Skip to main content

How Taiwan Sold Geldon His Groove Back

Obligatory short version paragraph. First, I found a novel solution for my hardware problems that should pay off for a long time. Second, I am now enjoying S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which is a nifty if buggy little game. Click the link below if you've time on your hands.

Being a red-blooded American, I can always count on capitalism to pull my mind out of its desolate dwelling on my own mortality. So my computer is acting slow and that's getting me down? Time to buy a new computer! Thank you, frivolous spending, for giving me a reason to live again... temporarily... so long as I've money left to spend.

Unfortunately, as I'm a most-time Student with a barely part-time job at this stage of my life, my disposable income kinda sucks right now. Upgrades are complicated because of a substantial technology hurdle. How's a guy with minimal cash flow supposed to make the necessary $600 jump to end up with a PCI-Express capable motherboard with compatible video card, ram, and CPU?

I spent much of Wednesday night trying to find a solution. The result of my relentless plumbing the Internet uncovered ASRock, a little-known Taiwan motherboard manufacturer whose motto is, "Creative, Considerate, Cost-effective". Amongst other more conventional motherboards, ASRock makes a "dual" line that integrates an AGP and a PCI-Express slot on the same board. Dual boards sound like a hacked together Frankenstein monster. However, the reviews on them that I've read have been very positive, with the only downside being that the PCI-express port is limited to 4x. This isn't the only company to offer a means to bridge the PCI-Express gap, but it could very well be the best.

So I've shelled out for their latest model "dual" board, a 4CoreDual-VSTA. This is their high-end socket LGA 775 version with all the bells and whistles, intended to be Windows Vista compliant. To stick in that LGA 775 socket I bought a Pentium 4 650 (3.6Ghz). I could have bought a Pentium D dual core for the same price as the Pentium 4, but not enough games support multiple cores and so a faster single core should provide better performance for the time being. Including a respectible third party heat sink, the whole upgrade came to $200 - not bad!

The immediate benefits of this upgrade are dubious and slim. The only clear upgrade is going from an AMD Athlon XP 3000+ to an Intel Pentium 4 3.4Ghz processor, and that's not a great boost. This is assuming my current motherboard and CPU are working properly, which I've (largely unproven) doubts about. The real benefit of this upgrade package is that it is a platform for future upgrades:
  1. This particular motherboard can support the Core 2 Duo, Intel's current quad-core processor. Currently, those processors cost $800, but when they hit about $200 I'll pounce on one.
  2. Memory is another upgrade possibility. I've a couple of 1 GB DDR400 chips, which this motherboard should support as it has 2 DDR slots. Because it also has 2 DDRII slots, I've the option to upgrade to 2 sticks of DDR667 in the future.
  3. Of course, the video card should not be overlooked either. Even with this hybrid PCI-Express slot running at a mere 4x speed, that I'm actually able to mount one at all should provide a considerable performance boost over most AGP cards. Once the PCI-Express card is purchased, the option to upgrade the motherboard to a dedicated PCI-express one is available. (A good idea would be to upgrade to a NVIDIA SLI or ATI crossfire capable card and then buy a second one when the motherboard is upgraded.)
So it looks like this is the ultimate power user's budget board, capable of supporting what you've got now while leaving multiple upgrade paths open in the immediate future. Thanks, ASRock. I'm so glad I bought my own motherboard over the Internet this time instead of going to a local Mom and Pop's shop and getting stuck with whatever they feel they can foist on me.

Now, I just need to install the thing myself without breaking anything important. This will be my first Intel socket LGA 775 installation, but it doesn't look that different from Athlon's socket 754. I've got my Arctic Silver 3 compound ready. My somewhat spacious ATX computer case should be able to house the new motherboard just fine. The only real unresolved concern is if my AGP card will short out the board, whose manual warns, "Do NOT use a 3.3V AGP card on the AGP slot of this motherboard! It may cause permanent damage!" I don't have any evidence an AGP X1600XT is a 3.3V AGP card - indeed, from what I've read, only 1x or 2x AGP cards use 3.3v signaling. So, overall this looks like it'll be a quiet operation, provided the hardware arrives functional. It won't be until some time next week that I'll get the opportunity to make it happen, though.

Stalking The Groove

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is proving to be a slightly different Deus Ex-alike. Most Deus-Ex games will have some kind of stat system built in - a way to progress your character. In S.T.A.L.K.E.R., that's handled entirely by finding better equipment.

I pretty much nailed the main point of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in my last blog entry, it "uses a pretty nice engine to simulate a realistic post-apocalyptic environment". So, basically you explore a post-apocalyptic wasteland in Russia, inhabited by ferocious mutants and the most deadly animal of all: man. As a Stalker, you're a kind of wasteland warrior that moves about in this cordoned off area of the world. You're not the only Stalker, there's hundreds of others, some with alliances to certain factions, others mere loners. You've complete freedom to go anywhere and do what you want. That's pretty neat.

Truth be told, Mercenaries could be said to do an even better job of open-ended exploring in a war-torn wasteland. If I could order air-drops of equipment like I could in Mercenaries that would both be cool and solve S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s underused economy, but that's simply not the case. Fortunately, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a substantial improvement over Mercenaries in terms of its unique post-apocalyptic setting and an attention to detail that consoles can't do out of sheer hardware limitation. This game is a work of art, what games are supposed to be when they're not being over-commercialized.

Unfortunately, like many overly-ambitious games, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has nasty bugs. Although the weapon ballistics are excellent, the other physics aren't Havok-quality, and this is a let down after seeing Half-Life 2 and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in action. The quicksave and autosave system uses your computer's saved real name information to personalize the files, but you can't reload a file with a space in it unless you quit and restart the game. Side-missions don't stay completed and spawns of NPCs don't stay dead. (That might be a deliberate game design decision, it's hard to say.) The worst bug I've run into so far is a persistent crash glitch caused by preloading NPCs with glitched pathing. In that case, there's not much to do but go back to an earlier saved game. Hopefully, the developers will continue to patch this game to the limits of human perfection, as this game deserves that level of attention.

Yet, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. could have been worse. The game world is complete and the engine is actually more efficient than ones I've encountered in City of Heroes and Elder Scrolls Oblivion. Things look great and play well when the bugs aren't in the way.

One of the most interesting things about S.T.A.L.K.E.R., though not one I've messed with much yet, is that fully featured multiplayer play. Having Counterstrike-esque and other game modes fresh out of the box will keep this game alive even after the extensive single player game is completed at the highest difficulty. There's said to be some mod support, and it'll be interesting to see how that pans out.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empyrion Vrs Space Engineers: A Different Kind Of Space Race

In my quest for more compelling virtual worlds, I have been watching Empyrion: Galactic Survival a lot this bizarro weekend, mostly via the Angry Joe Show twitch stream.  What I have concluded from my observations is Empyrion is following in Space Engineers' shadow, but it is nevertheless threatening the elder game due to a greater feature set (the modding scene notwithstanding).

Empyrion is made in Unity, whereas Space Engineers is built on a custom engine.  While this does put Empyrion at a disadvantage when it comes to conceptual flexibility, its developers nevertheless have a substantial advantage when it comes to adding features due to a savings of time spent that would have gone into developing their own engine.  Examples include:
Planets.  Empyrion already has planets and space to explore between them, whereas in Space Engineers planets are in the works but still awhile away (so you just have asteroid fields to scavenge).Enemies.  Space Engineers' survival mode boasts onl…

Resonant Induction Really Grinds My Gears... In A Good Way

From about 2pm yesterday until 8pm today, I've been dabbling with my latest custom mod mix for Minecraft 1.6.4, which is this time very much Universal Electricity focused.
Aside from the usual GUI enhancers and Somnia, the primary contenders in this mix were:
Calclavia Core - Of course: this is the base of the Universal Electricity system.Resonant Induction - This seems to be largely focused on increasingly more advanced methods of refining ores divided across 4 ages of technological progression.  It also includes some really cool things such as assembly lines.  I'll primarily be talking about just a few blocks out of this mod today.Atomic Science - A mod dedicated to generating more of those lovely universal electricity volts via the power of splitting the atom.  Build your own nuclear reactor!  Deal with nuclear meltdowns!  You maniac!ICBM - A mod dedicated to generating more destruction using those lovely universal electricity volts (and more than a little gunpowder), it cer…

Sometimes, The Cat Skins You

The formula for cat girls is simple enough: young girls are cute, cats are cute, so young girls who are also cats are cute times two, right?  ... Cat Planet Cuties (a.k.a Asobi ni Iku yo) does not stop there, it includes girls with guns, nudifying weaponry, and even failed romantic comedy that shows lots of skin.  Cat's out of the bag: Cat Planet Cuties is basically straight up wish fulfillment.

The overall plot is pretty simple.  The Catians are a race so advanced that they have not changed in over 70,000 years.  They discover Earth, a planet whose people have uncanny resemblances, right down to speaking the same language!  Desiring an escape from their cultural stagnation, they rename their own planet from Earth to Catia and dispatch a scout to assess the viability of first contact with this new Earth inhabited by humans.  High jinks ensue.

Other than an excuse to see some fun sci-fi devices, the plot sucks. Let me count the ways:
Kio Kakazu - The male center of our harem, a 1…