Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide August 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatch

It’s been a couple of months since I last wrote a benchmarking guide and since then the video card of my old machine started to fail more eventually leading to me replacing it, not being happy with the performance and last month building a nearly state of the art gaming system.

All the theory I talked about in my original benchmarking guide still applies but my new system is able to run all modern games with every setting super maxed out. Since everybody will not have a super new computer, I will keep my recommended benchmarking settings high but still reasonable so you can compare new systems to legacy systems.

The specifications for my new main gaming PC, which I built, now are:

OS: 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate edition
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 3.7 Ghz per core 6 MB L3 cache AM3+ socket processor
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 6870 1 GB
Memory: Kingston HyperX 16 GB (4 X 4 GB) 240 pin DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800) Quad Channel Kit non-ECC unbuffered CAS 9 1.65V RAM
Sound Card: onboard sound via a Realtek ALC889 chipset
Storage: Seagate Barracuda XT ST33000651AS 3 TB 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache SATA 6.0 Gb/s 3.5″ internal hard drive OEM
Case: Thermaltake Xaser III LANFire VM2000A Case
Power Supply: hec X-Power 780W (peak) 600W (mean) ATX12V v2.3/EPS 12V v2.91 SLI nVidia Hybrid-SLI Certified CrossFire power supply
Peripherals: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD Burner

Again, this benchmarking guide consists ONLY of things you can download for free. Everybody can test with these free tools so it requires no spending on your part, just time and patience.

Let’s see what programs now got added, and why, and which ones got removed and why:

The RealStorm Benchmark 2006 test has been removed. This is rather unfortunate as this IS the ultimate single core CPU performance test I’ve ever used. The reason for the removal is that the real storm website was permanently taken offline and there are no plans for it to be brought back online in the future. If you can still find it somehow, I recommend using it. I might post it in the future for download and I can give you a copy via Skype or chat if you really need it. Just ask.

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has been removed as this resolution is too low and most people won’t use it to game anymore. I usually just run every game these days at a minimum 1280X1024. Yeah, my system can run stuff at much higher but I’d rather get 200 FPS than 120 FPS just to get more eyecandy. I’m more concerned with the smoothness of the graphics such as anti-aliasing options being turned on and high framerates. Like always, LAG is a killer.

Battleforge is a FANTASTIC free-mmo-rts that has kind of been abandoned by EA but it’s still free and many, many people still play it. I have mastered everything in the game and my friends are now all bored of it but I will play it once in a while. You can check my original review of the game here as well as check out my first strategy guide here for doing Battlegrounds as well as my second strategy guide for Battleforge here that shows you how to farm the mission Raven’s End by yourself.

Anyways, this full game is FREE and it includes a built in benchmarking tool. The way to use it is to login first to the game and then not login to your character, instead hit back, and select options, and go to the graphics screen and select to run the benchmark.

Again, if you never checked out the game, I encourage you to do so, especially if you are a massive RTS player. I like this game and benchmark because it taxes your CPU, RAM, and GPU. Every unit in the game moves and attacks in a complex way and it’s a great example of showing how well your system performs playing a real time war game with a ton of units.

The updated criteria for benchmarking with Battleforge is the following:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1280×1024
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download the Battleforge benchmark and full game from: http://www.battleforge.com/

Some of the options in this benchmark and others to come are either off or set not to max because the benchmarks are too picky and unless you have a 700 dollar video card, it will not let you run them. I’d rather everybody be able to test. The faster systems will yield insane numbers anyway.

My new PC got an average of 78.5 FPS, a minimum FPS of 7.1, and a maximum FPS of 182.7. You can compare that respectively to my old computer’s 6.8 FPS, 0.5 FPS, 53.5 FPS. It just blows it out of the water.

The Dirt 2 benchmark test still stays because it’s still a modern game engine and DiRT 3 is almost the same thing. That one was added too to the list as we’ll see below.

Dirt 2 Test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8x MSAA
Vsync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Normal
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Crowd: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Drivers: Ultra
Distant Vehicles: Ultra
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: Ultra
Post Process: Medium (this setting is annoying and usually defaults to this)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://download.cnet.com/DiRT-2-demo/3000-7513_4-10977053.html

Codemasters games are pure unadulturated eye candy, especially Dirt 2, GRID, and F1 2010. The games keep getting prettier and still run very efficiently despite the graphic quality increase. These games are also system killers because of how great they simulate the physics needed to create a realistic racing and driving experience.

My current gaming machine yielded an average framerate of 105.5 FPS and a minimum framerate of 85.7 FPS versus my old machine’s 15.7 FPS and 13.4 FPS.

Moving on to a newer game we are now using the DiRT 3 game to benchmark as well. It’s the same as DiRT 2 but the game engine is tweaked a little more. The game is usually bundled often with most current video cards so either get it from there or download the demo for testing. You can check out my review for DiRT 3 here.

DiRT 3 test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1028
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8 x MSAA
VSync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Auto
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lightning: High
Shadows: Ultra
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Characters: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Distant Vehicles: High
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: High
Post Process: Medium (again this loves to set itself to this over and over so just leave it like that)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: Ultra
Cloth: High

I couldn’t find a direct download link for the demo because Codemasters is crazy enough that they don’t really have a main website anymore. I recommend getting the demo from Steam. Having a demo not be available would proabably encourage piracy but since this game is now being bundled with everything you’d probably find a product key easily with any AMD or ATI purchase at this moment.

With all the added graphic features to DiRT 3, my system got lower framerates with this one compared to DiRT 2. It yielded 66.39 FPS average, and 55.74 minimum FPS in this test. The game looks amazing.

I was considering adding the HAWX 2 benchmark to this guide but since the demo even includes the draconian Ubisoft you-must-be-online-and-make-an-account-like-an-mmo copy protection SCHEME then I refuse to. Sure, the game looks amazing but I don’t want to subject people to Ubisoft’s bullshit. Let’s stick to the original HAWX, which is still a great benchmark and doesn’t require all that drama to run.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX test settings:

Game version: DirectX 9 for legacy compatibility purposes
Screen Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Antialiasing: 8x
VSync: Off
Full Screen: On
View Distance: High
Forest: High
Environment: High
Texture Quality: High
HDR: On
Engine Heat: On
DOF: On

Download from: http://www.gamershell.com/download_40308.shtml

If you never play this game, I recommend it still, and you can read my Tom Clancy’s HAWX review here.

My new computer gets an average framerate of 163 FPS and a maximum framerate of 392 FPS… WOW. My old system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps. What a difference!

The X3 Terran Conflict benchmark demo continues to be an amazing testing tool not just for performance but for system stability. This IS the benchmark I use the most to either make or break a system.

X3 Terran Conflict benchmark test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Ansitropic Texture Filtering: On
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
Glow enabled: On
Texture Quality: High
Shader Quality: High
More Dynamic Light Sources: On
Ship Colour Variations: On

Download from: http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3tc/demos_en.php

This game engine will rock the socks of your CPU, RAM, and GPU. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to how detailed the final part of the benchmark was when I saw the massive, super-detailed space station being rendered as it was, on my old gaming PC. Even on my new gaming PC, this benchmark will bring your system down to its knees and make it cry like a little girl.

This benchmark is old but it even comes with a built in warning that it WILL really ABUSE your video card.

My new computer got a score of 91.303 FPS. There were some parts in the benchmark when performance dropped to about 22 FPS, like the warnings said. My old machine used to get 17.012 FPS.

Trackmania Nations, free as always and still a solid full game with a simple benchmark feature built in.

Trackmania Nations test Settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Antialiasing: 16 samples
Shadows: Complex
Shader Quality: PC3 High
Texture Quality: High
Max Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
Geometry Details: Normal
PostProcess FXs: On
Force Dynamic Colors: On
Force Motion Blur: On
Force Bloom: On
Water Geometry: On
Stadium Water Geometry: On
Trees Always High Quality: On

Download from: http://trackmaniaforever.com/nations/

This benchmark now yields a 69.7 FPS on my new machine versus the 31.8 FPS I used to get from my old system. It’s much more enjoyable to play this again with everything on.

***

There is the updated list! I moved on from Windows XP especially since 32-bit Operating Systems have both RAM and hard drive allocation limitations. Windows 7 is okay but I’m surprised as to how few games have pure real DirectX 11 support. Only super megacorp insane-budget titles seem to have this so far, so I’m disappointed.

Share your benchmark numbers with us either as a comment below, on our facebook page, or forums. Stay tuned for more hardware reviews and articles.

E3 2011: My E3 Guide

E3 2011: My E3 Guide by Ignacio/honorabili

E3 2011

Guide:

Before going, the first thing to do is see if you can get in there for free! Well, the way I did it is by having this website and registering as soon as I could for the event. Starting this year, E3 was capping the number of passes they would give out to media, requiring your website to have 8000 unique visits per month per media pass given out. If you don’t even get 8000 a month then they would make you buy your ticket instead, which could making going to the event really expensive.

Like most of these kind of events, try to book as early as possible, both your travel arrangements and lodging. We booked 9 months before and paid 700 dollars a person for 6 days. We used Orbitz and that price included complete air fare (flew American Airlines), lodging (we stayed at the Ramada Inn in Koreatown, which I found to be a great place and neighborhood), and a rental car (Avis, which broke down and then they tried to rip us off when we returned the car; listen to the podcast to hear Laraque complaining about that!). I really recommend going to E3 especially if you already live in California or nearby, so it’s much cheaper.

When you get to the event, get one of the free magazines that is pretty much a quick guide to the event plus the IMPORTANT PART is the map in the center of the magazine. You can simply look at the map and see which booths interest you the most. If you mainly go there to see the next big game, you can easily find them on the main floor in megabooths. If you have media passes, you can go talk to their reception desk and they give you priority to test them, instead of making you wait in line most of the time.

E3 2011 - Konami

Some people like to go to E3 to demo the new games and hardware, mainly from the megacorps. Other people like to go to see what small companies are there and to see what big thing they brought to the show. Many of the small companies or the companies that are not coming out with a big product usually have a booth in the meeting rooms in the Concourse Hall. Those are better for you if you are into networking and seeing more unique things that the public usually cannot. There’s a more private version of that area on the second floor that you can only access if you have a VIP pass. There’s where you can see unreleased stuff more and negotiate business deals.

If you go, don’t expect to sleep much. You pretty much walk and stand most of the day and after the show, if you have connections expect to go to a ton of after parties (there’s one pretty much every day); this is where you can really make connections with developers, vendors, etc. If you go there trying to setup some business deals, bring a stack of business cards and some nice clothes. I made more contacts wearing dress clothes than simply the Obsolete Gamer T-Shirt.

As far as being in L.A., bring a lot of money because things there are PRETTY EXPENSIVE. Most places we went to charge a bare minimum of 3-5 dollars an hour to park, with many places having a 15-30 dollar parking fee, even like going to a local mall. Food at most restaurants will cost you about 20 dollars a person unless you want to eat a lot of fast food. At E3, the food is very expensive and we’re talking like 6 dollars for a pizza slice kind of expensive and 5 dollars for a can of Monster (no Red Bull, which is my crack). A cheapskate trick is to go to the Concourse Hall and munch on the snacks (cookies mainly) and free soft drinks that a lot of the companies have there. Hey! You wanted a real guide, now you know how cheap I am!

E3 2011

When at E3, try not to take breaks. Be smart and go have a meeting where you can sit down to rest, while you keep working and networking. Again, I mainly recommend going to the event if you are in the industry, whether you have a game company, gaming website, resell video games, blog, shoot funny videos (like Mega64), otherwise, you can pretty much watch everything at the show for free on the internet on some of the mega video game sites or directly from the main companies websites, in the form of trailers.

If you are media/press, pick up every free bag of goodies they give you. The best stuff I got was from World of Tanks, which gave me a bunch of toy tanks, a special bag, a World of Tanks T-Shirt, mouse pad, and special game bag, as far as the main floor went, and the biggest gift I got was from Topware which gave me a Collector’s Edition of Two Worlds 2 and a ton of T-shirts. Even if you don’t like a game, who knows, a friend of yours might like it! If you have a gaming website, some of this swag would be great to giveaway in the form of a contest.

My Experience:

E3 2011 - Cooking Mama

The day before E3 I was rushing to get some Obsolete Gamer shirts over to J.A. Laraque’s house as well as a camera I bought him and some micro SD memory cards when the engine of my 1998 Mustang GT decided to die a block away from my house. After pushing the car with some neighbors up my driveway, I had my mom help me to drop the OG gear off at JA’s house. I stayed up pretty late playing League of Legends with my brother and his friends until we lost so badly that I had to go do something else. I remember drinking some rum while watching episodes of The Three Stooges on Hulu.

My old man took J.A. and I to the airport like around 5 PM EST on Tuesday, the first open-to-the-public day for E3 2011 and we quickly met up with Alienware’s Patrick Theodore and Ashley Brito. Even though Orbitz booked us on Alaskan Air, we quickly had to go running with all our luggage to the American Airlines concourse and go through the TSA checkpoint. After seeing old ladies from Miami Beach get checked to see if they have C4 in their shoes, the terrorists won! Anyways, they let us through and after a short while we were on the plane. I played the living shit out of Solitaire on the plane, which going to L.A. we had a 777 (great ride). Laraque played a lot of games on his iPad like Streets of Rage and some Homer Simpson game which was a lot like the original Simpsons arcade game. I slept on the plane but for the duration of this trip I was pretty much tired a lot.

As soon as the plane landed we hauled ass to Avis, and then drove fast to the show. Parked (see me bitch above about the parking, which in this case was 15 dollars cash [be sure to bring a lot of cash]) and then we got some of the food they sell there (again see above if you want to hear me bitching). Afterwards, we walked off into the main floor. My first impression was that this was a huge arcade. Colors and colors everywhere. We saw the Sony Online Entertainment booth, which we have been trolling on the podcast a lot lately, and I got a bunch of the free mints they had there. The only games they had which interested me were Payday (co-op bank robber game) and some Magic The Gathering strategy game, but that game looked pretty dated. I hit up Capcom, then Kalypso, which to my surprise is remaking (and this is much needed) Jagged Alliance and is making Tropico 4, another sequel to one of my favorite dictator sims of all time.

E3 2011 - Square Enix

I had a meeting with Indiecade, which showed me a lot of board games, which we will probably review later on The Inverted Paradox and a couple of Indie games. I got to play this experimental game project called Deep Sea where the game has no graphics and its just you attacking a sea monster based on what you hear only. Pretty original idea and it generates a feeling of solace and dread being stuck on a submarine with a leviathan around you. I also saw a game that was a rogue-like clone and also a cute strategy game called Skulls of the Shogun which is a like like Shining Force and Ogre Battle.

We went to the after the show parties for AMD and also for S2 Games, the makers of Heroes of Newerth. Both parties had free bars and the AMD party had AMAZING food! =P It was fun talking to AMD about the new APU that already got released by now as well as talking about old hardware with some of the people who helped design it, like Marc who helped design my favorite CPU the AMD K6-3. 😀 The AMD party was also very special for me because I got to speak in person with my friend Alfred Giovetti who runs The Computer Show. In the middle of people talking about the latest and greatest we sat for a good while talking about stuff like the rise and fall of Microprose and Interplay and games such as Darklands by Microprose. I recommended he try out Mount & Blade which is a lot like Defender of the Crown mixed with Darklands.

E3 2011

Back to the show, I got to meet up with the people from Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends which let me see upcoming champions (hero units) for that game, one of my current addictions.

The people from World of Tanks gave us some goodie bags which was put to good use in-game (another one of our addictions now).

I got to meet (finally in person) with my long time internet friend Seth Sternberg (8 Bit Weapon) and got to hear them live. We interviewed both band members and you can check out the 8 Bit Weapon interview here.

We stayed in L.A. for 4 days after the show and it was a nice vacation for us.

In conclusion, the E3 experience was a good one and I highly recommend it, especially if you can go there cheap or get somebody to sponsor your trip! ;-]

The Interview – Justin Melendez – LanSlide PC

LanSlide Gaming PCs logo
LanSlide Gaming PCs logo

LanSlide PC

Some people may ask why is there still a need for LAN parties with console domination, MMO’s and high-speed internet, but if you are asking those questions then you don’t get the point. A LAN party is just as much about social interaction as it is about gaming. I personally met the majority of my Miami friends after joining a LAN party and it was the best experience I’ve had regarding gaming.

Earthquake entry level power
Earthquake entry level power

LanSlide PCs is a company that peeked my interest because not only do they build high-end gaming systems, but they focus on the LAN party aspect of PC gaming. Originally people would bring whateversystem they had to a LAN party and often the custom or self-build systems were extremely large and heavy. However, as time went on more and more people built smaller systems so they could specially take them to LAN parties. The company Shuttle was a godsend to LAN party goers because of its small form factor. Having a place to turn to in order to have custom gaming systems build for LAN parties just seemed like a good idea.

Now while LanSlide does specialize in custom build LAN ready systems that doesn’t mean they aren’t meant for everyday and even extreme gaming. Another good thing is that their wide array of options allows you to select a system that fits your needs from components to price. You can select your processor choice and build from there with various case sizes and pricing from around $800 for the entry level system all the way up to $4800 for the extreme gaming rigs.

LanSlide PCs PC Pack
LanSlide PCs PC Pack

Now their PC-Pack is defiantly a LAN go’ers dream, it is a large backpack designed to hold almost everything you would need to take to a LAN party. I was able to get my hand on one and I was impressed by its sizes, design and craftsmanship. The pack can hold a 22 inch flat panel monitor, gaming keyboard, headphones, your mouse and a ton of other accessories you would need for on the go gaming. What’s cool is the pack splits when opened so you can fit all your items in separate compartments where they remain protected and won’t bounce around. My only complaint was on the website under “What doesn’t fit” it lists Florida.

You’ve seen Justin’s gamer profile, but we wanted to get a little more information on him and LanSlide PC.

What is the vision, the overall goal of LanSlide?

LanSlide was founded by a group of gamers sick of dragging their oversized desktops around. We’re dedicated to bringing powerful but portable desktop computers to the gaming community because we find being together, in the same room, gives a level of interaction and shared experience that can’t be matched over a computer connection. So I guess you could say our vision is to make it easier for gamers to get together and play games. At the same time, our goal as a company is to create affordable gaming machines that are well-suited to the needs of our gamers. Too many companies have forgotten that last bit, which is a big part of why we felt we needed to create LanSlide.

With high-speed internet and consoles, do you believe LAN parties are still popular?

All you have to do is look at conventions like PAX and Digital Overload, where tons of gamers show up with their gaming rigs, to see that LAN gaming is alive and well. A close friend of mine has two of the major consoles, yet I can’t remember the last time we played a game on them; I’m over there several times a week with my PC, however. The multiplayer games are just more interesting on PCs. Try playing an RTS, MMO, or FPS on the console; it’s just not as good for that kind of game play. I think consoles have PCs beat in the single player genre (although they don’t have to, hint hint, cough cough game producers), but when it comes to multiplayer, PCs are where all the interesting stuff is happening. High speed internet and the move towards centralized servers only make it easier for people who are not in the area to log in and join up. People have always liked to get together in person, no matter what their interests, and what better thing for gamers to get together over than video games.

What makes LanSlide stand out from other manufacturers?

When we took a look at the industry, we found that a lot of computers were oversized and overpriced. So when we founded LanSlide, we set out to change that. All of our computers are portable and we make a point not to overcharge for high-end machines. We also take the time with our customers to make sure they’re getting the best machines to suit their needs. We’ll often e-mail back and forth several times with a prospective customer to help them build a computer. In addition, we take our feedback very seriously, and when someone has a good idea, we try to implement it as quickly as possible.

How would you help a gamer choose one of your systems?

It really depends on what kind of games they play. There’s a wide range of PC gamers, from the hardcore to the super-casual. For most people, who only need one video card, we recommend any of our small form factor systems. For people who are really hardcore and want insane rigs that are going to blow everyone else out of the water, we have a mid-tower that’ll take 2-3 video cards. If you want to do all of that AND do it in 3D, go for one of our 3D systems, which set you up with everything you need to game in 3D. Our biggest piece of advice, though, is to make sure you get a rig that’s going to solve the in-game problems you’re having and improve your gaming experience. We also recommend you buy a system that leaves you some room to grow as a gamer.

Tell us about the concept behind the PC Pack?

You go through the trouble and expense of buying all this awesome gaming gear, so shouldn’t you have something to protect it? That’s the idea behind the PC Pack (http://www.lanslidepcs.com/productdetails.asp?pid=40). It’s basically a backpack designed to hold and protect up to a 22″ widescreen monitor, extra-long gaming keyboard, mouse, headphones, and all the other things you need to run your desktop. It makes it easy to transport your computer in one trip, since our cases are all easy to carry, and everything else goes in the PC Pack and can be put on your back. Imagine the difference when walking into a big LAN party on the third floor of a conference center, where you only have to make the trip once, half the weight is on your back instead of in your arms, and you have a free hand to open the door. There’s just no comparison to moving your computer without it, plus it saves you the heartbreak of losing your brand new monitor to a flight of stairs.

How do you think 3D gaming will change the face of PC gaming?

3D gaming makes for a more immersive experience, and that has a huge impact on the player, making it possible to get much more involved in the game. There’s nothing like the feeling of being the main character in your favorite FPS, ducking to take cover behind objects while you work your way through the enemy camp. Furthermore, we believe that, as 3D gaming becomes more prevalent, game developers will start designing specifically for 3D, and that may create a whole new class of games that play in new and amazing ways.

If you haven’t experienced a true LAN party you should and if you need a system to take then LanSlide might be right up your alley. In the end you can’t replace the interaction you get face to face and in person so anyone who is fighting to keep LAN parties going is awesome in my book. I personally loved to go to LAN parties then load up an Atari emulator sometimes just to piss people off, good times.

Memories of Gaming 1997-2003

3dfx logo - a symbol of quality
3dfx logo – a symbol of quality

Memories of Gaming 1997-2003 by Honorabili

Around the year 1997, I started to go a lot to ebgames to buy a lot of PC games. Rather than go for whatever was the top title that week, I would always check out what games they had for sale in their bargain bin. I did buy hit games like Carmageddon, Fallout 1, Master of Orion 2, and Grand Theft Auto 1 but for the most part from 1997 til about 2003, I stuck to buying cheap games. The bargain bin had a lot of failed games that were either bad or had failed in their marketing and distribution and nobody knew about them or they were simply budget titles that did not have the best graphics but had awesome enough gameplay that they got released.

My criteria for buying these games was that they had to cost usually about $1-10. For me to buy one that was $15, it had to have been highly recommended or praised. This shopping included buying used copies of games as well. I also bought a lot of stuff based on the brands of developers and publishers. Almost anything that got made by Microprose and Interplay was bought for sure. They were my favorite company in those years up until Brian Fargo lost control of the company and Herve Caen destroyed the company. Because I would still play the popular titles at the time but I would also played a ton of obscure and lost titles, I gained a good understanding as to why games and gaming companies fail. As far as Microprose goes, went they got liquidated I remember buying all of their games (multiple copies too) for 25 cents a piece!

Back in 97-03, my life consisted of going to college, hanging out with my friend Bruce and little brother, watching a ton of VHS movies which we usually rented from Future Video or Hollywood video (both are out of business now), playing a ton of video games, and buying video games almost every weekend. Usually Bruce or my brother and I would go and scout out 3-4 stores at a time seeing which ones had the best deals and stock. We would go a lot to The Falls, Miami International Mall, Dadeland, and later Dolphin Mall. I usually had a policy of buying at least one game each time I went into those stores, even if it was a crappy $1-2 game (of which I bought plenty of!). I remember one time that Bruce and I went in to buy what was either Fallout 2 or Carmageddon 2 and we ended up walking out with about $300-400 of cheap games.

After buying a bunch of these games, we would test out a bunch on the crappy LAN we built using our main machines which were initially powered by AMD K6-2’s and our bitch computers usually were a bunch of trade-ins I got from my PC repair/building business that were Celerons or Pentium I’s or 686’s. Sometimes we would just setup multiplayer games of a specific game to see if we could get it to run because maybe the multiplayer component of a game was utter crap.

I remember very well when I tried to run Carmageddon 1 on my AMD 486 DX-4 100 Mhz and the game was a slide-show. Quickly after that I jumped to my AMD K6-2 266 Mhz with 128 MB of RAM and a Diamond Stealth 2000 video card tied to a Creative 3dfx Voodoo 2 with 4 MB of RAM. I got addicted to Glide games quickly… Thanks to my gaming I got a lot of orders for gaming computers which paid for my college and taught me more about the real business world than many classes I took and books I read ever were able to show me.

What I like about 97-03 was that I saw the explosion of graphics acceleration for PCs. We also experienced the graphics acceleration and CPU wars. Some casualties of the graphics acceleration were were 3dfx, S3 and PowerVR. Some victims of the CPU wars were Centaur, Cyrix, and VIA. I remember the race to hit 1 Ghz with AMD hitting it stable with their Athlon and Intel’s 1 Ghz P3 being a complete mess that melted. A lot of hardware that comes to mind of these days are: 3dfx, the TNT 2, Voodoo 2 and 3, AMD K6-2 and K6-3, Pentium 2 & 3, Athlon and Athlon XP, Matrox, ATI vs nVidia, Radeons vs GeForce cards, AMD vs Intel, SDRAM & DDR, PC100 & PC133, introduction of SATA drives, introduction of RAID to gaming PCs.

Around these years we also started to see a differentiation between the kind of gamers that were attracted to PC gaming vs console gaming. I also began to see that for PC gaming some years were good strong years and some years just about nothing good came out.

In these years we also saw a giant growth in the availability of better broadband and the explosion of the internet (and the dot com bubble burst). In terms of gaming this improved multiplayer games and the availability of pirated software and games. We saw stuff like Scour and Napster and WinMX rise and fall. Then came torrents, which are still going strong.

Apart from the usual pirated games, we saw the rise of emulation. Emulation has always been around just about, even in the 60s and 70s with mainframes trying to emulate rival companies operations. Certainly around the time the AMD K6-2 and Intel Pentium II were commonly available we saw a lot of good NES and SNES emulation, as well as Sega Genesis, and even c64 (which doesn’t take much to run) and the Amiga emualators (which took a lot to run when they first came out). Playstation 1 emulators were out, as well as Nintendo 64 but initial performance and availability of these was terrible. Around this time I got to know well sites such as zophar.net. You also saw the growth of MAME and ROMs for all sorts of systems going around.

These years also saw an explosion in video game and computer music remixing. I even took part of this, even killing RKO, the home of c64 remixes. General video game remixing blew up on sites such as OverClocked Remix. I made a lot of good friends at remix64 and micromusic.

Some PC gamers in 1997-2003 were either of the camp that cared only for framerates (FPS junkies) or image quality. Around the late 90s, I felt that 3dfx had the best graphics but lowest frame rates, then came ATI, and with nVidia having highest frame-rates but lower quality renders.

We also saw around these years the rise of the mp3/ogg files. Many games before used proprietary sound formats and also a lot of MOD tracker formats. CD quality audio became a standard for games around this time. Initial games at this time had actual CD audio tracks incorporated into the game CDs.

Other trends include the further increase of popularity of first person shooters in the form of the Doom games, Quake series, Unreal Tournament series, Half-Life, Counterstrike, Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, Far Cry, etc. We saw just about the death of turn based strategy games and the explosion of more real time strategy games. Although Ultima Online was around, then came the explosion of Everquest (which made me a lot of money), and other MMOs.

Conclusion:

These were great times for gaming for my friends and I because back then we had the time to do it. Later on complications such as girlfriends and wives and shitty jobs and children interfered with our hobby. The equivalent of me getting cheap games these days are the Steam sales and the gog.com sales. I have enough old games that I can relive parts of the old days any day I want! (well, except having my old friends to LAN it up with)