The More Things Change, the More They Don’t

may2004coverI seem to be on a history kick this week. As I dug into my past experiences with the early days of 3D graphics cards, I stumbled across a trove of old Word documents from the days when I wrote for Computer Gaming World. What really amazed me is how little things have changed.

Things really haven’t changed in more than a decade. Inside this gem lives a review of the latest Total War Game, an ad for the latest Hitman title, and a review of Falcon Northwest’s latest small form factor PC, the Fragbox — still being built by Falcon Northwest, albeit seriously updated.

Then I came across the column I wrote for this particular issue, which I’m reprising here for your reading pleasure. Or to paraphrase Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in English, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”.

Read this and tell me Karr wasn’t correct — at least when it comes to PC gaming and PC hardware.

The Abyss

Note: The following is apocryphal, but based on encounters with real people over the years. Since it’s not completely accurate and true, I hereby voluntarily forego my shot at the Pulitzer this year.

Meet Joe Gamer. Joe is mostly a PC gamer, though he does log some time on his Xbox periodically, though not too often, as he can’t bear the guilt. Joe also faithfully reads Computer Gaming World, as well as some other Gaming Publications Who Will Not Be Named. Joe spends a fair amount of time surfing the web, checking out hardware reviews on various web sites. You see, Joe is in search of the Ultimate Gaming Experience (UGE).

Over the years, Joe’s become quite knowledgeable about his PC. In fact, he now builds his own computers, and upgrades them himself. He blows off pre-built systems, particularly from larger OEMs. “I’d tell my mother to get a Dell,” he says, “But you’d never catch me owning one.”

Joe also has read up on 3D graphics, and even understands most of the settings in his graphics control panel. “If I can’t play with 4x AA and AF,” he tells his friends, “I just don’t play. Games look like crap without AA and AF.”

Recently, Joe’s also gotten into online gaming, especially now that he’s got a broadband connection. He’s added a router to his network, too, because he wanted to offload the firewall. While he was pretty happy with Zone Alarm, he really preferred not having those CPU cycles sucked away from his gaming experience.

In his quest for Ultimate Game Performance, Joe’s really tricked out his hotrod, homebrew gaming rig. It’s got a pair of Serial ATA drives, set up in a RAID 0 array. He’s got the latest audio card, so he can have surround sound audio, and save a few more CPU cycles. He couldn’t afford to add a high end surround-sound speaker setup, so for the time being, has settled for a decent stereo speaker setup — though he spends most of his gaming time with headphones. “Headphones sound better than surround sound speakers, anyway,” Joe says.

In his quest for the ultimate gaming experience, he’s also dropped some serious coin on his input devices. His mouse sampling rate is second to no one’s, and the keyboard is perfect for gaming. “None of that ergonomic crap for me,” Joe tells his buddies. “I want to know where my keys are.”

However, Joe’s latest discovery is overclocking. He’s got a water block on order, but even his air-cooled rig gets 20% over the rated CPU clock. He’s started fooling around with his graphics card, too, and has replaced the native cooling solution with a heat-pipe solution, which allows him to run his GPU 15% higher. “My frame rates are silky smooth,” Joe boasts.

So Joe has really built himself one killer rig. Fully modded, it’s not cheap, but hey, he’s after the Ultimate Gaming Experience. But what about games?

“I don’t have as much time to play as I used to,” Joe says, “But I have a great time when I do play.”

So, Joe, what is your game of choice these days?

“Counterstrike”.

 

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