Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

Steam & Your Small SSD

I just finished “upgrading” my main PC for the first time in almost two years, and this is the first mainboard and CPU upgrade in nearly four.  For those of you reading familiar with my PC upgrade habits you know that is like having and Ice Age occur, having the glaciers come and retreat and the Earth turning green again between upgrades.  In truth, this is fairly minor upgrade in that I bought nothing new, save a $30 case in order to pull it off.

Well, in truth I did buy a shiny, new 180GB Intel Solid State Drive.  Yes, it is Sandforce based, which I vowed never to buy… but it is also Intel, which I always promise to buy but then shrink back from the cost… *shrug*  I had completely grown out of the 40GB Gen2 Intel SSD however, and so this purchase was completely spousal approved.  I am typing from the very machine which I put together, fancy water cooling kit and all.  It’s a little louder than I would prefer, but the big upgrade comes a year from now and I’ll save the money and trouble until that time…

ANYWAY – the main event.  I put Steam and all of my Steam games on a Western Digital Black 640GB 7200 RPM drive.  It is plenty speedy for the load times for games, but Steam annoyingly always took a while to launch and the UI was painfully laggy compared to the apps installed onto the SSD boot drive.  A bigger SSD makes this all better, right?  Well, at any given time I have over 200GB of Steam games installed, not too mention the ~30GB of Blizzard games sitting on the hard drive.  There wasn’t room in the budget for a 512GB or 600GB SSD (I paid $130 for 180GB, a 512 is at least $350 if not $4-500), especially given the minimal increase games gain by being installed to an SSD.

Simple solution, right?  Install Steam to the SSD, install the games to the spinning cheap drive, call it a day!

If only it were that easy!  Steam installs all of the games you manage through it in the same directory that you install the Steam application into.  Remember, I have only a 180GB drive and 200+GB of games installed.

Enter “symbolic links” and easy apps like http://www.traynier.com/software/steammover/ that allow you to move installed games to a secondary drive by using a clever trick of NTFS.   This means you can have your cake and eat it too – a minority of your games are on the SSD, along with the core Steam files, meaning the best possible performance while the games you aren’t actively playing or are too big are more economically stored on spinning disk.  I started using this tool, which meant I copied my downloaded games from the steamapps/common directory from my old Steam install (the same secondary disk was in my old system, carried it over to the new system) over to the SSD, then the handy tool moved the data back to the secondary directory on the spinning drive.

This took a while, even at ~100+MB a second.  Plus, writing data to an SSD wears it out, so it should be minimized if possible.  I got to Rage, the newest game from Id that is ~21GB on disk and decided there had to be a better way.

I found a great work around.  Now, I create the same directory in the SSD steamapps/common directory and copy the .exe and other miscellaneous top level files from the spinning drive, which is about 30-50MB depending on the game, which takes less than a second.  Next, I use the tool to “move” the game from the SSD to the secondary drive.  Finally, I cut the massive files out of the original steamapps/common/game directory and paste them into the new directory on the same drive and partition.  Since this is a simple modification of the file system tree and no data gets moved, it is essentially instantaneous.

Win for me!  Hopefully a win for you!

Note – the Valve games put their darn big files right in the root of the steamapps directory, so this relocation trick doesn’t even work on them.  If you are planning on playing TF:2, L4D, CS:S, etc you are going to need a decent amount of room on the SSD to pull this off.  I wouldn’t do it with less than an 80GB SSD.

–Nat

(also, not shut out in July! :) )

NATLAN 2012

Setup

It was a great time!

It was a cold time!

Fourteen of us huddled together around out PCs in a ~50F garage and rocked out Team Fortress 2 (plenty of anger here), Day of Defeat (friendly fire is on, folks!), Counter-Strike (gets older and older, thank goodness a new one is coming out next year) and Serious Sam: BFE (in which 10 players cannot be stopped.)

 

We raised $77 for Childs Play Charity through the raffle:

Dan with the "empty" bottle of Rum, Sean with the RAM as always, Nat with HS, Drew with Portal 2 and Brian w/both Blizzard Trials, Mitch not pictured won the Golden Ticket

There was an impromptu costume contest, which Brian won by virtue of the face paint:


"Don't Ask"

 Let’s hope there is another NATLAN this fall or next spring :)  I am already looking forward to it…

–Nat

Raffle Prizes for NATLAN 2012

For those of you at the LAN, you’ll have four “buckets” that you can put your tickets into, and they will be for these items:

  1.  A Golden Ticket: Your Free (and a new to NATLAN guest) pass to a NATLAN in the future.
  2. 8GB DDR3 Kit – Kingston 4GBx2 Sticks that looks suspiciously like this one: http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0360526
  3. Cooler Master Hyper 212+ Heatsink: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103065
  4. A bottle of Captain Morgan Black Label Rum and a two liter bottle of both regular & diet Coke.  Or you can drink it on the rocks or neat, your call.  Obviously only available to those over 21.
All raffle proceeds to be sent to Childs Play charity, as always.
One ticket is included with your admittance fee, additional tickets are $1.  If you buy 5 additional tickets when you pay for the LAN, a bonus ticket is included (you’ll then have 7 tickets to put into the buckets).   This way, when you pay with a twenty I don’t have to have so many $5 bills on hand and you get an extra shot at some good stuff :)
Based on past feedback on the raffles I “cut the crap” and hopefully there is something that will interest everyone on the table.  I love the heatsink, you bet that is where my tickets are going…
–Nat

 

Thinking of tweaking Counter Strike

I want to ban the sniper rifles, because I think they change the game in a way that is not fun for many of the people at the LAN. I am hoping to test this change this week:

http://www.halflife2.net/forums/showthread.php?56588-How-do-I-disable-the-AWP-amp-SG550-from-being-bought-on-my-server

Any thoughts out there?

–Nat

NATLAN 2012 is a go!

Mark your calendars for March 3rd.

Why the third of March?  First and foremost, that is the latest break I get in teaching this year – it is St. Paul College’s Spring Break.  I think it is best to do this sort of thing when I don’t have to get a class nailed down during the same weekend.  Also, and importantly, most of the longest tenured NATLAN attendees said they could make it on the third.

Current plans for the LAN:

It’s going to be in the garage at my home in Minnesota.  It looks like the “normal” high for early March should be just above freezing – I think that if we put ~2kw worth of “heaters” out there and keep the doors closed it should work.  That said, while planning to do it in the garage the basement has been getting more and more cleaned up and it should be possible to move up to sixteen folks inside should the weather prove to be really foul.

Gamewise I think we are looking at the typical collection (steam games, TF2, CS:S, DOD:S) plus Serious Sam BFE depending on the stability of COOP there.  16 player coop should be a hoot.

New for this LAN, and one of the main reasons I am thinking to do it at my house, is that I am considering providing for remote players.  More to come on this – and as much a possible, I’ll incentive those who can attend to be onsite – so check back for more details.

Finally – I’ll have a nine month old at this point.  What that means is that I am cool with some people being in the house, but it won’t be a crazy sleep over like it is sometimes.  To that end I’ve talked to the Mooney’s who have graciously opened their house so that up to five people can sleep in beds there.  We’ll be covering this in some more detail down the line too…

Exciting times!

–Nat

Orcs Must Die!

Thank goodness this game only has a demo out for PC right now:

http://www.robotentertainment.com/games/orcsmustdie

If it had a full version, after playing the demo, I would have had to buy it so I could keep playing. A little bit of a bummer that it only has twenty levels but I suppose that it might get a bit more involved outside of the demo levels. The smoothness and obviousness of some of the concepts really let me get in there and play it. Being more involved in a tower defense games is a good time.

Ars has a review of it as well

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/reviews/

I’ll be watching for this one on sale, that’s for sure…

Nat

VG Cats

From time to time while cruising through the internet I find something new.  This week I stumbled upon the “vgcats” comic, and after getting to this one,  I couldn’t help but share.  In an unrelated incident, I also found this poster which I find nearly endlessly amusing:

Probably Not.

Lastly, it’s been four years that Kristin I have been married!  How fast good times go by…  and only four weeks until we are supposed to continue the TeamJuchems expansion with a baby boy, which is also just freaking crazy.  It does seem like Kristin has been pregnant about forever…

–Nat

Team Fortress 2 Server is up!

It was brought to my attention that there is a “tick rate” for a TF2 server – this manages how often the “world” updates on the server.  By default the server checks the world state about thirty times per second, “33 tick.”  That is when the server doles out damage to players, etc.  The higher the tick rate the more accurate the server is in managing player actions.  ”66tick” is the higher option and I used the code from this forum post.

Only the best for the LAN :)

For my sanity:

Useful commands:

  • rcon say “HEY YO I HAVE TEH RCONZ”
  • rcon changelevel <mapname> // will force a level change.
  • rcon maps * // will show you all maps installed on the server
  • rcon sv_alltalk 0/1 // setting this to 1 will allow everyone to talk to each other using both text and voice including spectators
  • rcon mp_timelimit X // sets the timelimit of the current map to X. If a round ends with <=5 minutes to go the map ends. (unless maxrounds or winlimit is reached first)
  • rcon mp_winlimit X // a team must win X rounds to end the map. (unless timelimit or maxrounds is reached first)
  • rcon mp_maxrounds X // map ends when X rounds have been reached (unless winlimit or timelimit is reached first)
  • rcon mp_scrambleteams // will randomise the teams. Useful for pugs when no captains step up. May not randomise very well. Run it a few times if the teams remain unbalanced.
  • rcon mp_restartgame X // restarts game in X seconds.
  • rcon mp_tournament 1 // turns tournament mode on. There are a few changes to the server to make it easier for tournament play. This will be explained for ozfc2, where tournament mode will be required. Stops the map from changing at the end of a match, and allows clans to muck around and reset the server themselves without rcon using the tournament interface.
  • **rcon tf_weapon_criticals 0 // turns crits off (defaults to 1 to turn them back on)
  • **rcon mp_friendlyfire 1 // turns friendlyfire on; 0 for off (defaults to off)
  • **rcon mp_disable_respawn_times 0 // turns respawn times off, 1 for on (defaults to on)

** Please note commands marked with * change the behaviour of the game as valve intended it. It will change the server to be marked as custom until these commands are removed. The server will no longer appear in the standard server browser and will only be accessable by IP or the Custom tab. These commands shouldnt be used unless you know what you’re doing and you have a reason to do it. Typical reasons are turning crits off for a pug.

Kicking, Banning and Unbanning:

  • rcon users // shows list of users including userid
  • rcon kick “X” // kicks by player name. Bit hard to do if the player has a wankername
  • rcon kickid userid/uniqueid “message” // kicks player; userid = first 2/3 digits in ‘rcon users’, uniqueid = steam id
  • rcon banid minutes userid/uniqueid [kick] // bans the player for minutes. see kickid for id details. kick is an optional param, if used it will also kick the player. Use 0 minutes for permanent
  • rcon unbanid X // unbans the id
  • rcon addip minutes X // bans IP address for minutes specified. Use 0 minutes for permanent
  • rcon removeip X // removes IP ban

–Nat

Made it Silver!

Much to Kristin’s consternation, I believe, I have played enough Starcraft 2 and gotten good enough to be in the Silver league. I hadn’t played a bronze leaguer in about 20 matches anyway, so no surprise there. It’s pretty interesting all the math that goes into changing your rank – they have a point system, the some “sigma” value that changes over time based on how well you do against other players based on the rank/league differential.

Anyway, check it out :)

http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/profile/671847/1/blckgrffn/

Supposedly you are put into a league where you are expected to win 50% of the time.  Last night I played eight matches and went 4 & 4, so it looks about right.

– Nat

Do you know what is better than having 1 video card in your computer?

Two video cards, of course!   I have had the current rig for awhile, and one of my goals has been to “finish it 2008 style” – the motherboard supported AMD/ATI’s Crossfire multi-video card technology.  I have already put the fastest processor it can handle in as well, so adding another older video card was the finishing touch.  Over a year ago I bought an AMD 4830 (the lowest of their top tier card offerings at the time) for a steal on the Anandtech For Sale/For Trade forums where I get all my good used computer goodies.  I told myself when I saw another for $50 I would buy it.  That never happened, but I found one for $60 a couple weeks ago and picked it up.

You might be wondering why this would be exciting – two video cards means twice the heat, twice the power and twice the noise.  They also bring in almost twice the performance :)  Well, sometimes as you can see below…

Frames Per Second



Frames Per Second

For my $60 I am seeing a solid increase in performance.  100%?  No, but we can see that there are solid performance gains across the board that I am fairly impressed with.  The 2008 Power Rig is now complete… Time to do a full PC upgrade, right :D

There will be a couple follow on posts talking about the benchmark choices and some  more pictures of the dual card goodness.

–Nat