Pc

My home-brew 'Steam Box' for the living room

Games hardware PC steam

I’ve already posted about how I’d decided to choose the PC as my ‘next-generation’ gaming platform, and last weekend I built the first iteration of that machine. I say the first iteration, because a PC is inherently an evolving platform, and I expect to refine it and upgrade it in future, but this is where I’m starting from. I thought I’d discuss the choices I made, and the experiences I’ve had so far. Be aware, this is a long one with quite a lot of technical detail, so buckle up 😀

My Criteria

The problem with buying a PC is that you can quite easily go absolutely nuts and blow a fortune on it, by creeping up specification scale gradually without even realising - it’s only a little extra to move one notch up on a component, but then the other components are letting the side down, and before you know it you’ve blown a couple of grand. So, I deliberately set myself very clear goals in building this machine and didn’t allow myself to stray from that:

  1. It had to fit in my cabinet under the TV and not look out of place, and had to work in a living room environment generally
  2. Despite 1, it had to be full ATX with room for 2 full-length GPUs (even though I only plan to buy one initially), and have good ventilation
  3. It had to be approximately the same performance as Xbox One / PS4, give or take, because that would be the benchmark for most game developers going forward. I’ll compare to the PS4 since that’s the more powerful of the two.
  4. I set a budget limit of £700-£800, or about 2x a next-gen console. Mostly this was because I felt I needed to set a reasonable limit to avoid the ever-persistent ‘just one more upgrade’ temptation on PC, but also because it felt like a reasonable test of whether you could build a decent lounge setup for a reasonable sum. It’s never going to be as cheap as a console, but I’m willing to pay extra for a more open & flexible gaming machine.

With that in mind, I went shopping 😀

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Why I'm returning to the PC for the 'next generation'

Games PC PS4 steam Xbone

I have a long history with PC gaming; I was there back when you had to tweak your autoexec.bat and config.sys to squeeze that last 200K of memory to run specific games, and when we used to debate which DOS extender was the best. I owned consoles too, but my PC was where my serious gaming happened for many, many years. That period ended when I badly injured my back in 2008 and had to limit the hours I spent sat in front of a keyboard / mouse - I could barely put the hours in for work (and open source), never mind spending my gaming time there too.

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Windows 7 switcharoo

Spring is usually a time of change, and I finally got a gap in my schedule where I could wipe my primary Windows machine and install Windows 7 (64-bit). It’s had XP on it for years - my experience with Vista on secondary test machines quashed any desire to ‘upgrade’ my primary work environment, and despite owning Windows 7 for some months a number of things have stopped me installing it, from lack of driver support for my office wifi-connected all-in-one printer / scanner, to work commitments where I couldn’t afford to take the time out to reinstall and set up several complex environments.

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Left 4 Dead 2: zombie apocalypse squared

My wife & I loved playing Left 4 Dead. Sure it only had 4 campaigns and became repetitive after a while (but we still logged 30+ hours on it), but there was just no other game like it. Not only was it the best co-op experience I’d ever had, defly encouraging real co-operative play (rather than just feeling like you happen to be in the same game at the same time) without it ever feeling forced, but it was also without doubt the best zombie apocalypse simulator ever.

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