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Gaming Hardware You Need

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Gaming Hardware You Need

In This Chapter

  • See how computers or hardware have a huge impact on your ability to run games

  • Learn about the core components of your computer—the motherboard, processor, and memory

  • Check out how improvements in video technology have enabled gorgeous game landscapes

  • Get a handle on the latest in joystick technology

Computer games tend to drive consumer-oriented computer technology. My experience was typical: I was happy with my computer until I started getting into computer gaming. The computer speed was fine, but my graphics were awful. After I upgraded my graphics card, I had to upgrade the processor, which meant I had to upgrade the motherboard and memory. After it was all said and done, I had completely replaced my computer with a new one, one part at a time.

I don't know about you, but I can't afford to upgrade all the time. The best thing to do is to choose what and when you upgrade. The games that you prefer to play will help in deciding what you will want to upgrade. In fact, one thing that sets computer gamers apart is that many buy or build machines optimized for playing certain games.

There are seven key components to your gaming system. The final component, connectivity, I just covered in Chapter 2. I'll discuss these remaining six components in this chapter.

  • Video Hardware

  • Memory

  • CPU

  • Motherboard

  • Sound card

  • Controllers

Each component has a different effect on gaming. Look through each of the areas and determine for yourself which and what you want to upgrade or include in your system. If you read through this chapter and are still unsure what you need for your system, then I'd direct you to one of the many review sites on the Internet. One of the sites is Tom's Hardware Guide (http://www.tomshardware.com).

Buy the computer you need for your purposes

When looking to upgrade your existing system or purchase a new system, consider first what you are going to use it for. Games? Work? Both? The longer I've been in this business, the more I am a believer that you should buy a computer based on what the computer is going to be doing, rather than based on what is cool at the time. But if you intend on gaming, go for what is cool—with caution. Chances are the hot game PC has the juice to play today's hot games and probably even tomorrow's.

Video Hardware

Video hardware is one of the key components to enjoying the games. I have upgraded the video cards more than any other component in my computer system. The video card affects the aesthetics of the game. Some of the older games will be no different in how they look, but the newer games...wow! In the newer games, you will see smooth shapes and special effects that the game programmers included for the higher end graphic cards.

If you have a computer, it's going to have a graphic card. The real question is whether you need a new video card. All graphic cards can display in two dimensions, or 2D. Most of the newer games render graphics in three dimensions, or 3D. A 3D accelerator card will enhance the performance of many games; others won't run without one. If you like your current video card, you can get add-on cards that will process and display the special 3D information and pass through the normal 2D graphics to the monitor. The goal of all graphics cards is realism. The more realistic you can make the image, the better gamers like it and want it.

Voodoo and Voodoo2 and Voodoo3

There are several generations of the Voodoo cards. With each generation there was improvement on how the card handles the graphic input. The Voodoo was the first on the market with a 3D-accelerator card to enhance the graphic effects. Then along came the Voodoo2 card that allowed you to use two in the same machine. This is an expensive solution, but the hardcore gamers went for it to get the results they were looking for. You can see the various Voodoo cards at their Web site, shown in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1 The Voodoo3 Web page can be found at http://www.3dfx.com.

When the Voodoo3 hit the market, it promised to outperform all others. But it was hard to beat two Voodoo2 cards linked together while Voodoo3 cards can't be linked. Though the Voodoo3 card helped keep 3dfx as the leader in the video market, the margin of improvement was thin.

TNT and TNT2

When the TNT chipset hit the market, the Voodoo2 cards were still the hot item. Video cards with the TNT chipsets did not perform as many people had hoped. But once the TNT2 was released, its improvements became evident to make it stand out in the video market. The RIVA TNT2 operates 10% to 17% faster than the TNT, suports AGP 4x, and has a digital flat-panel interface. It easily beat the Voodoo3 cards in performance, as the company's Web site, shown in Figure 3.2, boasts.

Figure 3.2 RIVA TNT's Web page is found at http://www.americas.creative.com/graphics/tnt2-ultra/.

Other Chipsets

Because this graphic processing area is so new to the computer industry, there have been other attempts at producing chipsets. Most of the video card manufactures have taken a beating compared to the CPU manufacturers. The graphic chipsets can be and are as complex and costly to make as some of the processors. But the returns are much less. Several of the video card manufacturers have experienced losses.

DirectX, OpenGL, GLIDE

This is the software component for the games. Some games only allow for certain graphic types. It really does no good to have the top of the line, supercharged, 3D-accelerated graphics card if the software wasn't programmed for it.

OpenGL is primarily used in First-Person Shooter games such as Quake, Half Life and Unreal. DirectX was developed by Microsoft and is used in most of the flight simulator and racing games. GLIDE is yet another graphic format and stands for Graphics Language for Interactive and Dynamic Environments.

DirectX for Games - DirectX is a Microsoft product, free to download from their Web site. Several games require DirectX or a certain version number of DirectX to be installed in order for the game to work. Use your Web browser and enter http://www.microsoft.com/directx/homeuser/downloads/default.asp to download the latest version of DirectX.

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