Sunday, March 28, 2010

GameLog 139 & 140

Grepolis (55h) - Had this little timesink under control until I joined a decent alliance, then it REALLY got out of hand. War has been declared with Nightmares of Elysium, a group of veterans toward the core of the ocean. I'm still way out in front out on my region, but the war might come out this way soon.

Gyromancer (10h) - Picked up the pace a little in the 2nd section, but it's given way to Grepolis now.

Final Fantasy XIII (8h) - Picked this up for the PS3 to host a different sort of LAN. Worked pretty well sitting around trashing the plot and making Sam run Vanelle around. Playing through with Cameron too.

Trackmania (4h) - StLukes CCG & some "race car" time.

Football Manager 2010 (2h) - T.Bowes - FM 2010. Smallest contribution to the game yet with over 300 hours logged in total. Still midtable with 1/2 the season gone. There's a bug in the way you copy out text from the game, so the blog is going to suffer from it. Maybe 3-4 posts a season.

Torchlight (1h) - Little dabble when looking for something to play. Trine would have been better, but it's completed now.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

GameLog 137 & 138

Football Manager 2010 (30h) - T.Bowes - FM 2010. Big move up to the pros. Landed some great loans for the season, but not too many new recruits coming in. The team barely resembles the one on the field last year though. Almost 1/2 way through the season and sitting in ~17th. Can't update the

Gyromancer (12h) - Another special on Steam. Plays similarlty to PuzzleQuest, but seems less involved. In Puzzle Pirates, every colour is useful for something, or has varying degrees of usefulness. in Gyromancer there's only 1 or 2 out of the 6 colours that are actually noteworthy, with the rest more or less making up the numbers. It's pretty easy to manipulate the board to match out all the good colours, but since it's only a random replacement you seem to always just end up with a board full of other colours. The bejewelled twist motion is also not as intuitive as PuzzleQuest's straight swap mechanism akin to the original bejewelled, the storyline seems less appealing, and the monster selection less bound to the game. At least the game map for each 'scenario' offers a little more depth of play if you're at the same level, but it's also too easy to just level up and blow through the maps ala Pokemon.

Grepolis (7h) - Web game similar to Travian / Evony. One nicety is that you're more or less placed on an island with others starting at the same time you did. That way it always feels like a limited competition inside a larger context of the game. Another interesting point is that the farms that are 'harvested' by your soldiers share their 'production' with everyone. The more everyone harvests, the less they produce, but you can also build them up instead of harvesting for the benifit of everyone. Unfortunately there only seems to be 2 active people on my island, so there doesn't seem to be much tension developing.

UniWar (5h) - ~$1 purchase for the 'best of 2009' strategy. AI plays pretty well expert.

Trackmania (3h) - StLukes CCG started up again.

Supreme Commander demo (2h) - Got this one in before my GTX260 died.

Company of Heroes (1h) - Plays better with the new motherboard & CPU, but crashes on completion of the map :/

Sudoku (1h) - Daily puzzles.

Pocket God (1h) - Another pick from the 'Best of 2009'. Couldn't really get into it, I was expecting more gameplay.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Mobo, CPU and Memory

Been having a few slowdowns in ~30 second intervals across multiple OS's that I couldn't track down, so I thought it'd be time for an upgrade. The 4600+ AMD CPU is more than 4 years old now, so it's served its time well. The initial Asus M2N32 Deluxe motherboard only lasted 2 years, and the 8800GTS that the system was built on survived 3. Since then the motherboard had been downgraded to a stock M2N32 without SLI, and a new GTX260 just over 1 year ago took the box to its current state. I had hoped I could keep the GTX260, but that died in sympathy for the rest of the exiting components.

Initially I wanted to focus more on virtualized hardware acceleration, but I couldn't find any solid evidence of VT-d or IOMMU in use for playing games on VMs. Hopefully it'll be available by the next upgrade. That left me with getting a good bang-for-buck system and the Whirpool crowd seemed to have a good, solid build for gaming rigs. They advocated a Gigabyte MA785GT-UD3H motherboard with the AMD Phenom II X4 955BE CPU. Hopefully enough for another 4 years?

Poking around I found that Gigabyte have a board that supports both USB3 and SATAIII. These will be essential in a couple of years time, so it's probably worth the gamble of getting a mobo with these features and no direct need at the moment. The Phenom seems solid enough, and I'm happy getting guaranteed quadcore for the virtualization.

So the build:
Gigabyte GA-770TA-UD3 motherboard
AMD Phenom II AM3 955 Black Edition (3.2Ghz) 64-Bit Quad-Core CPU
Cooler Master Hyper TX3 CPU Fan
G.Skill 4G(2x2G) DDR3 1600Mhz Memory

Any 1600Mhz memory would do as I'd rather have the headroom for mild air overclocking in the future. The TX3 is also to follow that path as well as a reaction to negative comments about the stock cooler. Personally I wouldn't pay more than $30 for cooling as you may as well spend that money getting a better chip in the first place. It does get pretty hot here sometimes though, so the TX3 is also an insurance for solid performance.

GA-770TA only has 1 PCIe x16 port, but I'd rather get a single card 1-2 steps off the top ala the 8800GTS and GTX260 when they first came out. It also had only 4 memory slots. I initially wanted 8Gb of RAM like my work box, but 2x2Gb will be fine until the 4Gb modules drop in price (1 year?).

Downgrade to 9600GT

My first Friday to work on the PhD turned into a disaster as my PC wouldn't come out of hibernation, then wouldn't get past POST, then (after a bit of jiggling) wouldn't even display anything. I left it in frustration to bide my time playing UniWar on the iPhone.

Today I took it into work to have a look at all the components. 3 beeps with stripped down motherboard, no beeps and a clean boot with memory installed. Nothing once I plugged in the GTX260. As I had feared, the 260 has given up. I've just ordered a new motherboard, CPU and memory, but wanted to keep the GTX260 for at least another year.

So what to do? Pick up a 5850 for ~$400 and try to get it delivered on the same order? Pick up a cheap card locally and wait for some new tech to drop?

The difference from the 260 to a 5850 wouldn't have been significant, and it would mean dropping another $400 only a year after the 260. nVidia are lining up with an announcement lter this month, so potentially there's a new line on the way.

Luckily at the moment I don't need anything special in graphics. Footy Manager could easily go another 200 hours and take me to July, and there's HEAPS of backlog games I could get through, but I don't like being constrained in my choice of what to play. Last night I turned on the PS3 to see ifthere's anything of interest on there while my box was dead, and even though there lots I have been meaning to play, none suited my mood.

In the end I trekked around to Bundy Super Computers Astrabyte and walked away with a 9600GT for $50 to get me at least working over the weekend and hopefully for a month or so.

2nd time a component has failed after I've ordered another. I smell a conspiracy!