See Next Month’s Minimum Requirements

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 3, 2008

Filed under: Rants 74 comments

The dire fate I predicted here is coming to pass:

It’s a new graphics card from NVIDIA. Let’s see:

  1. It takes up the space of 2 internal expansion slots. So, you’ll need to use up a PCIe slot, and one beside it.
  2. It’s numbered all crazy. There’s little new technology or functionality. It’s actually an 8800 series chipset with some different tweaks to the production and clocking, but they renumbered it as 9800.
  3. It’s designed to be used in conjunction with additional cards, so you could put two of these things together. (Assuming you have room for a couple of these space heaters in your computer case.)

I can’t wait until game developers have to list this stuff on the side of the box. We already have stuff like this:

Video Card - Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 128MB RAM (NVIDIA 6600 or better/ATI X1300 or better, excluding ATI X1550).

But now they’ll have to tell you what chipset, how much memory, what shader model, and how many cards you need. Maybe you’ll need two 9800’s, but certain versions of the 9900 can do it alone, if you have it configured right and you have enough memory. You’ll need a degree in engineering just to understand if your computer can run the game or not.

Sigh. All this so we can play another five-hour tech demo about space marines that runs like a dead sloth.

We’re standing in front of the burning house labeled “PC Gaming”. Hardware manufacturers are holding a can of gas, and game developers are holding a lighter, and each is pointing at the other and crying about how it’s all his fault.

Wasn’t this supposed to be about having fun?


From The Archives:

74 thoughts on “See Next Month’s Minimum Requirements

  1. Kevin says:

    I can play Monopoly on my iPod!

  2. henebry says:

    I love the stark difference between your tone (one of tired resignation) and the excited enthusiasm of the hyperventilating fanboy you cite via YouTube.

  3. Lukasa says:

    What’s really funny is that the 9800 series is actually no longer nVidia’s premier GPU: they’ve released a new lot: the 260 series and the 280 series. To clarify, from least powerful to most powerful, still on sale new:

    6000 series
    8000 series
    9000 series
    200 series.


  4. Danath says:

    Dear god, I built my own PC about a year ago (not the BEST, but pretty good) and I have been left feeling like im way out of date again… which annoys the pants off me, funny enough most of the games im MOST interested in dont push the graphics to the maximum, so its a moot point ultimately.

  5. Roxysteve says:

    Gah! F***ing geekdweeb bleeding-edge twonks!

    This will inevitably lead to a version of tic-tac-toe which can only be played with an investment of several kaybux at the Dell EStore or valuable time searching the inernet fruitlessly for someone who sells a motherboard and power supply capable of hosting this abortion. Which will be superseded the next week by something only a nuclear pile will power.

    May they all get ****ed in their ****s and find ****s in their collective ****. With knobs on!

    Angry Steve.

  6. vbigiani says:

    Dual-slot cards aren’t exactly rare. I have an 8800GTS (the 640MB version) and it’s dual slot as well, and it’s two years old now (I bought it one year ago, two weeks before the release of the single-slot, less consuming, less costing, more powerful 8800GT).

  7. Factoid says:

    This is hilarious. It’s exactly the same card. They shrunk the die to make it slightly better for overclocking and they buffed up the chipset cooler a bit. That’s it.

    I love this video, though. It’s completely indicative of all the problems in the graphics industry. This guy spouts off like 5 times “You already know this, so I’m not going to talk about it.” That entire industry seems to believe that everyone already has a perfect underlying knowledge of their products and numbering schemes, so all they need to do is let you know about the incremental changes and you’re good to go.

    I only read up on graphics cards when I’m buying a new computer or looking to do upgrades. Otherwise I completely avoid that stuff because it fills me with rage at how quickly my card has become obsolete.

    In this case, though, I’m overjoyed because my 8800GTS is still basically just as “top of the line” now as it was when I bought it. It’s one step down from an 8800GT and two steps from the new 9800GT, which is only a step up if you overclock it.

  8. brcarl says:

    As long as we’re re-hashing:

    1) I want to play Mass Effect (very much, thank you)
    2) I don’t own an XBox 360 (I’m an RPG fan, not an FPS fan)
    3) My PC’s graphics card won’t do the PC version justice
    4) XBox 360 Pro @ $350 = play the game, plus huge catalog of others (including Fable 2, hopefully yummy)
    5) NVidia GeForce 8800 GT @ $250 = play the improved game, but still not 100% sure if it will perform well
    6) For an extra $100 I get tons more game-play GUARANTEED.

    …I’m sad, but I’m not sure why.

  9. JFargo says:

    @brcarl – You just summed up better than I ever could why I don’t bother upgrading my computers anymore. I’m thinking of just saving up and buying all the top-of-the-line consoles, and using my PC for older games that perform well on the system I already have.

  10. ThaneofFife says:

    Shamus, you’re totally behind the times, man! There are at least four Nvidia cards that are better than that one: the 9800GTX+, the 9800GX2, the GTX 260, and the GTX 280. Gotta get your facts straight, man, because they’re totally wicked!

    For those that don’t see me post often, the above, while, true, is meant as sarcasm. In the last six months, by my count, Nvidia has released at least five new models of graphics cards, and possibly more. The “restrained” AMD/ATI, meanwhile, has released a meager three. While they’re all quite decent, it’s just a shell game to get you to constantly run in place on the hardware treadmill (sorry for the mixed metaphor there).

    Whenever I see benchmarks for these, I always ask, how well will it run WoW? The benchmarks never say, being more focused on high-end games that only people with monster rigs play. C’est la vie…

    The computer game industry will die and be reborn in its ashes through indie developers–my prediction for the day.

  11. Thanakil says:

    The 9800GTX was already a rehash of the 8800GTX. So it didn’t really come as a surprise that the 9800GT was only a rehash of the 8800GT.

    But yeah, like it was said, this card isn’t really anything new. Nvidia has already released much stronger cards a while ago, they’re just releasing the 9800GT for people who don’t feel like paying the high price for the 260GTX and the 280GTX.

    As for using two cards together : It’s been like that for a long time now, but developers don’t take it into account when making a game.
    The boost isn’t that great, so it’s kinda ignored, except for REALLY enthusiast gamers with too much money to spend.

  12. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Considering how fast they make them, what happens when they start getting into the same increments as they did before?

    …My head hurts. Does Spore have high graphics requirements?

    EDIT- Just looked at it on wikipedia… is that good? I can’t even read it anymore.

  13. Nixorbo says:

    @brcarl: Actually, the 360 RPG scene is the deepest of the 3 current consoles. Mostly jRPGs, though.

  14. Derek K says:

    Nixorbo beat me to it, although I’d say that the DS or PSP is the best platform from a volume to quality view.

    The only thing PC games have going for them are mods, at this point.

    Re: Original point: What we need is an accepted industry benchmark. Not one that gets tweaked and picked per card.

    Something like “Optiflops.” Which is a measure of graphics power, standardized to be fair across different card types. So that a GEForce 1239298398 is 58 optiflops, and a radeon 3890984908seslkud is 58 optiflops, which means both can play a 50 optiflop game. The GEForce may have been antitricksilation, and the Radeon gives better frames per mixiplix, but both will run it.

    It will make hardware manufacturer’s angry, to be sure, as it will downplay some of their “features”, but I don’t really care.

  15. Heph says:

    See, I do agree with everything being said here.
    “Video Card – Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 128MB RAM (NVIDIA 6600 or better/ATI X1300 or better, excluding ATI X1550).”
    just doesn’t strike me as that problematic. I’ve seen far worse. What that basically says is: mumbojumbo 128MB RAM…blahblah…nVidia 6600+ or ATI 1300+. The only thing you really look at is “is my number bigger?”. If I have a 7500 or a 1400, I can be reasonably sure that it’ll run. If mine’s a 5400 or a 1100, well, it probably won’t.
    For all the different version (8800GT, 8800GTX, 8800GS, 8800-CC (no wait, that’s a capital ship class in Star Wars. My bad!),…), frankly, only computer nerds care, and they can figure it out.

    Far more impossible to understand are processors. Last time I bought a pc I managed to pick the components myself. 3.2 GHz. Ok, that’s better than the 3.0GHz. Fair enough. Nowadays, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what processor chip set performs better. They’re all two- or four-core, but at…lower speeds than before? But they’re faster because they have someting here, and a bit added there, and superspecial ADSFGT? Err, thanks, I think.

  16. Ron says:

    Ahh.. I remember the good old days, when you had to edit config.sys and autoexec.bat to get a game to work. The hardship of today gamers is astounding..

  17. Sam says:

    That video is the type of thing that drive normal people (myself included) completely insane. In 10 seconds, that guy had me completely confused, and I had to stop watching at the 1:30 mark because I felt my brain leaking out my ears! I’ve never worried about which graphics chipset I had in my computer, being a non-hardcore PC gamer (the only PC game I play right now is Diablo 2). But this…this is just too much. I doubt I’ll be buying any new PC games for the forseeable future, mostly because none of the new titles interest me, but also because of this insanity.

  18. ngthagg says:

    At some point in the future, when I decide it’s time to upgrade my computer again, I’ll immerse myself in all of this and gain a good understanding of what’s going on. Until then, I’m delighted that I just don’t care.

  19. Vextra says:

    I don’t bother playing new games anymore. I’m just content going through Sierra’s backlog, with occasional breaks for replaying CivIII.

    I recently did, however, give in to hype and order a New PC with new graphics card, top of the range, so that I can play Empire:Total War and, maybe, Spore. Its been a month since I ordered it and it still hasn’t arrived. By the time it does, if it does, it’ll probably be an obsolete piece of junk. :/

  20. Dys says:

    I’d like to add that that guy is one of the most annoying people I have ever heard speak. It’s a voice for conveying excitement without content, which is telling.

    Clearly you are not supposed to walk away from that vid with any more information than you had before watching it, but a great deal more adrenaline.

    Hardware manufacturers advertise through hyperbole, rather than ever referring to the merits of the product, precisely because 90% of their customers cannot understand the specs.

  21. Veylon says:

    The PC industry has gotten ridiculously oriented around product numbers rather than real numbers. It used to be a computer would be described something like this:
    “32Mb RAM, 300 MHZ Processor, 500MB Hard Disk, CD-ROM, 4MB Video RAM”

    Now Its more along the lines of:
    “Sentinal 3880 SpeedRAM, Intel Centennial Hyperthreading Pro Blast Processor 3000, NVidia MasterCard 8660XNL Premium Plus with Bling Mapping and Texel Flogging”

    I can see why Paradox and Stardock are increasingly filling the shelves at my local Wal-Mart and Best Buy. There’s not so much worry about having the exact super right card for them.

  22. Zaghadka says:

    That guy belongs on Home Shopping Network hawking “Official Ben Franklin Replica Stoves.” That’s if the meth doesn’t kill him first. The icing on the cake was TigerDirect. Hah! What a scam.

    They’re offloading obsolete graphics chips, BTW, and fraudulently calling them 9000 series. Nvidia is really in a stew; they need to control their third party card makers more carefully. EVGA should be sued for false advertising.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Werent the voodoo card the one that could be dualed as well?I think there were a few games that had “2 voodoo or better” on them.

    Oh,and at least the numbering of graphics cards isnt as bad(yet)as the cellphones.

  24. Martin says:

    Eh. I had 2x12MB Monster Voodoo2 SLI to play Q2 in 16-bit 1024x res glide3D.

    And I LIKED IT!

  25. The Lone Duck says:

    Look, PC market people always talk about the large user-base for PC games. I’d really like to know how much of that userbase have computers equipped with these kind of video cards.
    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Consoles. Shoot, as soon as consoles have usb keyboard and mouse support for the fps market, I imagine a ton of PC gamers would migrate

  26. Wayne D. says:

    I have been saving to build a new PC for new games. I realized that I had a huge backlog of games I started, but never beat. Now, I have been playing them and trying to finish them. By the time I am done, hopefully I will have enough money saved to buy a new PC and get Fallout 3 (the only new game I really want to play) at half-price. Until then, I will probably buy a Wii (if I can find one) and buy Spore.

  27. Fenix says:

    It’s not really all that bad. SLI has been out for a while and developers aren’t forcing us to use it. Also there are great looking fun games with (relatively)low spec requirements, ie/ penumbra (overture/black plague/requiem). If anything take a look at it, or look at games like The wonderful end of the world (AKA PC Katamari Damancy Indie style!).
    Anyway, think of one main thing about the PC that gave it power in the past. Early adoption of new tech. It got 3d while the consoles had 2d. Besides there’s only so far certain tech can go and once we reach a certain point the only way for them to survive will be figuring out a new change like what 3d was back then.
    Pessimism is another factor of PC death (which wont happen), if you don’t like how it is now (only uber rich people do) then temporarily jump ship until it gets figured out. That’s actually what I’m working on right now. Anyway that’s just my 0 cents on the matter.

  28. Danath says:

    Mass effect doesnt require as much power as you might think… shadows look funny but thats the game, not the card, my computer wasnt top of the line when I built it a year or so ago and it can still run ME with absolutly everything maxed and no slowdown anywhere (although sometimes I start getting choppy frame rates that dont go away unless I restart my computer).

    I was bewildered by the numbers and junk he was spouting off, all I could think was “I have no idea what hes talking about” through most of the video since I dont care about overclocking or whatnot.

  29. Dustin says:

    Good lord that Albert guy in the video is a tool. Is he really indicative of the mindset of PC gamers today? Is he our mascot?

    Really makes you want up jump ship, fork over $600 for a PS3 and be done with it for a few years.

  30. ngthagg says:

    Off-topic, but interesting bit of news I found while reading about politics:

    It’s a door lock that can be controlled remotely through some sort of web application. Using the application costs you $13 . . . per month.

    Presumable there’s still a way to physically use the locks, but still, all the same arguments against similar DRM systems apply. What happens if the connection is down? What happens if the company running the app goes out of business? Etc, etc.

  31. It doesn’t get any better on the low-end, either:

    nVidia just released the 9500GT, their new budget (< $100) video card. Based on the numbering, you might think it was only a slight step down from the 9600GT (currently available for ~$100), right? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Sucker! Turns out it's less than 50% as fast as the 9600GT (which in turn is somewhat slower than the older 8800GT). Amazing what a difference going from "5" to "6" can make, hunh? In fact, the 9500GT is slightly slower than the 8600GTS, which was last year's mid-range-ish videocard; it came out for ~$150 IIRC and can be found for ~$50 after rebate now - still with me? Now granted, I've seen the 9500 GT as low as $55 after rebate: half the power and half the price of the 9600GT, essentially. But with little difference from the 8600GTS in terms of price, performance, or features, what does the 9500GT accomplish, other than muddying the waters still further?

  32. DocTwisted says:

    “Shoot, as soon as consoles have usb keyboard and mouse support for the fps market, I imagine a ton of PC gamers would migrate.”


  33. bbot says:

    Shamus, you’re behind the times! The 9800 GT is a whole month old, and wasn’t even the fastest Nvidia card when it came out! When did you stop being the source for the latest hardware news?

    @Derek K: There are is no standard benchmark, because there is no standard video card. AMD and Nvidia cards are quite different in fundamental ways, which makes them difficult to directly compare. If you want a single number with which to perform comparisons, then just pick a game you (want) to play out of one of the reviews, and compare FPS.

  34. The current-generation RPG console winner is, in a massive upset, the Nintendo DS. (Put “xbox360”, “ps3”, or “wii” in the host part of the URL to jump directly to the same list, RPG games sort by highest score.)

    (And a number of those reviews are about a point low due to “preemptive niche review score penalty”.)

  35. lowlymarine says:

    Now, I admittedly follow this sort of thing much closer than most, but all of this is hardly anything new and it hasn’t killed PC gaming yet. With a few marked exceptions like Crysis, most new games run great on my modest (less than $400 almost two years ago) 640MB 8800GTS. And those games like Crysis have always existed. Half-Life was murder on computers when it first came out. While it’s admittedly unfair to expect everyone to have high-end cards, it’s also ridiculous to expect something like an Intel GMA 950 or a GeForce 6200 to be relevant years after their purchase – they were bottom-of-the-line when new!

    With the bewilderingly stupid decision to name a new G92-based card exactly the same thing as an older one excepted (the 8800GTS 512MB vs. the 640/320MB G80 versions) naming has actually gotten much better over the years, believe it or not. You don’t know the half of what it used to be like – the GeForce 4 MX400, for example, actually being a crippled GeForce 2, slower than the GeForce 3. The RADEON 9000 being vastly slower than the 8500. The 9200 not supporting DX9 while every other 9xxx series did (except the 9000, but that was only an IGP/Mobile chip, except when it wasn’t). And every card having Le, SE, GS, GT, GTS, GTX, Ultra, Pro, XT, XTX, XLS, XS, and “Standard” variants that could be wildly different (the GeForce 5700Le, for example, being slower than a 5500 “Standard”, while the 5700XT was faster than the 5900 “Standard”).

    And as for things like “DirectX 9.0c-compliant Video card with at least 128MB of Memory that supports Shader Model 3.0 (GeForce 6600/RADEON x1300 or better)” – you can thank M$ for that mess. It’s not nVidia or AMD’s faults that Microsoft’s sadly-ubiquitous API is so convoluted. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to know what model of video card they have, any more than it’s unreasonable to expect them to know how much RAM or what kind of processor they have.

    Also, in regard to Ferrous Buller’s comment about why the 8600GTS is being replaced by the 9500GT, it’s not just greed. The 8600GTS (and all G84/G86*-based cards for that matter) is defective.

    *Oh yeah, and the G86 is the 8400, while the G84 is the 8600. So I’ll give you that bit of stupidity too. Though the be fair those aren’t designation most end users are ever going to see.

  36. Illiterate says:

    Shamus, you're behind the times! The 9800 GT is a whole month old, and wasn't even the fastest Nvidia card when it came out! When did you stop being the source for the latest hardware news?

    BBot, that’s hardly fair.

    Check out this review!

  37. Kobyov says:

    Times like this I’m glad that ATI changed to a new numbering system. So at least I can understand one side of things. No more XT’s or PRO’s, just 4 numbers – first is generation, basically what kind of chip it is. Second is for the family, and the last two for the model. Basically bigger number = better. How much bigger is vaugely how much better. Theres always a few exceptions, but at least its better. Oh and unsurprisingly, if you see an X2 after the card, your getting two of them!

  38. Felblood says:

    “I don’t know what it’s called. –this thingmajigger right here, a cooling thingy.

    This guy isn’t selling a product, and he’s not explaining a product; he is selling a bag of hype.

    He doesn’t know what this thing is, but he’s been told to say “It’s AWESOME!”

    At least he’s got the sense to point out the one power plug, point. Unfortunately, it’s one of those six pin ones, most sane adults don’t have one of those on their power supply.

  39. Gaping_MAW says:

    you’re panicking for no reason. You don’t need the latest and greatest to play games on the PC these days.

    Just buy the card that fits your budget and forget about the perpetual rolling on of technology. We really aren’t going to see many ‘must buy’ titles going forward that require insane video horsepower on the PC. Just pass them by… the market is adjusting.

  40. Miral says:

    Yeah. My PC has a 7800GTX (don’t remember how much RAM, but it’s the smaller of the two options available at the time) that I bought a few years ago (when they had been marked down in price because there were fancier ones out there) and it can still run most new games at high settings.

    The odd times that I’ve experienced choppy frame rates, it’s almost always been some other problem (usually too many background processes running, or RAM leaks from not having rebooted recently enough).

    I’ve always bought graphics cards at the price point I feel like paying (which is usually somewhere in the upper-middle of the pack, but still a long way below the prices of the high-end cards), and I’ve never really had any serious problems with newer games for at least five years after purchase. And there’s your console lifetime right there :)

    Sure, the PC has more than its share of hassles with compatibility (which isn’t helped by the DRM vendors trying their very hardest to make games incompatible with normal PCs), but you have to expect that sort of thing with the near-infinite combinations of hardware, drivers, and software in play.

    PCs have the advantage of mods (which are often useful for eg. Oblivion where the original developer doesn’t seem to want to fix bugs themselves), and also are basically guaranteed to have cheat codes or trainers or something created at some point. While I don’t use them very often, it’s nice to know that they’re available if I get completely stuck in a stupidly hard bit of the game and I just want to continue with the story. Lately game designers seem to have gotten out of the habit of adding cheat codes themselves, and AFAIK there aren’t any third-party cheat-code systems for the current console generation, so if I want to be sure I won’t get stuck I pretty much have to go with the PC.

    And with game prices being stupidly high (NZ$100 on average for a new game, although PC games tend to be slightly cheaper nowadays), getting stuck is something that’s unacceptable.

  41. You detoxed from World of Warcraft too early. You can download and play for a week or two, for free — long enough to decide if your computer can run the game acceptably or not.

    Also, the software will test your computer and suggests the optimal use of resources (though you can tweak all the sliders).

  42. FlameKiller says:

    and then they put down the objects and use the now free hand and point at the consumer and say:

    Hardware develeper “You are not buying the newest hardware so you pass on good titles! Its your fault!”

    Game Publisher “since you are not buying the games you must all be pirates! Its your fault!”

    so in the end you, who has the fire hose to extinguish the fire, has to suffer as they cut the hose and make you pay for a new house and new hose.


    at least i still have my DS.

  43. Richard says:

    “We're standing in front of the burning house labeled “PC Gaming”. Hardware manufacturers are holding a can of gas, and game developers are holding a lighter, and” gamers are running inside, asking the former to hold their wallets.

    I think you blame the supply-side too much for this. I, too, would like developers to care less about the pretty lights, and focus on the other aspects of the game they’re working on.

    However, most of my friends who play games do care a lot about graphics – the more they play and thus buy, the more they do so. There would be a new trailer, and they’d watch it multiple times, merely remarking on one graphic effect or another.

    From your earlier post:
    “Yes, bling-mapping is great. It makes the player say “wow”. But then they get over it and play the game. They will notice that it is choppy, buggy, has annoying visual glitches, or requires them to muck around with driver and DirectX versions.”

    But the good graphics will have helped to made them decide to buy the game. It might very well be a prerequisite; have good graphics and your game might be bought by quite a few even if it is crap otherwise, have mediocre graphics and everyone will gloss over it, straining to catch a glimpse of your competitor’s title, you know, with the cool new bling-mapping!

    Indeed, I think utilising the newest graphics is the best way to generate interest in your trailer, to create a buzz about your game. It’s the one thing you can communicate clearly pre-release, unlike your fabulous AI or great plot, and is easily passed along the grapevine.

  44. GAZZA says:

    In all fairness, I don’t have a problem with really fast and complicated pieces of hardware merely existing. The problem comes when game developers make them mandatory – and barring any evidence that this is about to happen, I don’t think we should conclude that the sky is falling down just yet.

    Blame the developers, not the hardware manufacturers, I say.

  45. NobleBear says:

    My brain hurts.

  46. Mephane says:

    Is this card really new? I recently bought a new machine with the 9800 GTX within, which cost €190, the 9800 GT that’s presented above would cost €139. I am no expert at this field, but as far as I know, the ‘new’ cards usually cost more than a fully funtional ‘average computer’

  47. Daath says:

    I’ll have to add my personal experience to the “sky’s not falling” camp. My computer is five years old, high-end if not bleeding edge back then, and the only upgrade I’ve made is X1650 card a year back. Paid about 130 euros for it. I’m still running new games with high graphics settings here. There are some AAA resource hogs with which I undoubtedly couldn’t crank every single option to maximum, but they’d look gorgeous even without such measures, and besides I’m not really interested in the games whose sole selling point is visual bling. The only program I recall truly killing my computer was pre-patched NWN2, which had some hideous bugs in it, but that too ran just fine after they’d been fixed.

  48. Simplex says:

    Graphics card market became again very competitive – thanks to ATI you can now buy a really powerful graphics card that is guaranteed to tackle all current games for $150 (after mail in rebate) – Saphire Radeon 4850

    (I am neither ATI’s nor NewEgg’s rep ;).

    As far as dual slot cooling is concerned, I prefer it to single slot cooling, because single slot cooling usually totally sucks (read: is both loud and ineffective). Dual slot cooling usually means better, bigger fan that can provide superior cooling performenca at lower noise levels. And many mainboard manufacturers started taking it into account and design boards that have a space between PCI-E slot so that no slot is wasted when dual slot cooling is used.

  49. Winter says:

    What’s funny is that i have an 8800 GTX and i don’t think there’s a game today that i can’t reasonably play on max settings at 1920×1200 fps. Test Drive Unlimited pushed the limit in some places, but it was still acceptable. I suppose such a game exists, but i haven’t played it yet. Now they’re saying i’ll have to upgrade just to be able to play the next generation of games? Tell me why i’m not on a console again?

  50. Mr. Son says:

    “I can play Monopoly on my iPod!”

    Sadly, I have nothing solid to contribute to this discussion, and usually when this happens, I don’t even read the comments. But I happened to glance down and see the first comment, and laughed aloud. This comment, on this post, combines to make the best first comment on anything on the internet that I have ever seen. Thank you, sir.

  51. Derek K says:

    @Jeremy Bowers: I agree with your premise, but not your support.

    IGN is far from the best source for reviews for me.

    Beyond that, they have “RPG” “Action RPG” “Strategy RPG” and “Card RPG” – if you choose a different category, things look a bit different.

    Going to Metacritic, their list of games over 75 for PSP includes:

    FFT, Jeanne D’Arc, GTA: Libery City (could be, could not be, depends), D&DT, Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, Puzzle Quest (maybe maybe not), Crisis Core, Tales of Eternia, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure.

    DS includes: Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, The World Ends with You, Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, Pokemon Pearl/Diamond, FF IV, Professor Layton (maybe, maybe not), Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (maybe, maybe not), Lunar Knights, Phoenix Wright (maybe, maybe not), FF XII, FFTA2, Rune Factory, 1701 A.D. (kinda), FFIII, FFCC:RoF, DQM: Joker, Etrian Odyssey, FFF: CT.

    So yeah, DS is pretty well ahead. Plus, the DS can play all the spectacular GBA games.

    360: Oblivion, Mass Effect, Puzzle Quest (kinda), Bully, Tales of Vesperia, Eternal Sonata, Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, Culdcept Saga. Plus it can play the xbox back stock like KoTOR.

    PS3: Oblivion. (Nice).

  52. I’m not endorsing the IGN reviews, it was just conveniently sortable and filterable by “RPG”, with an easy way to compare the other platforms. And the GBA does help some; RPG games are relatively good at surviving that transition.

    Also, Disgaea (!!) is coming for the DS this month. (Disgaea 3 for the PS3 at some point here, not having a PS3 I’ve not paid attention to the release date).

  53. Inwards says:

    I’m not sure that there was ever a time when things were simple. Getting PC games to work properly often required a custom boot disk for each game, the creation of which was way beyond the ken of most PC owners. And that was necessary even if your machine met the minimum specs. Before that, things were even worse. “PC Compatibiles” often weren’t. A game that ran fine on a generic clone would often fail on a Compaq or real IBM.

    For a while, the industry tried to combat increasing complexity with the “Multimedia PC” standard which wrapped up all the various complexities into “MPC Level 1, 2 & 3”. I thought that it was a decent idea but it never seemed to catch on.

    PC Magazine tried to create meaningful benchmark tools so that you could have a single number to quantify overall performance. But then hardware manufacturers began to optimize their gear so-as to get the highest marks possible on the test, regardless of how poorly they performed in real life.

    I don’t know if this a solvable problem, but if pressed, here’s what I would recommend:

    – Microsoft needs to create a set of performance markers. They’ve already sort-of done this with their “Vista Experience” thing, although that number is fairly meaningless for gaming performance. Call the new standard “Gaming Performance Index” (GPI) or something.

    – When you run MS’s GPI-rating tool on your PC it will give you a single number result, with a breakdown of how it was calculated so that you can figure out where the bottlenecks in your system are.

    – MS can certify GPI ratings for OEM configurations, so you don’t end up with dishonest vendors creating systems that give you a high number and still perform poorly.

    – Ultimately, you’ll end up with something on the game box like: Minimum GPI – 100, recommended – 300. MS can certify this, too.

    I’m not in love with the idea of MS owning this process, but I think that they’re the only company with enough industry weight to get software houses to adopt a new standard.

  54. Inwards says:

    What's funny is that i have an 8800 GTX and i don't think there's a game today that i can't reasonably play on max settings at 1920à—1200 fps. Test Drive Unlimited pushed the limit in some places, but it was still acceptable. I suppose such a game exists, but i haven't played it yet.

    Winter, let me introduce you to Legend: Hand of God. I have two 8800 GTX’s and a PhysX processor (which the game supports), and I can barely do 20fps with everything turned on. Turning off antialiasing gets me into the 30-40 fps range, but geeze…

  55. Also, in regard to Ferrous Buller's comment about why the 8600GTS is being replaced by the 9500GT, it's not just greed.

    I wasn’t talking about greed. I was talking about having too many different products – often with similar specs & performance – confusing the average consumer, causing either decision paralysis or a sub-optimal choice.

    Ideally, you should be able to ignore brand names & model numbers and just use cost to judge a video card and choose based on your budget. A couple of problems, though:
    (A) Performance isn’t a linear function of cost. E.g., sometimes a $50 card is half the speed of a $100 card, but sometimes it’s only 1/3 or 1/4 as fast. Meanwhile, at the high end, a $400 card usually isn’t twice as fast as a $200 card: you hit a point of diminishing returns.
    (B) Cards at the same price point can have differing levels of performance – which can even vary by game. E.g., the HD 3870, 8800GT, and 9600GT are about the same price now; but the 8800GT is ~10% faster than the 9600GT, while the HD 3870 has some significant performance weaknesses, lagging far behind in certain benchmarks.
    (C) Some cards may lack features that similar products have, which can hamstring them at some point. E.g., the ATI X800 series lacked Shader Model 3 (SM3) support, so it can’t run games which require SM3, like Bioshock; the GeForce 6 series, which came out at the same time, did support SM3.

    The point is that a PC gamer who doesn’t do his homework before buying a video card runs the risk of getting stuck with a suboptimal choice, if not an outright lemon. And that’s before you factor in issues like power requirements, interface (do I have PCIe x16 or AGP?), driver issues, HW compatibility, physical size (will it even fit in my case?), etc.

  56. Blackbird71 says:

    Shamus, I have a degree in engineering (electronic), and I still don’t understand it. So what does that say for our future?

  57. lowlymarine says:

    Ah, but Ferrous you make a point I think is very, very important to this discussion, likely without meaning to:

    “The point is that a PC gamer who doesn't do his homework before buying a video card runs the risk of getting stuck with a suboptimal choice, if not an outright lemon.”

    Well…duh. The same is true of a car, or a boat, or a vacuum cleaner. You wouldn’t just walk onto a random car lot and say to the salesman, “I want a new car,” and take whatever the first thing he handed to you is without asking any questions or doing any research ahead of time – you’d get ripped off and handed a lemon. Why should anyone expect to be able to do so with a computer without the same consequences?

    All of the problems you list with naming, diminishing returns, and feature discrepancies are present in every other industry as well. A $200,000 Ferrari is not twenty times as fast as a $10,000 Kia, nor twenty times as comfortable or twenty times as well built. And it’s certainly not twenty times as fuel-efficient. In fact it’s just plain not worth twenty times as much.

    As for feature differences: the Ford Focus and the Toyota Prius came out at around the same time, but that doesn’t mean you should expect the Focus to be a hybrid.

    Performance discrepancies, even at the same price, again, are far from unique to the computer industry. One car may out-accelerate another at the same price but have a lower top speed. One toaster may toast bread faster than another but the other may cook Pop-Tarts faster. It’s all about what you need it for, and doing research. There’s nothing wrong with spending an hour or so doing research before shelling out $200. You hour is not worth $200.

    Or perhaps it is, in which case I would go with “buy the most expensive everything” approach because you clearly rival Bill Gates for the amount of dosh you’re rolling in.

  58. Shamus says:

    lowlymarine: The point isn’t that you shouldn’t do your homework – the point is that it shouldn’t be so hard.

    If I go to buy a car, I can buy a “Mustang” or a “Metro”. I don’t need to go in knowing what ENGINE I want, and then asking the salesman if any of his cars have one of those engines. There are brand names and price tiers.

    The graphics market is a mess of serial numbers and technical jargon.

  59. Blackbird71 says:

    @Heph (15)

    “Far more impossible to understand are processors. Last time I bought a pc I managed to pick the components myself. 3.2 GHz. Ok, that's better than the 3.0GHz. Fair enough. Nowadays, I wouldn't have a clue as to what processor chip set performs better. They're all two- or four-core, but at…lower speeds than before? But they're faster because they have someting here, and a bit added there, and superspecial ADSFGT? Err, thanks, I think”

    This one actually isn’t that complicated. The two and four core processors are essentially two or four processors packaged together onto one chip. So yes, the individual processors typically have a slower speed than an old single core, but they are “faster” because they’re dividing the workload between multiple processors. Look at it this way: what can type more letters faster, one secretary who types at 60wpm, or two at 40wpm?

  60. Zerotime says:

    Blackbird71: They’re also more efficient in terms of operations performed/clock cycles, so even a single core of a modern processor is going to be able to beat an older processor of the same speed. As to what this would equate to in terms of typing secretaries, I have no idea.

  61. Scourge says:

    Very simple, two younger secretaries can outtype (Nice word?) an older one?

  62. Simplex says:

    While tomshardware is not the most reliable source out there, they have a quite good series of articles “The Best Graphics Cards for the Money: [insert month and year here]”.

    They basically divide the graphics market into price segments (e.g. $0-130, $150-300, etc) and then present best cards for the money in each category – usually one ATI and one nVidia card. This way even a person that lost track of all those confusing models can easily get their bearings.

    The latest one is for September:,2011.html

    I try to read every edition to stay up to date on what is worh buying and what not.

    (EDIT: I see tomshardware made a mistake – they stated that GeForce GTX 260/280 supports DirectX 10.1, while is supports 10.0 – it only proves info from such sites should never be taken for granted :) )

  63. Krat02 says:

    You can jump into the craziness, or just go back playing classic games.

    I read about in anandtech’s blog. I think it should be interesting enough for you. That site sells classic games without any DRM.

    No, I have no affiliation whatsoever with them.

  64. Simplex says:

    Interestingly, 2 or 3 days ago I sent Shamus an email informing him about Good Old Games, I don’t know if he got it, because I got no reply (human, or automated).

    BTW> krat your link is incorrect, the correct is – yours is “”

    and the link to anandtech blog you mentioned:

  65. Shamus says:

    Yep. Thanks Simplex. (And a couple of other people who sent it along.) I know: I’m behind on my email. Gog actually gets a mention in today’s post.

  66. Krat02 says:

    Sorry, didn’t realize that, thanks for correcting.

  67. Simplex says:

    No problem, I’m just a lurker here, for the most time. I also do not blame Shamus for not replying to my email, I can imagine how many mails he gets every day.

    The only thing I would REALLY like is that my home ip adress ( gets whitelisted by Shamus internet host because now it is blocked along with all Polish IP class and I can only read the blog at work. At home I can use hidemyass service to fool the restriction, bit it either works painfully slow, or does not work at all.
    I would really love to be able to read Twenty Sided at home, without having to migrate to another country :)

  68. All of the problems you list with naming, diminishing returns, and feature discrepancies are present in every other industry as well.

    Yeah, well, I’m saving my rants about those industries for another day…just because buying a lot of things is complicated doesn’t mean I like it! Still, there are a couple of factors which make the PC gaming industry unique:

    A) Rapid technological progress coupled with rapid obsolescence: the Radeon 9800 Pro I bought a few years ago offers a tiny fraction of the performance of the HD 4870 I bought a month ago. In 1989, I splurged on a massive 80MB hard drive; today, you can buy a 1TB HDD which hold 12,500 times more data for about the same price. By comparison, I am reasonably willing to bet that even the most expensive sports cars out there are not 20 times faster than my 10-year-old Jetta (unless they went Mach 2 when I wasn’t looking); or that today’s mini-vans employ Bag of Holding technology to exponentially increase their storage capacity over their `60s predecessors.

    B) Frequent shifts in standards which are often incompatible with one another (related to A): on the HW interface side, in my lifetime we’ve had ISA, EISA, VL Bus, PCI, AGP (which came in multiple speeds), and PCIe. CPU sockets: off the top of my head, in the last few years we’ve had Socket A, S754, S939, S940, AM2, AM2+, LGA 775, LGA 478, and the forthcoming LGA 1336. RAM: DDR3, DDR2, DDR, RAMBUS, SDR. Do I even need to mention OSs? By contrast, to the best of my knowledge, my toaster is compatible with all known versions of bread; and I don’t have to worry about gas stations with signs that say, “WARNING: Selling Gasoline v.3.3 ONLY!”

  69. Ben says:

    I completely agree with you in principle, but I do have two complaints:

    1) You often bring up minimum system requirements being outright lies, then complain about the cost of high-end equipment. You’re glossing over the entire midrange graphics segment, which has all the features of the high-end cards with a bit less speed. The game will run correctly because the features are there, even if the resolution and detail will have to be turned down a notch or two. Now, this doesn’t really solve the constant upgrade issue, but if you throw $100-150 into a graphics card every few years, you’ll have all the features and still be money ahead from a console. If you avoid first-person shooters – and I do, like the plague – then this seems to be pretty much the only sane option.

    2) Dual-slot cards are fantastic. You have to remember that even a midrange video card is the biggest producer of waste heat in the average computer. Not only does the larger assembly allow the use of a bigger, slower-moving fan (i.e., less noise), but the cooler exhausts all this waste heat outside the case, allowing your other components to run at a much more comfortable temperature (or to look at it another way, less noise; there’s less airflow required to keep the components at a safe temperature). If you don’t care about noise, then none of this is really an issue, but since my computer is used for a lot more than gaming, loud computers frequently irritate me.

    Again, I truly agree with your assessment of the gaming industry, I just saw two little issues I needed to pick at.

  70. Simplex says:

    I actually wrote about advantages on dual cooling in this thread, you elaborated on it and I almost whole-heartily agree.

    “the cooler exhausts all this waste heat outside the case, allowing your other components to run at a much more comfortable temperature”

    It is true, that virtually all cooling solutions that do exhaust heart outside the case, this does not work the other way round – i.e. not every dual slot fan does that.
    You can be pretty sure that if a fan exhausts heat outside, it will be dual slot, but if a fan is dual slot, you can’t be sure it will exhausts heat outside.

    If this was a bit too anal, then forgive me :)

  71. Rodrigo says:

    this is a bit old but i was reading the other article you had, the one about the golden age of gaming, where you were talking about the DOS issues and such, adn i was thinking, in a way, we’re getting into that again. hardware is simply getting so complex that we need to fight to figure out exactly what sort of beast we need to run all sorts of games. the difference is the dark age before was software, now its hardware…

    ive got the GTX 260 i dont know what the gtx stands for, why its so freakishly massive or why it needs 36, read it 36 amps on the 12V rail to run.
    now i need to buy a power supply that allows me to have that 36A just so i can play my games without the computer shutting down. and SPU’s, i cant even find their specs right! AUGH

  72. Amazon warrior says:

    Please can someone hide/destroy that man’s stash of Red Bull? No, seriously. I don’t think he paused for breath once during the 5+ minutes of the clip, and I could barely understand a word of his gabble. Fortunately, I get the impression I didn’t miss much.

    I’m somewhat embroiled in the hardware nonsense at the moment because I’m thinking of building a new pc and am in the research/saving up phase. I’ve pretty much settled on a ATI graphics card because NVIDIA’s random naming scheme confuses me and has caused me problems in the past. This time, forewarned is forearmed.

    Random thought: Did anyone else ever have a Rage Fury Maxx? You know, the one with two GPUs? I did, bought it off a friend at school way back in the day (must have been circa 1998). It had the potential to be a good card, except that almost all my other hardware took one look and said “No way, Jose!”. I’ve still got it kicking around somewhere tho; I love old hardware – it looks so… quaint!

  73. Rayen says:

    sorry i know this is a year old and just an annoyance, but did he just day i’m fimiliar with these numbers? I have no idea what those numbers mean… I consider myself computer savy, I can fix most of my own comp problems When he said all those numbers my response was a “WHAT?!” no i don’t know what this means…

    I hate graphics cards… they have barred my PC gaming throughout the early 2000s because my dad was too cheap to buy new ones and it bars me still becasue i barely have enough money for games, much less CPU upgrades. I bought this computer with my tax refund so i had a bit of money to throw around, i poured most of it into a powerful graphics card. I also bought a brand new PC game to go with it. you can guess what happened right? it could barely run the damn thing, it was choppy and mismatched, i’d hear random sounds and realize it was a bit of the scenery that hadn’t moved in the cutscene yet and this is on a brand new gaming computer into which easily 40% of the total cost was on a graphics card .

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