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About
I am a doctoral student in Cultural Anthropology, with a bachelor's in English & Creative Writing. I specialize in subcultures and cognition.

I love gaming, and I have followed the industry and its technology since I was a kid in the 80's. I have gamed primarily on PC since 2000, though I still follow console news and hardware as well. I was also a sales associate at Micro Center for a while, which was a great experience and got me into PC hardware.

I worked as a mapper and beta tester for the mod Action Half-Life. My maps, most of which have vanilla Half-Life Deathmatch versions, are available on my website.

I also had a blog featured on Gamasutra:
Making Proper Versions of Cross-Platform Games
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Steam ID:cryotek
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It was revealed this week that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be coming "exclusively" to the Xbox One. I put that in quotes because the phrasing of the announcement left it open for the game to release later on other platforms. Will it? Who fucking knows. I suspect a late PC release is, at the least, very likely. Harder to say with the PS4, based on Dead Rising 3 and Ryse. You won't get a straight answer from anyone involved, in any case. That would be too courteous.

Even if we ignore the series’ long history as a multi-platform title, the whole situation is a big "fuck you" to the fans who – across five platforms – made the 2013 reboot successful. It isn’t just a matter of what is happening, either. Exclusives are fairly common. It’s more the situation surrounding it, and Square Enix and Microsoft’s inadequate reassurances to frustrated fans.

That's what I want to talk about here. Why is this situation different from other "console exclusives"? How have Square Enix and Microsoft made things worse? The outrage might seem over the top, with no one involved able to make so much as a Facebook post without receiving an onslaught of replies from angry fans. But I think the outrage is justified, and both Square Enix and Microsoft deserve every damn bit of the hell they are getting.


Precedents and Expectations


Part of what made this so bad for fans is that it came out of left field. I see some apologists saying this is "just another exclusive", but that's just not true. Rise of the Tomb Raider is the immediate sequel to a game that was on other platforms. It is not from a studio or IP owned by Microsoft. When Rise of the Tomb Raider was announced everyone was right to assume it would be cross-platform, or at least show up on the PS4/One/PC if it wasn't feasible on the PS3/360.

Speaking of cross-platform, let's not forget that earlier this year Square Enix released the “Definitive Edition” of the first game on PS4/One – encouraging people who bought it on PS3/360 as well to repurchase it. I think if someone bought the original game twice it’s not too much for them to expect the immediate sequel to be available to them as well.

And finally… it’s 2014, people. It’s a multiplatform world. There’s a good piece over on Eurogamer about what a backwards move this was by Square Enix. I guess it’s our fault for assuming they were with the times.


The Story Factor


Part of the issue here, though, is somewhat unique to Tomb Raider. The reboot was a gritty, personal game about the brutal experiences which forged Lara into the woman she is. It was a story-driven game which left fans with an emotional investment in Lara's fate. The immediate response of fans to the sequel was excitement. Finally, we would get to see Lara's story continue! Then a few months later we were informed that if we didn't own a One we were shit out of luck.

In what other media does this kind of bullshit happen?!

Can you imagine reading an amazing book… then being told you weren't allowed to read the sequel unless you bought a $400 book light? Or if the next season of your favorite TV show was suddenly only viewable if you had Time Warner? What if you could only get in to see Avengers: Age of Ultron if you had an iPhone? Only in the game industry does this kind of bullshit fly. And speaking of flying bullshit…


The PR Bullshit Nightmare


The most utterly in-fucking-furiating thing about this situation is how it has been handled by the parties involved. There have been statements from Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics, but both ignore the two questions everyone is asking:

"Will Rise of the Tomb Raider be released on other platforms?"
"If so, how long will we have to wait?"

Microsoft shoves the question off to Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics, saying that they have nothing to do with whether it is released on other platforms after the exclusivity is up. But Crystal Dynamics will not clarify any of this either. I suspect part of the "deal" was that both the length of exclusivity and other platforms remain undisclosed until after the One gets its sales boost from the "exclusive" release.

The whole tone from both camps has been both condescending and evasive. We know the game will probably come out for other platforms, just fucking tell us already. Nobody likes to have these kind of bullshit PR games played with them, especially when it comes to something they care about.

The worst to me is actually Crystal Dynamics. They actually have the nerve to say that they aren't "walking away from our fans who only play on Playstation or on PC." That is the goddamn definition of what you are doing you lying assholes. These guys are literally sell-outs, having taken Microsoft's money to deny a huge percentage of their fans access to this game.

So yeah. Fuck these guys.


It's Just Business! It's Nothing Personal!


This is what the apologists are saying. It's "just business". We have no right to be angry, after all it's nothing "personal".

But isn't it? These companies lure us into making an emotional investment in their products. They encourage us to form an attachment to characters like Lara. Hell, they spend millions in marketing to make it personal. Yet when they screw us over, we're supposed to suddenly turn that off? We're expected to be loyal fans and customers, but to expect no loyalty in return from these companies? What kind of sick fucking relationship is this? One it's time to get out of, that's what kind.

So here's the deal. I'm going to be passing on Temple of Osiris this Fall I think. And if Rise of the Tomb Raider does come out on PC? Yeah, I'll wait for it to be $10 in a Steam sale. I'm not paying $60 for a game that isn't new.

Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have not shown any loyalty to me as a fan. Why should I show them any loyalty as a customer?

Don't get mad, guys. It's nothing personal.








I made a batch of custom images to use in the larger Steam grid view for Transistor. The default image is okay, but not terribly exciting:



To use a custom image for a game in the large grid view, just right-click on it and select "Set Custom Image" to pick the one you want to use from your PC. You can always remove it (pick "Remove Custom Image") and Steam will automatically go back to the default.

Anyway, here goes:


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I've been making a lot of custom images lately, including some for Survarium, Stalker: Lost Alpha, and even some NES classics. I've uploaded most of my work to the Steam Banners website to share. You can check out my work there, as well as find a ton of custom images for your games.

I've been planning a blog on making and using these in general, life has just been a bit of a mess since last summer. It's definitely refreshing to use some nicer images, though, or even just to change them around to keep your library looking fresh. In parting, here's a glance at what part of my library looks like right now, with quite a few custom images in use:


(click to enlarge)










Since the announcement of the Steam Controller last Friday, I don't think I've seen so many otherwise intelligent people say so many ignorant things. Just look at this moron. While I'm sympathetic to having a negative gut reaction when faced with something different, most concerns or complaints people have expressed are directly addressed on Valve's announcement page. The rest are mostly unfounded if you take a minute to think about how the controller works, or look at a picture of it with your brain on.

Valve also showed the controller to a number of developers, and their response was overall quite positive – impressive considering this is still a prototype. I highly recommend reading the detailed blog by Tommy Refenes of Team Meat about using the controller. It gives you a good sense of what it feels like to use it. There's also an article on Kotaku detailing other developers' reactions to the controller. I'll be quoting both below.

Anyway, I'm just going to go through the things I've seen people say and explain why they are, you know, wrong. And don't be afraid of change, people. That wouldn't be... wise...



"This is just another annoying gimmick like motion controls!"

Nooooope. This is not "innovation for innovation's sake" like the Kinect or Wii U GamePad. The Steam Controller was developed for a reason, to address a specific problem: "How can we make games that traditionally require a keyboard and mouse easily playable on the couch?" While the Steam Controller's functionality surpasses that primary goal, and may offer new ways to play and enjoy games, it has a reason to exist. They same can't be said of most other controller "innovations".


"But I'd have to take my thumbs off the trackpads to press the buttons!"

Really? You're right, that's different from the 360 controller, where you can easily press XYAB without your thumbs leaving the analog sticks.



I mean, you know, if you have a third thumb or something. You circus freak.

But no, let's not stop there. Let's address this whole supposed "button issue". Because people seem to have forgotten how to count.

On a 360 controller you can access 6 buttons without your thumbs leaving the analog controls, assuming you count the wonky analog stick-buttons.



Well HOLY FRICKIN' MATH, BATMAN, you can actually press more buttons on the Steam Controller!



Note that I labeled the right analog pad "8+" because it can be dynamically changed to emulate several buttons when needed.

To be fair, Valve really shouldn't have labeled those central buttons "XYAB" on the prototype, as they aren't meant to fulfill the same functions as the buttons by the same name on a 360 controller. I think that's throwing people off.

Ignoring those, though, the thing actually has a ton of buttons you can press without having your thumbs leave the trackpads. It addition to the two top buttons/triggers there are two underneath you can access, kind of like the Z button on the N64 controller. Moreover, the trackpads themselves are buttons, and I suspect it would be easier to press them without issue than analog-stick buttons. By altering the magnetic field they can even make the touchpads themselves function as multiple buttons. In other words, where your thumb is when you press down would signify a different virtual button. You could "feel" each button by changes in the magnetic field across the pad. And yes, developers who tried it say that works quite well. Well enough to play Super Meatboy and Spelunky.


"But this is just like using a touch-screen in a cell-phone game, there's no tactile or sensory feedback!"



Okay. Let's start with the basics. Look at the controller. No, seriously, stop what you're doing, and look it with your freaking eyeballs. Each pad is circular and concave. So they are already way more tactile than the annoying, slippery "virtual" pads on a cellphone screen. Each pad also has a series of raised concentric circles to better give you a sense of depth. Finally, the haptic feedback can create sensations based on your thumb's location, providing customizable feedback that can change depending on the game and situation. Refenes suggested that they add more "regular" tactile feedback to the pad (maybe a nub in the center or at up-down-left-right), and that's among the things Valve is already considering.


"But this isn't going to be as accurate as an analog stick!"

No, it's going to be more accurate, though somewhat shy of mouse accuracy. One indie developer described it, compared to a standard controller, as "much more precise for (say) anything WASD+mouselook." So, as Valve suggests on their announcement page, the controller should give you FPS accuracy and speed superior to a standard controller, albeit still shy of a gaming mouse.


"But this will be horrible for games I play with a D-Pad!"



It wasn't designed with those games in mind, but signs actually point to it being just fine. According to Refenes of Team Meat, "I was able to play Meat Boy the way Meat Boy can be played on an advanced level." He also found it fine with Spelunky. And Team Meat… well, if anyone knows platformers, it's them. The jury is still out on how it will work with fighting games, but I can actually see it being great for circular movements.

In any case, nobody is taking away your old controllers. A lot of us already have multiple controllers for different types of games, like special pads/sticks for fighting games. This one is more for using the SteamOS UI and keyboard-mouse style PC games.


"But why come up with a new controller when the current ones are just fine?"

They are just fine for many kinds of games. But, as I stated above, they aren't designed for complex keyboard-mouse titles. Moreover, for certain genres like FPS games the Steam Controller is potentially superior.


"But I don't want to use it because ________!"

Then don't freaking use it. Your 360 controller and keyboard-mouse setups will still work fine. Valve specifically states that the new controller is not meant to replace them. Maybe you should take some time away from gaming to improve your reading comprehension skills?


So Anyway…



One last thing. It's just a freaking prototype. Based on player feedback and the hardware beta they could end up adding a D-pad, swapping one of the touchpads for an analog stick, or making any number of other changes before release. Hell, during the developer demonstration one of the Valve employees tweaked the firmware on the fly at someone's request. Can you imagine Sony or Microsoft involving the community in the development process like this? No. Freaking. Way.

And, everything else aside, it's going to be hard to judge this thing one way or the other until more of us get our hands on it. Putting your thumbs into dynamic magnetic fields sounds pretty crazy... and I can't wait to freaking try it out.


- Jinx

PS: I'm moving to reserve recapper for now. That way I have more time to harass you all with my regular blog posts. Aren't you lucky?
Photo Photo Photo








I've been meaning to make this guide for a long time. I get a lot of great deals on PC games, and I want to teach you how to do it, too! It's part strategy, and part knowing where to look. To that end, this blog starts off with some advice, then presents a guide to most of the digital game stores for easy reference.



Here are some general rules of thumb for digital PC game shoppers:
1) Check your favorite sites frequently, at least once a week. That alone will help you catch most of the deals. Sites often have weekend deals, too, so that's a good time to double-check.
2) Friend the sites on Facebook, especially Green Man Gaming and GoG.com, because often sales are mentioned there as well as new releases.
3) Sign up for email promotions. Normally I hate that crap, but it's how I usually find out about the best deals on Green Man Gaming, when a new Humble Bundle is released, etc.
4) If you want to preorder an upcoming title, keep an eye on Green Man Gaming. They don't have every game, but if you pay attention you can usually catch a preorder voucher for 25% or more off on the games they do have. That's often in addition to a regular discount, or a cashback or store credit option.
5) If you don't get a good preorder deal on a game, wait about a month and keep an eye on the sites. I bought Mortal Kombat Komplete for $22 (vs $30) via preorder. Great deal, right? Two weeks later I saw it for $12 somewhere. Game prices can drop that fast. Just look around frequently.
6) Patience can ultimately be your greatest ally, both in getting great deals and avoiding a huge backlog. You'll quickly get a backlog on PC... so focus on the great games you already have, biding your time to get other games on sale (see JoyfulSanity's blog on game hoarding, too).

I put together a list of most of the major – and some not so major – online game stores. My personal favorites are Steam, Green Man Gaming, GoG.com, and Amazon. GMG and Amazon often give you Steam or Origin keys, whereas GoG.com offers DRM-free games. Note that some indie games can be purchased on their developer's website – often netting you a Steam key and a DRM-free copy.



Different stores also have different catalogs. GoG.com started as "good old games" and has a ton of older PC classics in addition to some newer titles. GamersGate and Desura could use a little more quality-control in my opinion, but they do offer a lot of little indie and import titles (eg Japanese bullet-hell shooters) that aren't on other sites like Steam. Origin (EA) and Uplay (Ubisoft) exclusively carry some of their publishers' titles, though most can be purchased elsewhere then activated on their clients (eg you might buy Mass Effect 3 on Amazon and get an Origin key).

This list starts with the stores I am most familiar with, as I feel more comfortable sending you to sites I have used a lot personally and thus feel are safe and legit. Sites I have not personally used will be marked with an asterisk. I try to provide a link to both the store's front page and, if possible, its "sale section". I'd still check the front pages, though, as sometimes they might link to deals not in the regular sale section. At the very end of the article is a condensed repost of all the links for maximum convenience.

I'm going to start with Green Man Gaming because it requires some explanation.



Green Man Gaming
"Hot Deals"
GMG Blog
GMG is a bit complicated. In addition to regular sales deals, most of which are mentioned or linked to on the front page, some games offer you a choice of getting cash back or a store credit. They also have "vouchers". These are codes you enter during checkout to get a discount.
Here's what you need to know about vouchers:
* They are often on the front page, or with a batch of games linked to on the front page (eg a special 25% voucher on select preorders).
* However, sometimes they are only mentioned in the blog. So check it!
* Big vouchers (25-30%) are usually on a specific selection of games (often preorders).
* There is often a 20% voucher available for almost any game on the site, though.
* You can often combine vouchers with sale prices, though you can't combine two vouchers. For example, a $15 game on sale for 33% off is $10… then you add a 20% voucher to get it down to $8. It's not always clear when you can do this, but worst case you add the voucher and it won't accept it.



Steam
"Specials" tab near bottom of store page lists games on sale.
There is no "on sale" option in the search unfortunately.



GoG.com
On Sale tab on front page, as well as alerts to special deals.



Amazon.com Digital Games
Sale Items



GamersGate
Sale Items



EA Origin
Deals Page



GameStop
Sale Items



GameFly Digital
Sale Items



Uplay
Good luck navigating this mess.



Humble Store
Humble Bundle
Humble Weekly Sale
There are sales on the Humble Store site, and tabs to take you to the current Bundle and Weekly Sale.



Indie Gala Store
Deals are on the front page. They often do bundles as well. Rarely as good as the Humble Bundles, but worth watching as I've gotten a couple nice ones.



Desura
Sale games can be browsed via a tab on the front page.



Get Games*
Sale Items



GamesRocket*
Sale items all on front page. Also lets you sort by platform (Steam, etc)



Beamdog*



Shiny Loot*
Sale items



MMOGA (thanks, Morty!)


These last sites compile sale info from other sites. CheapShark tries to give you a one-stop place to look for deals. It's pretty convenient, especially if you want to see if a particular game is on sale somewhere. CheapAssGamer is similar, but a bit more elaborate and detailed. SteamGameSales only covers games that are on, or activate on, Steam. Nice since Steam doesn't let you sort that way! However, I wouldn't rely on these sites entirely. You have to hope they are being updated quickly, and some types of deals like the GMG vouchers aren't going to show up on them.


CheapShark


CheapAssGamer (thanks, JoyfulSanity!)


SteamGameSales.com


aaaaaaaannnnnnnnddddddd can I get a



I hope this guide is helpful to people just getting into PC gaming, or those looking for more places to find deals. Cheap games are one of the best parts of being a PC gamer, make the most of it! And if you have any suggestions, like sites I should add to this list, let me know in the comments.



-Jinx

Condensed Shopping Link List:
Steam
Green Man Gaming - Deals - Blog
GoG.com
Amazon.com - Sale Items
GamersGate - Sale Items
EA Origin - Deals Page
GameStop - Sale Items
GameFly - Sale Items
Uplay
Humble Store - Humble Bundle -Humble Weekly Sale
Indie Gala Store
Desura
Get Games - Sale Items
GamesRocket
Beamdog
Shiny Loot - Sale items
MMOGA
CheapShark
CheapAssGamer
SteamGameSales.com
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So I picked up a GTX760 4GB OC this Monday. I didn't really need it, but I tend to buy stuff for my PC when I'm badly depressed – and September is a very bad month for me (no, not 9/11). If you came here to troll about PC gaming costs etc, go read my blog on that subject. That's not what this blog is about.

I'd been eyeing the 760 already, but I wanted at least 3GB of RAM on my next card. When I saw there was a 4GB model, I caved. It cost $300, which is $40 more than the 2GB version. It also came with a free copy of Arkham Origins. Here are links to where I purchased it (Newegg) and the manufacturer's website (Gigabyte):

GTX760 4GB OC by Gigabyte on Newegg.
GTX760 4GB OC - Gigabyte website page.

Why did I want a 4GB card? Two reasons. First, I wanted a card that surpassed the next-gen consoles, so having 4GB of video ram was important. In theory they could use more with their shared RAM pool, but it's very unlikely. Second, I wanted a card capable of running games decently at 2560x1440. 1440p is the next step up in HD resolution from 1080p. Monitors with that resolution are just becoming affordable ($390 for a 27" on Monoprice), and video RAM is crucial to running at higher resolutions. The extra RAM is also useful if you want to run multi-monitor, or if you like to run HD texture mods in games like Skyrim. It's possible higher-end versions of the Oculus Rift will need more video ram as well – I suspect it has to render 2 frames (one per eye) like other 3D devices, though I could be wrong about that.
 

1440p is four times the resolution of 720p.
 
I'm bothering with this article because this is the biggest jump in raw power I've ever experienced between card upgrades. My old HD6870 is a fine card and still runs most games on High easily. On less demanding games, it maxes them out with a steady framerate over 60. But the GTX760 is just massively more powerful from what I've seen so far.
 
The Unboxing
 
I've never done an "unboxing" blog or video before, but I thought it might be fun. So I here are some pics with brief commentaries.


I decided to go with the Gigabyte version of the card. My last two cards were also Gigabyte, and I was impressed with their quality, and with my Gigabyte motherboard. It's also the least expensive 4GB model, and has the highest factory overclock.




The 760's packaging is very nice. The slick black inner box and the soft black foam it's packed in give it a very "premium" feel. I laid it here as a reminder, but the Arkham Origins voucher actually came taped to the Newegg invoice in the box - so make sure you don't lose it!


Underneath the card itself is a cardboard piece you can pull out to reveal a driver CD, manual, and power adapters in case your PSU doesn't have 6 and 8 pin video card power connectors.


At 11" long, this is not a card for small cases.


The 760 is the same length as my old 6870 (bottom), but even heavier (the thing is a brick). While the Windforce coolers are similar on both cards, if you look carefully you can see copper heatpipes underneath the regular aluminum heatsink on the 760. Between the excellent cooling and the fact that the GPU clocks down to only 135mhz (!) when not in use, the card idles at a cool 33C. The extra power it drains while gaming may well be made up for by this super low-power state. A word of warning, though - the card was revving up to full speed when the Ribbons screen-saver came on, so you might want to make sure you pick a screen-saver that doesn't "trigger" the card's acceleration mode.

The Benchmarking
 
I decided to do some benchmark comparisons with my previous card, an HD6870. Note that some of the older (HD6870) benchmarks were done when my system had 8GB of RAM vs 12GB, and may have had the processor clocked a bit slower. I don't think either of those had much of an impact on the results, though. They are probably outweighed by the fact that I knew the HD6870 and had it better optimized, and in fact I think some of these benchmarks were done with the GTX760 running higher settings.
 
In short, these are far from "professional" benchmarks. But they should give a rough sense of the performance difference I'm experiencing between the two cards.
 
Stuttering.
One thing these stats don't show is how much smoother games feel on the 760. With the 6870, when I loaded a game area in say Borderlands 2 or Skyrim, I would often get some lag initially as I first looked around. Usually it would be okay after that, though the 6870 still never felt as smooth as the 760 does. Even when the 760 is pushed down to 30fps in a game, it never feels laggy, you never feel any "stuttering" as newer game areas load or as you move around.

System Stats:
Phenom II x6 1090T 3.2ghz (overclocked to 3.6ghz usually)
12GB DDR3 1333 (recently upped from 8GB)
Gigabyte AM3 Motherboard
Windows 7 64-bit
 
Unigine Heaven:

HD6870: 29.5 fps – 742 score
GTX760: 53.5 fps – 1349 score
Unigine Heaven is a great free benchmarking program. It's designed to deliver a very heavy load of DX11 effects like tessellation. It's also absolutely beautiful, even on basic DX9 settings, and worth checking out just to enjoy.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat:

The Stalker: Call of Pripyat benchmark is another free download. It's a strange game engine; in some ways it is antiquated, but they have tacked on a lot of DX10 and DX11 features. The benchmark results here really surprised me. I had always assumed my CPU was the bottleneck in these games, because they are optimized for only one core. The dramatic improvements here would suggest otherwise (though it might be keeping the 760 from getting even higher, of course).
 
Lost Planet 2:

DX11 benchmark A, 1080p, maximum settings
HD6870: 34 fps (stuttered considerably, too, while running)
GTX760: 106 fps
Lost Planet 2's benchmark uses a lot of DX11 and DX10 effects, so it's a nice way to gauge a card's capabilities in terms of advanced visual effects.
 
Dirt 3:

1080p, maximum settings
HD6870: 52 fps, min 41
GTX760: 89 fps, min 70

Arkham City:

1080p, max settings with FXAA High, no PhysX
HD6870: 57 fps (29 with PhysX normal)
GTX760: 86 fps (51 with PhysX normal)
 
Tomb Raider:

1080p, maximum settings except for high precision (TressFX on)
HD6870: 11 fps
GTX760: 52 fps (84 without TressFX)
 
Just Cause 2:

Dark Tower, 1080p, max settings (760 seems to have more HQ options)
HD6870: 45 fps
GTX760: 59 fps
 
Metro 2033:

"Frontline" benchmark, 1080p, High preset, no PhysX
HD6870: 53 fps
GTX760: 82 fps
 
Borderlands 2:

Title screen, 1080p, max settings
HD6870: 75fps
GTX760: 150fps
 
FINAL FANTASY XIV benchmark:

1600x900, Preset: Maximum, "Exploration"
HD6870: 42 fps, 5168 score
GTX760: 62 fps, 6706 score
 
Overall, the framerate improvement is somewhere between 50% and 300% in most of these. It's hard to quantify these things, but I'd loosely say the 760 is seems roughly twice as powerful as my 6870 overall. The lack of load-stuttering is a nice improvement as well.
 
There are some aberrations here, though. I'd expected the 760 to blow the 6870 out of the water in Metro, Just Cause 2, and Arkham City, but that just wasn't the case. That could be a matter of me not setting up the card properly, and I am pretty sure some games like JC2 have Nvidia-only options (like GPU water physics) making the 760 work harder.
 
There's also the question of whether the Phenom II x6 is bottlenecking the 760 in certain games. I previously thought it was the bottleneck in Call of Pripyat and Skyrim, which are poorly optimized for multicore CPUs, but apparently I was wrong. However, it might be the culprit in the other mediocre scores. Overall, though, I think my CPU is aging pretty gracefully. My motherboard is an older PCI-E 2.0 model, too, which could create a bandwidth bottleneck for this 3.0 card.
 
Regrets?
 
This is going to sound weird, but my only regret is losing access to RadeonPro, an AMD-only 3rd party config tool I've come to rely on. Thus far I've found no comparable Nvidia tool, and I have yet to find a way to fine-tune the 760 the same way I could the 6870. I do have options, but it seems I'll need 3-4 programs to get everything RadeonPro provided conveniently in one package.
 
Conclusions


I didn't take comparisons in Skyrim, but the framerate is much improved and the game just feels smoother. Areas with NPCs, in particular, run far better.
 
The GTX760 is an awesome card, though you might want to wait for it to come down in price a bit – and for AMD's next line of cards to show up in a month or so. I wouldn't have upgraded yet if not for my need for a distraction in my life right now. If you have a mid-range card from 2-4 years ago like the 6870, 7870, or 560ti… this is a massive upgrade. It's not just newer, it's in a higher weight class. Still, those cards all perform great in most games, so I wouldn't feel pressured to upgrade right away.

If you do decide to get a GTX760, I recommend the 4GB model for future-proofing. You probably won't need more than 2GB at the moment, but that may change soon. Battlefield 4's system requirements were just released, and optimally they'd like you to have 3GB of RAM on your card. 4GB also seems a good choice for those of us who want to stay one step ahead of the PS4/One. Having a PC somewhat better than them assures you'll be able to play all the latest games nicely for quite some time.

For those of you who crave a score:
9.5/10, Would Bang


*ADDITION* 9-14-13

I'd originally wanted to included a comparison of 3DMark 11 scores. Unfortunately, due to some bugs in the program or Steam, I couldn't get the program running to bench the GTX760 - until today.



Pretty dramatic improvement. The odd surprise is in the Physics score. That score is supposed to purely measure CPU performance... but it goes up by almost 700 points using the 760. So I'm left wondering if the 6870 was somehow bottlenecking the Phenom II x6 somehow? Not really sure, as a lot of this is beyond my knowledge.
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I'm getting tired of people telling me how expensive PC gaming is. If it was, I'm pretty sure I'd know, seeing as I've been a PC gamer for 15 years. So I decided to write a blog to set the record straight.

To that end, I thought I'd see what building a from-scratch new PC might look like for me – on a budget, but with the aim of outgunning the PS4/One as well. This is a very quick and dirty build I'm throwing together in just an hour or so. There might be issues with it, but it should still serve to give a good idea, price-wise, what the initial cost of a (nice) new gaming PC would be.


My own PC. That humongous Antec server case was about $150... but I've had it 11 years...!

Three quick notes about overall costs before we start, though:
 
a) A PC gamer reuses parts. I'm still using the case and 2.1 speakers I bought 11 years ago. After the first investment, you never have to buy everything at once ever again.
 
b) A PC isn't just for gaming. You have to think of it as pooling your computer budget and your console budget into one machine. That isn't practical for everyone, which is cool. But don't buy a $600 desktop PC and a $400 console and tell me $1000 for a gaming PC is too expensive. Also, a gaming PC is more powerful than a generic PC- so the $$ you invest in it for gaming pays off in having a fast, powerful PC for every task.
 
c) Games on PC are cheaper. This should be considered in any long-term price equation. If you like to buy your games (vs rent) that savings adds up rapidly. I'm not just talking Steam sales, either.
Arkham Origins on PS3 = $60+tax, so about $66
Arkham Origins on PC = $50, no tax. Plus GMG gives you a $8 cash back or $12 credit toward another game.
Assuming you just take the cash back, you only pay $42 on PC. That's a $24 price difference on one game. And you often get even better discounts, or games simply release for less on PC.
 
These three things are important, because comparing the price of a gaming PC to a console is an apples and oranges kind of thing. Obviously a PS4 is cheaper than a gaming PC if you are starting from scratch and comparing prices directly. But a PS4 would be kinda shit for writing this blog on, or editing all the images that are in it, or researching hardware prices with 12 tabs open in Firefox.


The Castlevania demo on PC. It's shiny. (I need filler pics, okay?!)

Anyway. There are some recent build guides on sites like  Ars Technica. While my own PC is an upgraded version of Ars' budget build from a few years ago, I don't agree with their current build choices. So I'm making my own, based specifically on surpassing the next-gen consoles.
 
This is not the cheapest PC you could possibly build for gaming. You could easily shave $200 off and still have a solid machine. But I'm building one with a bit of headroom. Often it's worth that extra $20 here or there to get a component that will be useful longer. Also, if you buy parts over a period of time (even a month) you may be able to get better deals, or better parts for the same price. I'm just using Newegg as it is today, though Amazon isn't bad, especially if you have Prime to cover shipping.
 
Essentials: The Tower and What's in It
 
$49.99 – Antec One Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Case
* Good balance between quality, price, and internal space. Hard to go wrong with Antec.
 
$54.99 – Thermaltake TR2 TR-600 600W
* Plenty of power for this build with a bit to spare probably. A 700W wouldn't be much more.
 
$84.99 ($10 rebate) – ASUS M5A97 LE R2.0 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
* Full ATX motherboard for more expansion. MicroATX would be cheaper, but limit you later on. Dual x16 slots (for multi-GPU) would be a little more.


 
$159.99 – AMD FX-8320 Vishera 3.5GHz (4.0GHz Turbo) Eight-Core Processor
* Why an 8-core AMD when everyone recommends 4-core Intels? Because future games will use more than 4 hardware threads, especially with next-gen consoles having 6-8 AMD CPU cores. Intel CPUs run better in current-gen games (4 threads max on them) if you have a high-end video card, but the 8-core AMDs are more future-proof imo and won't bottleneck a mid-range video card.
 
$259.99 – GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 760 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 Video Card
* These bad boys just came out and are quite kick-ass for the price (reviews are excellent). They beat out everything else in the price-range, and should tromp the GPUs in the PS4/One. My only reservation is that I'd prefer 3GB of video ram. If you aren't buying till this Fall, though, there may be 3GB versions of this or other cards. And AMD's new cards still haven't dropped. The price for this card will probably drop when they do, you'll probably be able to get one for just a little over $200 then.
 
$58.99 – Kingston HyperX Black 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600
* 8GB is more than enough system ram for now, and getting two 4GB modules leaves two RAM slots open for upgrading later.
 


$69.99 – Seagate 1TB 7200RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive
* 1TB is the minimum you'd want for a PC, since you need to do full game installs. Don't waste money on an SSD, a regular hard drive will give you very fast load times and more capacity. It's still much faster than the 2.5" laptop drives consoles use.
 
$15.99 – ASUS DVD/CD Writer
* You'll barely use it, but you still should probably get one. There are Bluray drives for PC, but they are a pain (you need special software to play movies). Better to buy a cheap Bluray player and hook it to your monitor if you want BD playback.
 
$99.99 – Windows 7 64-bit OEM or Windows 8 64-bit OEM
* Most of us like Win7 better, but at this point I'd probably go with 8 for future-proofing as the next version of DX11 will have features only supported in 8. Either way, make sure to get the 64-bit version. The 32-bit can't properly use over 3-4GB of RAM. Btw, if you are a college student you can probably get this free.


 
Total Cost:
$854.91
Probably more like $950 with tax and some shipping.
 
That's about what I'd go for if I was building a system from scratch right now. You could cut that down considerably with a cheaper video card, for example, and by going a little cheaper here and there on the case, power supply, etc. But I wanted to build a system that was a good investment, would exceed the next-gen consoles, and be easy to upgrade.
 
Obviously this doesn't include things like a monitor, speakers, a mouse, a keyboard, a headset, a 360 controller, etc. Those would probably add about $200 assuming you owned none of them already. I was going to itemize those, but this is getting a bit long as it is lol. Again, many of those items you'll keep for a very long time.
 
Let's put it in perspective, though. Say you were going to buy a pretty average PC, because, well, you need one to post stuff on Destructoid, right?!
 
$498 Dell Inspiron 660s
* Yeah, you could spend less… or more. And it's just a tower, so like our build you still need a monitor etc.
then add
$400-$500 – for your PS4 or Xbox One
 
You're already at $900. That gets you a mediocre PC and a pretty decent console.
 

This picture of Strike Suit Zero is totally unrelated to this blog!

Which is the best way to go? It really depends on you, and your situation in terms of finances, needs, and interest in hardware.
 
If you can put the money into the initial investment, and will use the PC for more than gaming, a gaming PC is a good deal. Once you have a system, upgrades are typically gradual and you can reuse the parts you have. Plus you'll get great deals on games, and a very fast regular PC to boot.
 
If you don't have the money for the initial investment, or prefer a laptop to a desktop, or just don't need a new PC… yeah, it might not make sense for you. And hey, that's just fine. The new consoles, especially the PS4, look pretty damn good.
 
What I want to show, though, is that for many PC gamers it is actually cheaper in the long term for us – and very practical. We are people who already use our PC a lot and would like it to be fast. So we'd already be buying pretty good systems. And we also save a lot of money over time because games are much cheaper on PC.
 
While you do see people spending a lot of money on gaming PCs, either pre-built like Alienware or overdoing it on their own system, none of that is necessary. A pretty modest gaming PC will get you performance better than consoles, access to cheap games, and a great system that's fast as hell for everything else. I think Alienware has done more to damage PC gaming than anyone else. Their overpriced systems are all console gamers see. If all you saw were advertisements for $150,000 cars, you'd probably assume you couldn't afford a car at all, right?
 
Anyway, I hope that clears things up a bit. Gaming on PC is not for everyone, but for some of us it's a fantastic deal in terms of price and performance. And if you see us talking a lot about console hardware, too, it's because we like gaming hardware of every kind!


Another Castlevania pic! Don't pics make bland tech blogs exciting? I think so!
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