliable computer.

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Thanks guys these comments are really helping.

I found this bad boy at my local computer chain, love to get your opinions on it -

http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/asus-cg8480-uk001s-desktop-pc-17392831-pdt.html

Price conversion GBP - US Dollar is $2,660.57, but for Wales that's a steal.

Overall it's quite a solid machine, though it's very expensive (by US standards anyway). I'm personally always skeptical of computers branded as "high end for gaming" because both "high end" and "gaming" are usually excuses to put some LEDs in the case and then mark up the price by 20%. I think those specs are solid, but if you want to save some coin, I suggest looking for a computer with similar specs but without the gaming label (and the case LEDs that come with it).

The HD is plenty large, but I worry that it's on the slow side (7200 RPM). I personally would cut the Blu Ray drive (will you really watch Blu Ray movies on this computer?) and spend the money on a faster hard drive, maybe even an SSD primary/boot drive.

The video card is also at the bleeding edge, which means you're at an expensive part of the price/performance curve. You could probably save some coin by finding a slightly older, 600 series card, and the performance difference would be imperceptible.

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Well,what I does is I go with a last year's model approach. See,most "high end" computers are usually only slightly better,but if you buy slightly older parts,you can save a ton of money and still get better graphics and sound than your 360s and PS3s. I can put together a comp for under 500 bucks (not including the moniter) and still have a great rig that'll play Crysis.

If you're going to put together your own comp,tho,here's some tips to get you started.

First,you gotta know how comps work and they work like this. Firstly,your motherboard is the beating heart of your system. This one piece decides EVERYTHING else cause no matter how good a part is,it's not gonna do shit for you if it doesn't fit into your motherboard. So your comp research will pretty much start there. Since everything plugs into the motherboard,researching the terms you see attached to them will pretty much help you understand where computer tech is at this point and what you want in a price/performance perspective. So,while your motherboard defines your computer,you need to define what parts you want to plug into it before you pick the one you want. Expect to pay around 100 dollars for decent MB.

Next,your CPU is the brain of your comp. EVERYTHING your comp does passes through here. So,obviously,faster CPU means faster overall comp. Even the prechewed data from your video and sound cards go through this. So you'll want to find a good one. Be aware that the big thing these days is "multi-core" CPUs. So you'll want to no only look at the speed but also the number of cores you get. I tend to go for the 50-100 dollars CPUs.

Power supply. Most cases already have 'em but you need to make sure the one you have can supply the right amount of juice to your system. Too much and it'll fry your comp. Too little and your comp won't run.

RAM,or Random Access Memory,is like the short term memory of your computer. And the more you have,the more data your comp can have "in play" ready to be used. More RAM means fewer load screens and faster performance when revisiting old areas. I try not to spend more than 40 per stick of RAM. 2 gigs should be the minimum for a gaming comp,but 4 will let you go a while without upgrading.

Your harddrive is your comp's long term memory. This is where data is more or less permanently stored. Much like CD-ROM and DVD-ROMs,harddrives have a read speed that tells you how fast data can be accessed. So,of course,faster is better. This will effect how long it takes the system to load data from the harddrive to RAM,which translates to shorter loading screens. You'll also want to look at overall size since it's your main storage unit. I picked up a 1.25 terabyte hard drive for less than a hundred and that thing's nowhere near full.

Video and sound cards. These are like mini-computers that perform specific functions. They plug into slots and add their processing power to your comp's. Most of the big name guys have several types of cards,usually a top of the line and a super cheap one. If you're like me,and I know I am,you'll want a slightly older top of the line card that's in the 50-80 dollar range. As for sound cards,I tend to go for the cheapo 20 dollar ones cause sound isn't that important to me and even the older cards can do most of the work.

Generally speaking,the name brand stuff can be pretty cheap if you look for a good deal on it. I find TigerDirect's site is good for a baseline idea of what you can expect pricewise. From that,you should be able to judge a good deal once you know what you're looking for. But yeah,you're gonna be spending a good chunk of time reading for a while to figure out what you want.

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Quality PSU is important, it's the only part that can kill all the other parts at the same time.

The CPU and GPU are the most important parts for gaming.

Still, I would aim for mid-high range if you are able to update yourself, saves money for later and you get best bang for the buck. No reason to get the best if you aren't running at very high resolutions like 2560x1600 or multi-monitor setups for gaming.

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As an IT Manager, I could really write out a long and detailed opinion on this, but I'm not. I just want to add that price really dictates what you get and not always so with quality - when I used to own a computer shop, I would ask people how much they want to spend and then I could try to squeeze as much machine into that budget as possible. (Some people thought that was a tactic to just find out how much they were willing to spend and then maximize my profit, but I was always ethical and legit)

I won't name manufacturers that I prefer or hardware choices over another, but if you're buying one that's assembled from components, then you have the ability to verify through many different sites, the quality of the specific parts. If you're buying a packaged, name-brand computer, you can get reviews on the machines as well.

Myself, I avoid the latest anything. The reasons are mainly due to being a tester for a new product and I prefer to wait for reviews. I also like to make sure they have time to create patches for the latest software and even new firmware. It's a hard ideology to follow when it comes to games, but I still wait for some - just not DF games :) (That's also because it takes me a long time to get through some games due to my musical endeavors and work)

Now if you want to just buy the latest and greatest machine and there are little to no reviews, then you might follow previous generations of the same machine for review basis, but that's not always very accurate considering the inside of the machine is most likely entirely different and possibly manufactured in different places than the previous versions.

CPU / GPU / Memory / HD / IO - these are things I pay attention to when buying a gaming machine and in that order.

As Nathan mentions, the HD is probably a little slow, but 7200RPM is fairly standard. You can go higher in SATA drives to 10k for a small boost in performance, or you can RAID a few together for even better performance. 2 7200RPM drives in even a RAID 1 with the right controller will be faster than a single drive - RAID 0 is wicked for gaming, but a lot less reliable, and if one drive fails, you blow the whole parition. SSD drives are another route you can go and the performance is a lot better than a SATA drive - they are expensive and smaller in size in general and the life-span varies. SAS drives are fantastic and a lot more reliable in the long run than SATA drives, but the price is much higher and these are normally only found in Workstations or Servers. Again, going SAS is my choice, but pricey! You can also get into having a boot/OS/application drive and a separate data drive and many configurations thereof that can alter performance.

I usually recommend people to go just a notch below the absolutely latest hardware and you can usually have a machine that will play everything current and have room for a few years of future-proofing. But, if you have the money and want all the latest and greatest - just make sure you do some research and don't pick one because it has a pretty case or more LED's but features that you'll use and aren't gimmicky. Also, remember RDRAM? It was a nice idea and new to the market, but buying a machine with it was a bit risky - there was no future path and it didn't catch on.

Just my opinion.

Brent

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WOW - I didn't expect an Administrator AND someone who actually WORKS for Double Fine to respond to this thread.

Thank you to all who have shared their expertise. I might be getting a chance to get my dream PC soon, until then, I'll keep you informed and ask for advice. :)

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WOW - I didn't expect an Administrator AND someone who actually WORKS for Double Fine to respond to this thread.

Thank you to all who have shared their expertise. I might be getting a chance to get my dream PC soon, until then, I'll keep you informed and ask for advice. :)

:) Actually Nathan is our Technical Director, but a forum Administrator - I'm the IT Manager and report to Nathan. I don't know why I'm not an Administrator on this forum, but you'll hear no complaints from me!

I just hope our advice helps you and glad to be able to offer it.

Brent

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... everything Merlynn & DF Brent said.

(I am 45. Started with C64, SinclairZX, Amiga and then 286, 386 ...)

I smile at people buying the latest, most expensive hardware to run video games which do not 'scale' (=killer professional term) beyond a mid-level PC.

Until recently quadcore CPU's had nothing to do when you clicked on your game.exe. Games using more than 4GB RAM are still rare. PC games using DX11 (less code - not just 'nice' graphics on the user side) is still "expensive", since most non-indie PC games are console ports anyway (running on DX9).

In short. A decent PC is good enough. The latest and 5-10x more expensive rig is a waste of money, IMHO. Buy something reasonable. Buy popular (older) hardware components, which proved to run stable together ... unless you want to see what this NVIDIA TXAA is all about?

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WOW - I didn't expect an Administrator AND someone who actually WORKS for Double Fine to respond to this thread.

Thank you to all who have shared their expertise. I might be getting a chance to get my dream PC soon, until then, I'll keep you informed and ask for advice. :)

:) Actually Nathan is our Technical Director, but a forum Administrator - I'm the IT Manager and report to Nathan. I don't know why I'm not an Administrator on this forum, but you'll hear no complaints from me!

I just hope our advice helps you and glad to be able to offer it.

Brent

My apologies, let me say a big thank you to EVERYONE at Double Fine and all the un blessed that don't work at DF who have replied on this thread, it has been a real help.

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WOW - I didn't expect an Administrator AND someone who actually WORKS for Double Fine to respond to this thread.

Thank you to all who have shared their expertise. I might be getting a chance to get my dream PC soon, until then, I'll keep you informed and ask for advice. :)

:) Actually Nathan is our Technical Director, but a forum Administrator - I'm the IT Manager and report to Nathan. I don't know why I'm not an Administrator on this forum, but you'll hear no complaints from me!

I just hope our advice helps you and glad to be able to offer it.

Brent

My apologies, let me say a big thank you to EVERYONE at Double Fine and all the un blessed that don't work at DF who have replied on this thread, it has been a real help.

We appreciate that immensely, but why the hell are you still awake at 2:41AM PST? (don't ask me)

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I would just like to add that this is a comprehensive thread for PC's. Many different price points listed.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=493301

e: also hope links to other forums is alright, I'll gladly remove it if not.

In this instance, I'd say it's okay.

I've literally built thousands of computers over the last 20 years. At the first shop I worked for in WV we would order Ultra cases and then all the parts and assemble them in the shop. Over the years I continued doing that and owned a store in NC where we would build custom machines for gamers and even had some in-shop gaming events.

Remember the Celeron 300 overclock trick? I had one of those.

I used to love to build them but after so many, I'm kind of burnt out on it.

Now this thread has brought me back a little bit and sparked a new interest - my home gaming rig is the first Intel Quad Core Extreme with an Intel MB. It's about 4 years old and the GTX8800 can still play modern games - it did surprisingly well with Skyrim whoever a GTX550ti made it a much better experience.

So now, I think I might want to build a new machine - I was kind of waiting for mine to die, but it's been rock solid other than the HD's; I had a RAID 0 with 2 150Gb drives and they both died within 2 weeks!!! I just have 2 non-RAID SATA drives now.

I went a while without paying attention to the newest gaming hardware - what the latest and greatest were... I was startled to find consumer grade gaming cards up to $1000!!!! It's actually incredibly diverse these days and the options are nearly endless. I think the hardest thing to pick out is a case!

I enjoy chatting about this stuff and don't mind talking more if you folks want to keep the thread going. I might even chronicle a new machine build - but I don't want to endorse any manufacturers and such - I'm unbiased and objective when it comes to computer hardware even though I did say what parts I used above.

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Sounds good to me, the GTX8800 was so solid I had waited for it to die and perform poorly for so long, it eventually out waited me and went out with my old PC when I upgraded. As far as cases go, I usually always buy the biggest possible one I can get my hands on. I absolutely hate having to worm my way in there to get to those plugs, and have the lingering fear of snapping a capacitor with the flick of my wrist.

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Just wanted to chime in and throw my own two cents on the table.

I've always found that it's extremely rewarding to build your own gaming PC if you really want a machine that'll handle the latest games without any hiccups. The thing with building your own PC is that it *can* be more expensive than buying a pre-made one; however, with enough research and patience, I managed to build my gaming machine for significantly cheaper than any manufacturer would dream of selling it to me for. The drawback there, of course, is that I waited agonizing amounts of time for things to go on sale, and if I'd simply opted to buy a readymade computer I wouldn't have needed to wait at all. But then, for the budget I had available (not that much), there's no way in hell I would've gotten a pre-built PC half as good as the one I made myself.

In short, building your own PC often results in a better machine (and sometimes for less money, with enough research and patience), but it can easily mean more waiting. Building your own machine can also easily lead to more headaches.

The last thing I'd like to mention is that I would absolutely avoid "high end gaming brands" of computers. Alienware in particular comes to mind. Sure, they may sell a fine product, but they're going to charge you a huge markup just for the privilege of a fancy LED-covered case that looks a tiny bit like an alien. Many of these "gaming branded" PCs are the same way; they come with great hardware, but they force you into buying giant LED arrays, custom cooling solutions, and other hardware that often really isn't worth the money.

In conclusion, if you want to really experience the latest games with the best possible graphics and sound, the best way to go (in my opinion) is building your own system if you're at all comfortable doing so. I built a gaming PC for about $1200 two years ago, and that computer (lovingly named Compwnter) still plays absolutely anything I throw at it without ever dropping below 60FPS (which is right around where you want to be). It's starting to show its age after two years - but the great thing about building it myself is that I can just as easily take out any parts that are aging and replace them with new parts, thereby adding another couple years to Compwnter's lifespan.

Wow, this post got to be a lot longer than I intended - I hope some of this rant has proved helpful. Feel free to ask me any questions you may happen to have; I've been building computers for people since I was 12, and I love helping people with these types of things.

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Sounds good to me, the GTX8800 was so solid I had waited for it to die and perform poorly for so long, it eventually out waited me and went out with my old PC when I upgraded. As far as cases go, I usually always buy the biggest possible one I can get my hands on. I absolutely hate having to worm my way in there to get to those plugs, and have the lingering fear of snapping a capacitor with the flick of my wrist.

8800's were tanks! I bought the Thermaltake Armor case with the same thinking you have - SPACE! Yeah, I used to buy server/workstation cases for my own machines just so there'd be the wiggle room.

I have barely even looked but the cases these days are amazing! I just looked at one that might have been a Transformer or maybe a small Shogun Warrior? Anyway, awesome case choices nowadays.

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This is to some degree the "dirty secret" of the - let's say - past 3-4 years? Your "old" PC can run recent games perfectly fine, in most cases? The long life cycle of XBox360(!) is the main reason, why there was no need to 'upgrade'?

Granted DX11 and higher resolutions need upgrade. But how many games supported DX10/10.1/11? (I used to run a list on Giantbomb.com on video games supporting DX11 for 2 years, next to Wikipedia entries, before I deleted it recently).

Unless, you had "specific needs" as a sim-fan, or Arma2, etc., as a consumer - a dualcore-CPU and a good powerful graphic card on a 32-bit OS would fit all your needs?

I was amazed when Crysis 1 came out, how suddenly people I trusted before, turned out to be "PC-illiterates". They claimed, everyone needed the most powerful PC's, when the game would run fine in high settings on a mid-level rig, if you knew what you were buying?

These days - after the steep learning curve for game devs and the switch to more concurrent code + Windows runtime dotnetting & scheduling threads better - more games are running more efficient on multi-core CPUs and GPUs. Hence, upgrades make sense. Games are catching up with the hardware. Not just the 'un-optimized' ones.

But certainly, there are two kinds of people - those with time and those with money? If you have both and know your Celeron's and AMD's (anyone remember unlocking the Duron/Athlon with the simple graphit pencil trick?), you will always want to make your custom PC. It really is satisfying to 'know' what runs in your machine & to know, you made that happen - irrational, but a good feeling. It's like you'd feel, building your own car or house?

Btw, there have been benchmark tests about SSD's and video games. A German gaming & hardware website tested games & the initial loading times are about 20-50% faster in cases (Anno 2070, Dirt3, Metro 2033, Shogun 2, BF3 etc) - but also often dependent on your CPU speed. I am sorry, but I cannot find that article online.

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