Monday, August 8, 2011

Technology for the PC Gamer, what really defined technology for the PC Gamer, is it a cutting edge graphics card, a fast multi-core CPU, tons of RAM?   What really makes up a "Gaming Rig", I don't have an answer.  The problem is technology is moving faster than game developers can keep up, this whole faster is better idea has caught hold with the tech industry, where at one point improvements came out as software pushed the limits of hardware.  Do you really need an overclocked Hex-core CPU with 32 GB of RAM to play WoW, and when is enough, enough or are we just waiting til the tech industry hits a wall where we simply haven't invented the technology to make the technology faster. 

Moore's Law states:

The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively will double approximately every 2 years.

This trend has held true since the 1960's, and continues today, while Hex-Core (6-Core) processors finally reached affordability on the market in the past year, with AMD's offerings available for as little as $160 or so, they had been around quite a while, as a matter of fact Dodeca-Core processors were being reviewed back in 2008, and for if you really want to dig you can find refereces to AsAP 2, a custom built processor currently residing somewhere on the University of California, Davis campus that has a whopping 167 cores, each running at 1.2ghz, and that information was released in 2009, so in this day and age 2011 does that mean that 334-core units are either being worked on or are already in testing somewhere?

While this is amazing in and of itself to think about, why do we as gamers need even Hex-core chips?  With the vast spectrum of PC's on the market it's difficult enough for game designers to decide if they want to optimize their software for Dual Core or not, try sitting down at a design meeting and deciding if you want to create a game that can't run efficiently on less than a Quad-Core, from what I've seen they usually attempt to make the game run well on as broad a spectrum as possible.

Graphics cards these days seem to be leading the way though, Deca-Core GPU's aren't uncommon now, and their memory architecture is allows for better data rates, though both are optimized for Graphics only, but we see other system components catching up a few years later.  DDR3 which has become the new standard for system memory used to only be found on Graphics Cards, how long before we are slapping DDR5 into slots on our Mother Boards and cranking up to 100+ GB of RAM for under $100?  I'm looking forward to it, to be quite honest. 

While I don't think we necessarily as gamers need cutting edge technology, to indulge in our hobbies, it's not a bad thing either.  One thing we can count on is when that next big game hits we'll be ready for it.   I also do think that all game developer are doing the right thing by trying to keep system requirements fairly low as as a general rule.  I know I'm using a rather low end machine for my gaming (by today's standards), and yes at times it shows during my game play.  But I can't quite justify wanting cutting edge hardware either especially since there is very little in terms of backwards compatibility with many components from where I'm at to where I'd like to be.   For me to do a real upgrade to get close to "Cutting Edge" wouldn't be extremely expensive if I cut a few corners and leave out "Optional" component's like Blue-Ray etc, as a matter of fact I could build a more than capable PC for about half of what it costs to purchase a comparable one from a Custom PC builder but that doesn't mean I should.


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