Thursday, December 8, 2011

Update[d video card for $20] and Pandaria Licensing with DreamWorks

Okay, I'm still not back-as-in-back to playing. Right now I'm waffling between, "Pandaria seems pretty cool, in spite of it being, um, pandas," and, "How the heck can they release this expansion without paying DreamWorks through the nose?!!"

I mean, really, "bouncy" and "inner peace" racial traits? You've got to be kidding me. Right? This is a giant prank, isn't it?

But then "Activision Blizzard" seems to have Kung-Fu Panda in their licensing bag already? Maybe they're crazy like a fox? Maybe the whole point is to take the standard Oriental Expansion Idea and up some Kung-Fu Panda sales while you're at it? It's so crazy, it just might work, right?

I'll admit that I can't keep up with who owns what company any more. I'd managed to forget about Activision and Blizzard. It's crazy. But let's face it, somebody owns rights to Kung-Fu Panda, and Blizzard (now Act-Bliz) obviously owns WoW. This is cross-promotion of Disney-ESPN proportions.

In any event, I've already seen Kung-Fu Panda 2 (not nearly as good as the first, but there is a bit of the "2 is just here to get us to 3" feeling -- hey, so what are the chances that Kung-Fu Panda 3 is coming out about the same time as this expansion? Imagine the coincidence of that!), and I'm sure I'll bag Mists release day. The attention to the single-player game, if it happens, will be neat, and I'm excited to check out the monk class and new zones, even if I have to do it as a panda. If done right, the zones could be pretty cool.

In other exciting news, I finally broke down and stopped using the GeForce 8500 with 256 megs of VRAM that's still listed on this page, and that I've had for years. People that read this blog too closely know that I've been considering spending as much as $170 for a new card over the last year, but a CyberMonday special at NewEgg had a GT430 with a gig of RAM for $20 shipped after rebate (here's the item, back up to $45 after rebate now). Too good to pass up.

GTA IV finally plays in a resolution over 800x600, which is awesome. I did this with GTA3:SA too... the late video card upgrade was like getting a new game.

I also played Sandraevia, the freeplay Blood-Elf Rogue I've got, for a few more minutes, which means, of course, that I bagged yet another level, though I was a little slow snapping the shot.

Just for kicks, I'll include two pictures, one with something approximating my old settings and another with the new. I'd always kept draw distance to Ultra, as that's the only setting that really affects gameplay (other than summing their performance into fps), but now I've got it all maxed out. Soloing in the starting area is no problem. I'd almost like to raid again just to see what happens.

Old Settings:

New Settings:

It looks better, no doubt, and looks even better in motion. For $20, it's an obvious win. Sure, the fan is a little loud, but my CPU fan doesn't really slow down either, so I can only barely hear the GPU. That said, the CPU fan is so loud, I really can't believe that I can just barely hear this GPU fan over the CPU, but I can. Wow. For $20, I'm not complaining.

I often wonder how a game reviewer should considering each game's "artistic" effects. In short, does pretty eye-candy make for a better game? I hate to say it helps. I still recall being wowed by Ironforge (no pun was intended there, sorry) the first time -- and Darn too, the first time I walked up on it before seeing IF. Blood Elf architecture is cool, and Lich King had some nice expanses too. Each of those impressed me and increased immersion -- not so much because it was realistic, as that the game was essentially imprinting me. These were unforgettable, tell your neighbor moments. I should also add Nagrand to the list. Beautiful. Eye candy is the difference between driving down a bland Interstate and hitting the PCH.

But which setting do you use to review a game when some of your readers are playing on laptops with integrated graphics and others have top of the line SLI? What experience is the "right", representative one that you should be using?

I don't know. But I will say that if it's been a while since you upgraded, keep an eye out. $20 is a no-brainer, and there've got to be similar deals coming up soon.

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