Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sealing Wax And String

Mrs Bhagpuss's PC has been having issues with GW2 for a while, stuttering and freezing even when little seems to be happening on screen. For a while we fixed it by swapping the graphic cards over between our two PCs but the problem came back after a couple of weeks.

This weekend it became unplayable and I spent many hours trying just about everything from different graphic cards to new drivers to a complete, clean install of Windows 10. Nothing made any difference and in the end I gave her my machine and took hers on the grounds that I had many other MMOs to play and maybe it would be happier with some of those.

Naturally I tried playing GW2 anyway, just to see what would happen. I played around with every in-game setting to no effect. I decided to give up so I got ready to put everything away and screw the sides back on the case. As I was tidying up all the old graphic cards boxes I'd left strewn about I noticed a spare, never-used power adaptor. On a whim I unplugged the GPU from the connector it was attached to and used the new cable to connect it to one of the other kinds flapping around in the case.

And guess what? Now it runs GW2 just fine. I spent all last night and most of today playing, including some massive zerg fights in WvW and the Octavine event in Auric Basin with no problems at all. Typical! I have no idea if the original cable itself was faulty or whether something in the act of replacing nudged something else somewhere along the line but whatever, I'll take it.

The whole incident finally tipped the balance over the issue of whether and when to replace both these elderly machines. As far as I can remember we have had these PCs for the entire five-year life of this blog. Longer, in fact. I think we bought them six years ago.

That's a very good innings, especially for machines that were, at best, mid-range gaming PCs when we got them. I upgraded them significantly two or three years back but they are now bottle-necked by the capabilities of the Motherboard and while I'm reasonably confident with the interiors of a PC case I draw the line at replacing the mobo.

I spent a few hours looking online for replacements. My go to source is the same supplier I've used for the previous two generations but, as with the Tablet I bought last month, I did do some comparison shopping. There were quite a few deals from a couple of suppliers front-ending their stores on Amazon that looked better value but in the end I was suspicious of their authority and their customer service so I went with what I know.

This is what I ordered: times two.

Case Kolink Octagon Midi Tower Gaming Case - Black
Processor Intel Core i5-6600 3.30GHz (Skylake) Socket LGA1151 
Memory Team Group Elite 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4 PC4-19200C16 2400MHz 
Graphics Card GeForce GTX 960 OC 4096MB GDDR5 PCI-Express 
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 64-Bit DVD
Primary Hard Drive Seagate 7200RPM 3.5" 1TB SSHD Hybrid Drive 

I originally ordered 16GB of ram and a graphics card from a different manufacturer but I got an email saying the ram would delay delivery by a few days and the GPU was out of stock indefinitely. A quick phone call got that sorted out, dropping the ram back to 8GB and agreeing an alternative GPU that's a slight upgrade at the same price as the one that's not available.

They should turn up sometime around the middle of next week, almost certainly at the most inconvenient time possible, just as I've returned to work. We will see how different the experience is. Given the size of the upgrade I would expect it to be really noticeable but then again, given the relatively low demands we place on our gaming that might not be the case.

It also means we will now have two more fully functioning PCs sitting around the house to go with the six or so mostly non-functioning relics. I really need to get them all broken down into parts and onto EBay or down to the tip!

The most interesting part for me will be finding out what Black Desert actually looks like and whether Landmark is indeed playable with a system that meets the recommended specs. We should also be future-proofed at least as far as MMOs go for a few more years.

Fingers crossed everything gets here safely and works straight out of the box!



  1. Not a particular fan of the geforce 960 when compared to the radeon 380 (but I guess that was your original choice anyway).
    If you could squeeze a budget for a SSD (even though you went with an hybrid) I would.

    1. That's interesting because I specifically didn't want another Radeon card. I've used an AMD processor and a Radeon card for the last six years but before that I always used Intel and Nvidia and I wanted to go back to that. I've alwyas had a feeling that MMO developers like Intel/Nvidia better than they like AMD/Radeon although in practice I very much doubt that I'd be able to tell the difference.

      I also specifically don't want an SSD. I very nearly didn't even go for the hybrid but in the end I thought I ought to at least give it a go to see what it felt like in action. Whenever I've read about peoples' experiences with SSDs it's sounded quite off-putting. I am not interested in having a PC that wakes up faster than I do! I like to sit and drink a cup of tea of a morning while it clicks and whirrs away a bit. I'm not a big fan of anything happening instantly. I like time to adjust my thoughts!

    2. I pulled the trigger on a SSD during the Scarlet Invasions. Me and my misses with waypoint and by the time we loaded the event would be finished (especially hers with a slightly older sata 2 drive).

      Grab 2 SSDs (one for each of us) and bang, the load time went from 30+ seconds to just 9 seconds or so.

    3. The recent trend on the GPus seems to be that NVIDIA cards get better optimizations when they are new but as NVIDIA release new cards AMD cards that used to be on par or slightly slower are suddenly punching in one class higher,

      It seems to me that recently AMD architecture has more brute power (and having AMD cards on consoles dont seem to be hurting).

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  2. After reading this I - especially the section regarding how Black Desert looks - I thought you might appreciate some high resolution screenshots. I enjoy reading your blog a lot and though I don't play a lot of different MMOs, it is an interesting window into the worlds of these games and what they do differently when compared to ones I do actually play. https://goo.gl/photos/1qWkRNJReBKQukdm9


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