Computer Myths

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As I’ve been following Shamus’ posts lately on piracy in computer games, I was linked to this post by Brad Wardell of Stardock talking about piracy and the games industry in general. Since Stardock is primarily a vendor of software other than games, Brad talks about how he’s learned from experiences there to target the largest possible userbase and ignore the plethora of pirates. He then goes on to relate this to the games Stardock has been involved in developing recently and how little attention they’ve received in the game news media.

Reading this, I can’t help but think of my experiences with Galactic Civilizations 2. I bought GalCiv2, played it intensely for the first weekend, played a bit through the first week, and by the time the second weekend rolled around I’d pretty much stopped playing the game (granted, I did get involved on the forums agitating for game update patches). I liked GalCiv2 well enough, but the reason my interest in the game was so short lived is that it was, as Brad Wardell says, targeted for a broad consumer base. The strategy involved in the game was too simple (Obvious example: Attackers attack first, therefore if you build a fleet of ships with all weapons and no defensive capability, you’ll win as long as you’ve got enough firepower to annihilate the enemy in the first turn) to scratch the itch of someone like myself who desired a true sequel to Master of Orion 2.

Anyway, while Brad’s thoughts were interesting in and of themselves, what I actually wanted to write about is in the comments. For starters,

Speaking as a person with a relatively new $15K rig on my right side and an older (3 years) $10K rig on my left, I think I easily qualify as the definitive hardcore gamer and I must say I have not felt like games have been targeting me. This is of course for a number of reasons. The first and foremost is that I have one utterly frustrating time getting all the stuff to work as a system without anything going other then the OS and drivers. Then getting support for the hardware and OS is a major bitch to say the least.

A $15,000 computer? Lets assume for a moment that this isn’t a mistake or a lie. How exactly do you make a computer that expensive?

I paid a visit to the Alienware website to see what the most expensive machine I could possibly build would be. The specs:

Acoustic Dampening Case
1000 Watt PSU
Triple SLI 768MB 8800 GT
Intel C2E 3.0 GHz (w/ OCed FSB)
4GB 800MHz RAM
nForce 680i Motherboard
Vista Ultimate
2 64GB SATA Solid State Drives
2 1TB 7200rpm HDs
4x Dual Layer Blu Ray Drive
30″ Monitor and a 20″ Monitor
Surround Speaker System

So what does this run us? Just barely squeaking in over $11,000. Granted, that’s an obscene amount of money to be paying for a computer and you’re already paying a hefty premium for every piece and the dubious honor of owning an Alienware computer, but even that doesn’t hit $15k. What exactly could one add on that would add another four thousand dollars to the pricetag? A couple more monitors, a gold-plated case?

Aside from being completely preposterous and more likely than not totally untrue, what I find objectionable about this is that it reinforces the false notion that computer gaming requires these huge expenses. Follow the conversation spurred by Brad’s post and you’ll see several people who take for granted that running modern games requires a multi-thousand dollar computer. No game on the market today requires that. Crysis is the single game that might not be able to be run at highest settings with a thousand dollar computer, and even that is questionable.

As much as I may be, at times, the kind of person who complains about excessive pursuit of graphics in games (when in lieu of things like story and gameplay), it’s time to stop complaining about hardware costs. It’s just not valid to claim you need a $3000 computer to run the latest PC games, or a $400 graphics card that you upgrade every six months. These assumptions have become so mythical that they’re taken for granted. It’s time to put a stop to that. Today’s Triple-A computer games are probably the least demanding of high end computer hardware of any that I can remember. Maybe if there weren’t so much misinformation flying about people would be able to make more informed purchasing decisions.

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