Steam

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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Monsieur, you are really spoiling us

Yesterday saw a triple-whammy of sugary Apple gaming goodness: Steam for Mac was released, meaning all the games you own on Steam that are ported to the Mac can also be played there, free. Torchlight was a day-1 release on the service, meaning Ogre (and therefore code written by me) was among the very first on the service. Portal became free (for Mac and PC) Wow. A great day for Mac gaming.

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Steam's L4D2 pre-order price shock - it's reasonable

I like Steam. Sure, you’ve got all the people moaning about not being able to sell on their games afterwards, but I don’t care about that - maybe because I don’t buy that many games compared to some, and I tend to hold on to them regardless more often than not. It’s the nearest thing to XBox Live on the PC and it does a pretty good job of it. Buying games and keeping them up to date is simple, and it’s indie-friendly with far less of the snooty attitide that seems to be increasing in the console online marketplaces now they’re established.

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The long wait

360 Games repair steam

I’m still waiting to get my 360 back after it fell on its own sword, but luckily late last week I got confirmation that it’s making its way back to me (or at least, a doppleganger with a service label on it is). It’s now languishing somewhere in Belgium as it meanders through UPS’s various relay stations like some signal trying to evade detection. All in all it will have taken about a month for the repair to go through, with a week of that just being lost by nothing happening with the initial web-registered fault report, and the rest just being dreadfully slow UPS shuttling of boxes (a courier that takes a week to go from Germany to here isn’t really ‘express’ if you ask me - I made it in a day, and FedEx is always much faster than this).

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