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Skeletor68
12-06-2011, 02:21 PM
Hello RPS, This is a thread about my return to PC gaming after abandoning the old family desktop many moons ago in favour of a console *ducks head, darts eyes around*. You may or may not find it interesting.

Some background:
Due to my employers making me work every hour known to man for a six month period (if someone can find an extra dimension I can slip into to grab a few more a day please let me know) an olive branch was extended to ensure that the over 350 hours of unpaid overtime didn't make me commit hara-kiri. It was a particularly weighty olive branch in the form of an M17x Alienware laptop.

My previous laptop had died a few years back from a combination of an MA thesis, Dreamweaver and InDesign grind so the prospective arrival of this laptop was making me exceptionally giddy. I also flet that if I was going to get a new laptop I would be better off buying something with high specs to make sure I got some longevity from the machine. The most important issue of all though, was making sure that whatever I bought would be capable of playing Diablo III when it came out. My name is Skeletor68 and I am a lootwhore.

So with this in mind I went to the IT guys in the company thinking they would know some self-build crowd who would customise a machine capable of computing the Matrix but with no brand name or over the top cost. I was delighted when they settled on an Alienware, but was wary about a big name laptop, but then I realised that they were paying and stopped caring. It has an i7 quadcore CPU, 8Gb of Ram and a 1GB Ati video card. After that I wasn't really au fait with specs these days and they were all big numbers so I was quite happy. Now at this point I bet you're wondering why didn't he get a desktop? Well to be honest, it's a small apartment and would be easily moved if I moved too. Really that's it.

I had left PC gaming with some fond memories of cliff racers, cracked sashes, 'Monster Kill!'s and mind worms but wondered about the current state of affairs. Many gaming publications were quick to jump on the 'PC is dead' bandwagon despite the fact that the Korean PC market could successfully invade a small country with their ludicrous numbers and finely honed Starcraft strategies.

I had stumbled upon RPS after reading Jim Rossignol's excellent This Gaming Life. I have to say the comments section here, and a particular segment on infinite dragons chasing you to your desktop, completely sold me on the site (ass-kissing complete).

So while waiting for my laptop to be built (that sounds so exciting), like the old-fashioned fool that I was, I ordered a copy of the Alpha Centauri Complete Edition and the Witcher 1 Platinum edition from Amazon to make sure I had some toys to play with on arrival. I was completely out of touch with the idea of anything besides a physical copy of the game. This was a combination of my time in console land and weak Irish internet connections. This new fangled 'Steam' thingy was all a bit scary...

Next entry: the arrival of the laptop, the beauty of GOG and 'what do you mean I have to make this work myself!'.

Mohorovicic
12-06-2011, 03:02 PM
Many gaming publications were quick to jump on the 'PC is dead' bandwagon despite the fact that the Korean PC market could successfully invade a small country with their ludicrous numbers and finely honed Starcraft strategies.

It's reassuring to know that PC gaming will be alright as long as some people we've never met keep playing a thirteen year old game.


So while waiting for my laptop to be built

You want to game on a laptop?

Lightbulb
12-06-2011, 03:13 PM
Well the only real downside of a gaming laptop is the price and if someone else is paying why not?

Plug it into the TV, get a keyboard and mouse and you've got a desktop.

What you really need to do is keep it as cool as possible to prolong its life.

Other than that: Welcome home! You've missed out on a lot of great games. :)

Mohorovicic
12-06-2011, 03:18 PM
Well the only real downside of a gaming laptop is the price and if someone else is paying why not?

Plug it into the TV, get a keyboard and mouse and you've got a desktop.

Indeed, how could I have missed such a simple, easy and cheap solution is beyond me.

vinraith
12-06-2011, 03:22 PM
You want to game on a laptop?

What a strange thing to jump on, I think you'll find that a lot of people do that these days. With system requirements no longer spiking out of control due to the influence of consoles, it's not as though one needs a desktop to play most new games, to say nothing of the vast ocean of older ones that run on even antiquated laptop hardware.

I have a desktop and a laptop, but 80-90% of what I play runs on the laptop just fine when I need it to.

Skeletor68
12-06-2011, 03:23 PM
It's reassuring to know that PC gaming will be alright as long as some people we've never met keep playing a thirteen year old game.

You want to game on a laptop?

I went with a laptop for the practical reason that we don't have a huge amount of room in the apartment, and that it will be easy to take home on weekends etc. Also I was speaking about the Korean baang culture in general, not just Starcraft. I think I made it pretty clear that I'm no expert on PC gaming so you'll have to cut me some slack :)

Skeletor68
12-06-2011, 03:27 PM
Well the only real downside of a gaming laptop is the price and if someone else is paying why not?

Plug it into the TV, get a keyboard and mouse and you've got a desktop.

What you really need to do is keep it as cool as possible to prolong its life.

Other than that: Welcome home! You've missed out on a lot of great games. :)

Thanks for the tips! That's actually a nice idea about hooking up to the tv. I'll check it out!

Also, on keeping the laptop cool, is there anything in particular I need to do? I'm obviously not going to start overclocking anything as I don't have the expertise. Probably an awful noob thing to ask but will the fan not do enough?

Mohorovicic
12-06-2011, 03:39 PM
What a strange thing to jump on, I think you'll find that a lot of people do that these days.

What a strange counter-argument to make. A "gaming laptop" is both a poor gaming hardware - because of higher price, heat issues and complete lack of ergonomics - as well as a poor laptop, because of short battery life and increased weight.

pakoito
12-06-2011, 03:51 PM
Buying a laptop for gaming is reducing its life to two or three years tops. No mater how well you treat it overheating is still going to be a problem, and screen problems to follow as they're not built to last.

Unless you buy a 5000 laptop, of course.

Skeletor68
12-06-2011, 04:06 PM
Ok guys, slightly worried about everyone's talk of longevity. What do I need to do to try to maximise this? A laptop cooler of some sort?

Mohorovicic
12-06-2011, 04:09 PM
Don't worry, in three years a next generation of consoles will roll out so you'll need an upgrade anyway :)

measurements
12-06-2011, 04:48 PM
A lukewarm reception at best! Welcome to gaming, again. Laptops aren't terrible and they can do the job and alienware (probably) know what they are doing. The suggestion I would make is that you always use your laptop plugged in and propped up. You want a decent airflow at all times. No sitting in bed with all the vents covered in beefy quilts (I like my meat-furniture). I believe you can buy big stupid floor seats with extra fans in for laptops but have no idea if there is any worth in doing so. Another thing laptops tend to do is butcher the graphics drivers so you can't just get the latest ones but have to get some sort of laptop version. Look around on the internet if you run into that problem as someone will have hacked it so you can run standard non-mobile drivers on your laptop. That problem might have stopped existing several years ago.

Oh and get some decent headphones or speakers. Laptop speakers are criminally shite.

Now as for games. Well how long ago was it that you stopped? Half Life? I think that's where I'd start. After that it's kind of a question of what you are into. If you like your loot, perhaps any mixture of Torchlight, Borderlands, Oblivion, Fallout3, Maybe Dragons Age: Origins (although with the caveat that it's quite terrible). How about Real Time Strategy? Dawn of War 2 is a pretty fun bit of future shoot, espousing the base building standard for hot squad based fightyness. It's got pretty animations and Orks.

And now just to randomly pick some titles from my hard drive:
Batman: Arkham Asylum is fucking perfect.
Assassins Creed 2 & Bruvs is fun. Shoulda been called Renaissance Jerk: The stabbing.
Just Cause 2. It's like a sandbox game where you get creative with explosions.
Super Meat Boy. Even better than hooking your laptop to a TV, get a controller and play SMB. It's like a console toy!
Mirror's Edge is loved by many. It's certainly lamentable that there's no planned second outing.
Got no MMO recommendations. I would recommend World of Warcraft but... the game it was a few years back. It's history.

But more importantly than all that, Thief 2. Just get that, everything else pales in comparison. And it can be fixed to run nice and pretty on todays computers.

Skeletor68
12-06-2011, 04:52 PM
Thank you measurements! I've been making sure to use it on a hard surface with clearance for the fans etc. but may look into a usb cooler to keep it happy. The laptop is raised so that there is good clearance space underneath.

Is Mohorovicic always this mean? (He must be the brother who has been properly PC gaming all this time and is angry with his halfwit brother returning from the land of consoles) :P

Ignorant Texan
12-06-2011, 05:05 PM
Skeletor68(is your avatar a pic of Glen Danzig? ;)),I came across this article on the merits of laptop coolers...

http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/20/cooling-your-laptop-or-your-lap/

Welcome back to PC gaming. There are some good selections listed in this thread, GoG is fantastic, and this site and forums are a great resource.

BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL....

BwenGun
12-06-2011, 05:08 PM
On the heat issue, if you want you can easily buy a cooling pad/tray to help keep it cool. Although to be honest a few years back when I did most of my gaming on a laptop I actually managed to get away with just putting it up on a pair of empty VHS boxes so that the underside of the laptop was always open to the air.

Also if you plan on trying out any FPS's I'd suggest buying a USB mouse and keyboard, because whilst it is possible to play games with a laptop trackpad it isn't easy.

As to games I must concur with most of what Measurements said (with the exception that Dragon Age Origin is rather fantastic), although a lot of it will depend upon what kind of games you are interested in.

Mohorovicic
12-06-2011, 05:26 PM
Is Mohorovicic always this mean? (He must be the brother who has been properly PC gaming all this time and is angry with his halfwit brother returning from the land of consoles) :P

Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a LAN party, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with consoles, you gave him a laptop.

Skeletor68
12-06-2011, 05:55 PM
Entry No.2

The fateful day arrived and on arrival of the machine I was impressed with the amount of effort the Alienware guys put into presentation. In hindsight most of it is quite gimmicky but it still made it feel like the arrival of something special. A gigantic alienware box housed the laptop itself in a cloth cover and included a leather bound (or something like it) user manual and an alienware cap and mouse mat. Now, I'm not 12 and I'm Irish. This means i have very little practical use for a cap due to the grey skies and lack of fashion. Also, I loved the X-files as much as anyone else but having an alien head logo on a plain black cap coupled with my beard and bloodshot eyes from work could attract the wrong audience.

On the laptop itself: by Zeus it is heavy! On booting it up I can only conclude that it is mostly bulked up with LED lighting as it transforms into an especially expensive christmas tree. Each section of the lighting is customisable so while going for a particulary Barney-esque pimp purple and lime green was funny for a few minutes, I reverted to a cool blue and tasty red combo.

So, on getting it home the main event was about to begin. I produced my Alpha Centauri CD-Rom and inserted it with glee, ready to return to a heavily pixellated war on religious fundamentalists and communist despots. The CD autoruns and I click install and then... nothing. I try this five more times. Flashbacks of random windows crashes, dodgy demo CDs and CCTV style framerates come flooding back.

Windows 7. I cannot install it because of Windows 7. Ok... to the internet! One hour later after trying to run things as an administrator, and using a compatibility thingy to try to run in a Windows XP service pack, an msconfig.exe run to diagnostic mode lets me install, hurrah! Victory is mine! I know this is a bit obvious but as a console player for a few years you do forget that sometimes you need to make things work yourself. It's a little like taking the stabilisers off the bike but as I found out shortly afterwards it can be hugely rewarding.

I grew up PC gaming on titles such as Duke 3D, Quake, Unreal Tournament GOTY, Dungeon Keeper I and II, Deus Ex, Half Life, Diablo II, Sanitarium and Morrowind. In a way it was no surprise that I was just as excited to catch up on the back catalogue as I was with new releases. It was with nostalgic glee I took a look at the GOG website then and noticed (what I remember as) Conflict: Freespace. I had only ever played the demo, but my God how I had played it! I wore that demo down to the bone, and while never particularly good at it (and having never played number 2) decided that I would love to get stuck in again.

Of course at this point I heard about the FSPort and huge amount of modding that has gone on with the game since. Once downloaded from GOG (a novelty all in itself, no CDs needed!) I went hunting for mods and found a vast resource of material at hardlight.net. Now being a noobie (again) I was pretty wary about getting this to work. I believed Modding was for hardcore programmers and generally better people so my expectations were low. I would like to thank the Freespace modding community at this point for making this amazingly accessible and rewarding content. It worked straight off. First time. There is a really cool pleasure in returning to a game like this. I imagine all these modders out there with a halo around their heads, busily typing away, sustaining themselves on nothing but goodwill and mediavp files. It is a community that is completely alien to me, especially how in some mind-boggling fashion they manage to use their free time on a labour of love like this, while I, like some lazy vulture, swoop in and make off with the tasty upgrades.

I had mentioned in my pre-forum shift thread that I was looking for a good space sim. Something like Freelancer but not as scary as EVE (seriously, I've only read about the thing and I'm frightened). I was dismayed to hear that really there isn't all that much out there but was encouraged to return to Freespace. It has been an awful lot of fun so far, even if I'm not particularly good so thanks to the modders and GOG for enabling this!

While I was happy with this new game, I was really curious about The Witcher. I had ordered the physical copy off amazon but due to some delay it wasn't going to deliver for another month. I have a two week holiday coming up that will be a gap from work (I'm in the office right now dammit!) so wanted it for then. This is where the paradigm shift really hit home. It was available to download on GOG for $9.99. Seriously. So one amazon cancellation and a few clicks on GOG later I'm laughing. But then I see the 8GB download. Wow. I suddenly started worrying about my hard drive. I hadn't been one to download much on console either so the size of these things really wasn't something I was familiar with. Ok I have a 250 GB hard drive so all is well, for now. Suddenly having the physical copies looked useful in another sense so that uninstalling for use again at a later date wasn't a bad internet connection and 16 hours away! Anwyays, I leave the laptop downloading while I'm at work and all is well.

Entry No. 3 to come in the next few days if I'm not boring the hell out of everyone, featuring funny voice acting, loud fans and realising why I'm still playing Nethack on a machine that has 4 CPUs stuck together.

mashakos
12-06-2011, 07:10 PM
That's the thing about gaming through downolad services like Steam and others: disk space.

Right now my Steam folder is over 400GB's in size. My 1TB drive is full to the brim, and am searching for a 2TB drive with decent speeds.

The up side is that (for Steam at least) once you install the game, the install folder can be copied anywhere where there is a Steam client and the games will work immediately. That icnludes all your save games, key configuration, video settings, mods, tweaks etc.
That's a permanent reusable backup for ALL your games which takes minutes to set up on a new system vs. hours or days of manual reinstalls, savegame restores, reconfiguration etc.

I would recommend you get a 2TB eSATA external hard drive for your laptop, and create junctions to it from your Steam folder.

Quality eSATA drives run at the same speed as an internal SATA hard drive and are extremely solid. Junctioning will allow you to keep your most frequently played games on your laptop while the rest of your game library resides in your gigantic external drive. Win win!

Mohorovicic
12-06-2011, 07:14 PM
That's the thing about gaming through downolad services like Steam and others: disk space.

So let me get this straight: because you have all your games available for download at all times, you should keep them all on your hard drive?

vinraith
12-06-2011, 07:32 PM
The up side is that (for Steam at least) once you install the game, the install folder can be copied anywhere where there is a Steam client and the games will work immediately. That icnludes all your save games, key configuration, video settings, mods, tweaks etc.
That's a permanent reusable backup for ALL your games which takes minutes to set up on a new system vs. hours or days of manual reinstalls, savegame restores, reconfiguration etc.

This bears some elaboration, as I think it's (unintentionally) misleading. First, the "copy the folder" trick works for most non-Steamworks games that one has on Steam. It does not work for Steamworks games and Valve games, moving those this way will require you to reconnect to Steam on the new system and verify the game cache to recover the necessary missing files to get the game to run. I just did this yesterday, mind you, so I've some notion of what I'm talking about.

Second, configuration files and saved games are frequently, even usually, stored outside the Steam directory structure entirely, often down some bizarre hidey hole in Local Settings or Application Data. Simply grabbing your Steam game directories will not bring these along for the ride, except in cases of exceptions (PopCap games come to mind) or those few games with SteamCloud support.

Keeping good backups is an excellent idea (I'd argue you're mad not to in the modern world of digital distribution, but I know many people are far more trusting than I), but backups don't make much sense if you can't be sure they'll work. This is one of the real strengths of DRM-free downloads, there's never any issue getting the game to work, whether it can phone-home or not.

mashakos
12-06-2011, 07:35 PM
So let me get this straight: because you have all your games available for download at all times, you should keep them all on your hard drive?
yup. Or you can just delete them and lose all the mods/configs/etc. or you could laboriously back up all the extra tweaks/mods/configs manually and delete your unplayed games, then download them all over again and manually restore everything to how it was when you were last playing the game. Just pray you don't lose the folder with all your savegame files and other things you manually backed up years ago :)

Rossignol
12-06-2011, 07:37 PM
My Steam install alone is now 900gb.

vinraith
12-06-2011, 07:59 PM
My Steam install alone is now 900gb.

Yowza. My Steam install is actually quite modest (especially compared to that) but my 500 GB non-Steam game backups drive is full, and I'm going to need a new one. With most games downloads I can, after downloading and installing, simply opt to keep the install files and stick them on my storage drive. I've always thought Steam backups were kind of clunky in comparison, but that's a matter of taste of course.

solipsistnation
12-06-2011, 08:19 PM
I go through and prune out games I'm not going to replay any time soon (Far Cry 2, Far Cry, CoD4, and so on) just for the sake of disk space...

EndelNurk
12-06-2011, 08:26 PM
Have been gaming on a laptop for about 6 years. It's fine, don't worry.

mbp
12-06-2011, 10:34 PM
Welcome back Skeletor68. You picked an excellent time to return to the folks. I and many other believe this is a golden age of PC gaming with an abundance of terrific gaming entertainment available for buttons. The only problem is that you are going to be spoiled for choice.

My current infatuation is World of Tanks. Worth checking out (for free of course) but then again there are hundred of other games out there worth checking out too. Enjoy.

Mohorovicic
13-06-2011, 08:37 AM
yup. Or you can just delete them and lose all the mods/configs/etc.

Oh no, if only I bought a huge, expensive hard drive I could avoid the excruciating minute it will take me to set up all video, audio and input settings next time I decide to play the game.

(Then it would turn out I have said configs anyway, because most games keep them in Documents and Settings and Steam itself always leaves config files when deleting a game)

Some people's priorities are just incomprehensible to me.

lunarplasma
13-06-2011, 08:54 AM
You can't have left gaming that long ago. Not with mentions of Cliff Racers and mind worms and m-m-m-monster kills!

From that selection, I would therefore suggest:
Dragon Age or Mass Effect (to start with) as an RPG
Civilization IV/V or Galactic Civilizations II for strategy
Borderlands or Battlefield 2: Bad Company or Left 4 Dead 2 for FPS

Stellar Duck
13-06-2011, 09:58 AM
Welcome back!

This is a delightful thread, a few sour notes aside! I actually just re-bought Alpha Centauri the other night. Game is as good as ever.

I also managed to find my old manual for it (and the one for Daggerfall in the process). The manual is seven kinds of great. The appendix where they discus all sorts of astronomical stuff and ecology of planets is inspiring and Brian Reynolds note is a great read as well. And that's without going into the actual depth of the gameplay stuff.

Skeletor68
13-06-2011, 11:02 AM
Welcome back!

This is a delightful thread, a few sour notes aside! I actually just re-bought Alpha Centauri the other night. Game is as good as ever.

I also managed to find my old manual for it (and the one for Daggerfall in the process). The manual is seven kinds of great. The appendix where they discus all sorts of astronomical stuff and ecology of planets is inspiring and Brian Reynolds note is a great read as well. And that's without going into the actual depth of the gameplay stuff.

I know Alpha Centauri manual was particularly impressive. I just remember my 14 year old brain trying to comprehend Unified Field Theory and binary star systems! Who says games don't teach us anything! To be honest I haven't even played the game enough to take formers off automated (although I do remember having a particularly cyncial playthrough going around sinking my enemies cities).

Another favourite manual of mine was the Dark Forces II and Mysteries of the Sith one. I was always fascinated by the little bestiary sections you used to get and would happily read these over and over.

lunarplasma
13-06-2011, 11:07 AM
Manual! http://www.replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.1072

Wizardry
13-06-2011, 03:21 PM
If you like your loot, perhaps any mixture of Torchlight, Borderlands, Oblivion, Fallout3, Maybe Dragons Age: Origins (although with the caveat that it's quite terrible).


Dragon Age or Mass Effect (to start with) as an RPG
Here we go.

Skeletor68
13-06-2011, 04:56 PM
You know what, I had a go of Dragon Age Origins because I heard so many great things. I first started up some little dwarven dude to smash stuff got as far as that big battle, got my doggy and ventured forth. I felt like the melee combat was a little uninvolved though so decided to switch to a mage. Cool intro story and all, got as far as having to defend that town early in the game and just, I don't know got bored again. I feel like I'm the only person that felt this way about the game because there was so much hype around it, and I'm not exactly sure what I'm missing.

I think it has something to do with the lack of a voice, which sounds strange as Morrowind is one of my favourite games ever. There's just something annoying about panning back to your mute character in a conversation, communicating telepathically while showing all the emotion of a lemon. A combination of generic high fantasy, stereotyped characters (especially the ladies, God help me but I find the nun/slut dichotomy so annoying) and disjointed combat really put me off. I'm probably about to get flamed to pieces here but I genuinely wanted to like the game. If there are any die-hard fans here I'm willing to try to see the error of my ways!

Mohorovicic
13-06-2011, 05:12 PM
Dragon Age is basically Baldur's Gate, except re-made for the modern gaming market. Don't beat yourself over not liking it, it gets much worse later on(Two words: Derp Mines).

Wizardry
13-06-2011, 05:19 PM
No. I agree with you that the game is completely shit. Just like all the other games that those two guys mentioned. Hence the "here you go", meaning that the crappy suggestions are starting again. However, it's unfortunate to read that your reasoning for why the game sucks doesn't match my reasoning at all, other than it being boring (which it is). A mute protagonist, and animation that is led by the game instead of a game that is led by the animation are both good things in my view. Boring story and boring characters don't matter to me if the game doesn't heavily focus on them. Unfortunately, Dragon Age: Origins does focus on plot and characters and therefore emphasises the genericness of them.

TillEulenspiegel
13-06-2011, 05:37 PM
I'll still defend the City Elf and to a lesser extent the Human Noble origin stories. Those were great starts, story-wise. Shocking, motivating. But then it moved on from Song of Ice and Fire-y goodness to generic fantasy whatever that was barely connected to your origin.

Vexing Vision
13-06-2011, 05:51 PM
Haters aside, you should definitely have a look at Mass Effect. It's very cinematic, and quite enjoyable.

Also, I absolutely agree with Till on the City Elf origin - brilliance. I also liked the Dwarf Commoner origin very much as well.


Witcher and Witcher 2 are great PC games for RPGs, but Witcher 1 is a bit hard to get into, and Witcher 2 has one of the most "missing the point of being a tutorial" tutorials ever. Like, ever. For reals.

If you're looking at slightly more casual fun, check out the lovely Trine as one of the most pleasing platformers I ever played (rather easy though), or Frozen Synapse for highly intriguing tactics.

I'm also a bit in love with Anomaly: Warzone Earth, a pretty high-quality Tower Defense game where you're guiding the troops past the alien towers. It is a lot more fun and actiony than it sounds. Should be on Steam.


And of course, you can't be a PC Gamer without having played Magicka. I dare anyone to disagree.