I picked up an inexpensive board with integrated video (I got this one, not refuburished, but it looks like this might be the newer model) and AMD processor recently to get back into the WinPC gaming world about a year ago, I suppose, and was looking around for what I should add to finally make it a real gamer. And when I say real, I just mean move from "integrated video" to "budget". A quick trip to Tom's Hardware pointed out the current overclocker's value video card (warning; link doesn't seem stable). Nearly two bills ($175 at newegg.com)!
Head over to Mushkin to see how much 2 gig sticks of RAM will cost me, as I copped out for the 512 meg Circuit City special last year and boy does it hurt. My iBook plays WoW better than my PC most days, mostly because of the 5/4 gig of RAM it's got. Looks like about $135 plus shipping!
Admittedly, that doesn't seem like too much for a boatload of RAM, but that's another $300 bucks on video and memory, essentially as much as I paid for the whole box (reusing drives) in the first place. PC gaming is not a poor human's hobby. And if you think PCs are expensive, well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
All this overhead makes me wonder if we're just converging on arcades again. I've seen a few places that sell access on ph4t boxen by the hour that really are fun places to play. Seeing WoW on a fully loaded WinPC for the first time after playing exclusively on my iBook was a real eye-opener, and I am getting by with my $320 white box from six months ago. Perhaps relatively high-end gaming is becoming so specialized it's not realistic to expect to play it in our home offices any more.
Alternately, of course, we have consoles converging on gaming rigs, what with hard drives and their own boats o' RAM. Still, it's going to be a while before a console can keep up, year in year out, with modular towers. I just wish there was an inexpensive way in without paying $15 a month and driving to the local PC "arcade".
Rant over. Was also interesting to note that the video card Tom's Hardware recommended had 112 or so reviews on newegg where most of the other brands of the same card had 2 or 3. Just a little power in the whitebox world wielded by ole Tom.
Solution: Don't play Quake 4.
Or F.E.A.R. When I upgraded my rig a while ago, I was depressed about the performance of those two games too, but then I started playing other new games made by reasonable people for reasonable consumers and found that my machine wasn't useless after all. There are lots of games on the market today and its not like there's ever a shortage of good 1st-Person shooters.
I need to stop in one of these rental places, I guess.
I recall that the one I used in London (for downloading a file from work) was full of cigarette smoke and pretty junky looking, and probably not the same class as what you're talking about. They did let me tap my laptop into an ethernet cable for 5 minutes for free, so there is that. :^) The couple of "dens" I visited in Auckland, N.Z. were not at all made for me: the default languages were either Chinese or Japanese!
Quake and Quake II were quite good. Quake III was ok, but never had quite the long-term appeal. I'm not sure I've got a good reason to run right out now and play Quake IV. Some of the things I've heard about it just gross me out and make me not terribly keen to play it. That I'd have to invest in non-laptop computer hardware for the first time in two years sure doesn't make the situation any better.
It costs $2k every four years or so to keep up with PC gaming's high end.
It costs $400 every four years or so to keep up with console gaming's high end.
I suppose the only really interesting question is whether those numbers have changed significantly over time when adjusted for inflation.
I guess I'd disagree with Casey, if only to say some of the more respectably spec'd games (and here I'm one-track-minding back to WoW) do look much more impressive with higher end hardware. The game might run on the iBook, but seeing it in the "PC arcade" is a heck of a step up, and there's a ton more real estate on the screen.
It's hard not to want that same experience at home.
At the same time, I've done a decent job just barely getting back into the game with about $370 worth of gear while leaving myself plenty of room to upgrade later. Still, it's a difficult expenditure to justify when you've got consoles playing games nearly as advanced at acceptable framerates, etc, almost by definition -- and at the same price as this bottom of the line PC hardware I've got.