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Upgrade Pains

Often after a new motherboard purchase, it falls to the do-it-yourself computer builder to "break in" his new motherboard. That's taken a bit longer than I anticipated it would, but it looks like I've finally figured out my new motherboard enough to know what I cannot do to keep a stable platform. Then, I was ready to play a little Supreme Commander and a lot of City of Heroes.

One thing I've determined can't do is run in DDR400 mode with this Corsair "Value Select" DDR400 ram. (At least, not with the memory on "auto" settings... perhaps if I were to manually specify the memory settings... I'll play with that later.) The problem with DDR400 timing was that it resulted in random complete system lockups, and that's unacceptable. It also lead to issues with certain apps such as the Supreme Commander or Windows Explorer malfunctioning in places, possibly due to dropped storage retrieval data. Since reverting back to DDR333 settings, all these problems have gone away. Clearly this memory was incorrectly rated, as the motherboard's handling of it is actually quote good.

Having had a chance to play Supreme Commander on my upgrade, I have to say that a CPU makes a big difference from that game. I performed a small skirmish with some 500 units on the map and it was quite playable and smooth. There was some low (perhaps 5 fps) frame rates while I watched a battle underway, but I kept complete control even then - perhaps the bottleneck was on the VPU. I imagine the game plays like a dream on a dual or quad core setup.

I have not yet begun to exploit the full potential of this motherboard though. If I ever decided to overclock, I notice that my Artic Cooler heat sink is actually keeping my CPU at about 40 degrees Celsius even after heavily playing something. A hard-worked CPU no hotter than a warm summer day? Awesome! I didn't even use Arctic Silver compound this time, just the default transference compound included on the heat sink. Aside from overclocking, there's the upgrade options of a quad-core processor, a PCI-X card, and DDR2-667 RAM. It'll be awhile before I can afford any of that, though.

City of Heroes is coming along swimmingly now that I've seriously decided that Blasters are the way to go for me. Blasters have been heavily nerfed over the past, when the game was once jokingly known as "City of Blasters". However, I find that I'm particularly suited to Blasters due to my previous experience with a Scrapper and Controller. The Scrapper because they've tiny little cones of death that I learned to maneuver foes into. The Controller because I've a great understanding of enemy behavior, the value of control powers, and how much damage I can take when I'm naked in the breeze. With my Blaster I've got bigger cones of death and weaker control powers, and a familiarity with escaping notice when you're naked in the breeze is a big plus. At level 5, I was already tearing up six to twelve member groups of even-con mobs, and not just minions (depending on inspirations on hand). I'm going to be one of the best freaking Blasters to play the game.

Initial assessments had determined that Electric Blast and Electricity Manipulation would be the best set for me. What interested me about that was a combination of mob control, having a pet, and being able to recover my endurance without taking Stamina. However, after my earlier experiences with a short-lived mutant superhero by the name of Shock Thing, I decided that I really wasn't comfortable with a completely electric superhero. I just couldn't come up with a backstory that felt right for Elec/Elec, I didn't like the "aim" power, I'd be helpess against an energy-resistant foe, and that zapping sound on Electric Blast's bread-and-butter attacks is kinda annoying. These were minor qualms, but they were enough.

My current Blaster, cheesily named "Max Power", is looking good. I got him up to level 6 now and he's shaping up to be an interesting Blaster with an acceptable backstory (a nonlethal Punisher-like vigilante with a secret identity and looking to prove himself a real hero). The power set I chose was Assault Rifle/Electricity Manipulation, and I'm enjoying the result.

The primary power set choice of Assault Rifle over Electric Blast had more ups than downs. The foremost benefit was a lot of variety in terms of damage type. The foremost penalty was to sacrifice having a pet in the Voltaic Sentinel... that would have been cool, but I hear that thing's more trouble than it's worth. The power sets' mob control potential is the same, but with one advantageous difference: swapping the Telsa Cage hold for the Bean Bag disorientation allows it to stack nicely with the Electricity Manipulation disorient powers.

The secondary power set choice remained Electricity Manipulation. It had the right mix of mob control and endurance recovery without sacrificing too many potential choices in powers I disliked. I avoided the usual Assault Rifle secondary power set choice, Devices, because I've no interest in Smoke Bomb, Cloaking Device, Trip Mine, or Time Bomb. I wanted to avoid investing 3 powers to get Stamina, and Electricity Manipulation should (eventually) provide all the endurance regeneration I need via the Power Sink power. Best of all, I get Build Up, the one short term self-buff power I like.

The resulting fusion of Assault Rifle and Electricity Manipulation has resulted in some modularity in my choice of combat tactics, and that's a giant plus for me. I plan to use Assault Rifle for mostly area-of-effect attacks, and there's a great deal of powers dedicated to this. However, when a surgical long distance removal is necessary, Burst and Sniper Rifle should do the job just fine (especially when Build Up is active). For the persistent foes still standing after my Area of Effect Barrage, there's the hefty melee attacks on Electricity Manipulation. Those melee attacks are also handy when I'm running low on endurance (which I expect will happen a lot before I gain Power Sink at level 35) because Electricity Manipulation melee attacks drain endurance from the foe and give some to me. Assault Rifle also has a lot of knockback effects, and in the event that annoys the resident meleers in the group, switching to an effective set of melee attacks is a solution.

The power pool choices are self-evident. I'm planning on using the travel powers granted from safeguard missions until they run out, then re-spec in Super Jump. Super jump is not the best choice for Blasters, but my favorite and, as a Blapper, appropriate enough. I'll also be getting Aid Other and Aid Self ASAP - a Blaster's best friend. I might take Resuscitate if it turns out I dislike one of the powers I'm planning on - being able to ressurect as a Blaster is cool, though not terribly necessary. Speaking of which, Hasten should be completely unnecessary as I'll have more than enough attacks to cycle between.

The future of Max Power looks bright, provided I don't get bored of him. Right now, I'm not feeling any boredom at all, he's been a continual demonstration that Blasters can do more than just nuke from afar (while still being very good at nuking from afar). I'd start debating which ancillary powers to take (they all look pretty good, especially Force of Nature - temporary neigh-invulnerability), but I've looked far enough ahead. If I'm going to make it that far, I need to keep having fun in the now, watching that experience bar as little as possible.

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