Wednesday, July 25, 2012

PC Gaming Pros And Cons

We PC gamers have an advantage over console gamers when it comes to things like having virtually endless libraries of additional content for our favorite games and modding tools to create our own custom content; this alone weened me from the consoles years ago and I've never gone back. However, the console gamers have long had the advantage of not having to deal with the technical burdens we PC gamers must endure: assembling a rig with hardware capable of running games, constantly updating software and increasingly frustrating DRM schemes are the first that come to mind. In recent years some of those burdens have been incorporated into the newest console games, but before that all one had to do was drop in a disc or cartridge and you were ready to play.

I wanted to post a bit of a rant about this sort of thing because I recently had to sort out an issue plaguing my gaming rig. In the end the problem was mostly my own fault, but still it made me briefly yearn for my console gaming days as it was something that I never would have been bothered with on those platforms.

I use a number of tools to keep my PC healthy and running smoothly: registry cleaners, performance optimizers, virus and malware scanners... you get the idea. To make a long story somewhat shorter, at some point one of those tools (and I'm still not sure which one) went too far and somehow borked my OS, forcing me to restore a backup from an external drive. Fortunately, making such backups periodically is something else I've made a habit of doing to ensure that I continue to have a working rig to play on. This time, however, my precaution was only partially effective. After restoring the backup, I was frustrated to find that something was now terribly wrong with just about all of my games:
As far as I could tell, something was preventing polygon objects from rendering properly. At first I thought that it might be something specific to the games themselves; sometimes after restoring a C:\ drive backup things that were installed to my other drives might not work properly and need to be re-installed. Thus I spent some time re-installing some games, but to no avail; the problem persisted to manifest itself in multiple games.

The next logical course of action was to uninstall, re-install and update my video drivers; since the problem was showing up in almost all of my games, the driver software was a likely culprit. But again, my efforts were to no avail; after multiple repetitions of the video driver uninstall/re-install/update process the problem remained unflinching.

At length I grew so tired of attempting to resolve the issue that I resorted to playing one of my favorite games that doesn't involve any 3D rendering whatsoever (regular readers of this blog will have no trouble guessing which game I'm referring to). But even my favorite games can grow tiresome after a time (and my patience with the modding communities supporting those games can grow short after an even briefer time) so eventually I found myself wanting to play something different again. But of course my 3D renderer issues were still there.

This is the point where I found myself longing to return to my console gaming days. I decided that my last resort would be to totally re-install my OS... not quite as drastic a measure as it might sound since re-activating my version of Windows 7 64-bit is not an issue; the last time I did so Microsoft kindly provided me with an application to ease that process (which I of course saved on an external drive). I was concerned that perhaps my video hardware was going bad but I needed to be certain before I rushed out to buy a new video card since I'm not a wealthy person. But before I did so I decided to try re-installing the video drivers one last time as I had become certain that said software was the source of the problem.

Apparently waiting patiently for the software development geniuses at AMD to realize and repair their own mistakes was all I had really needed to do; my issues were caused by a specific version of their video driver and thus no matter how many times I re-installed it the problem would still be there. A check of their website revealed a new version of the drivers that had not been there when I began experiencing all the problems; downloading and installing the update fixed things beautifully.
And so, my PC gaming brethren I beseech you heed these words of advice: always keep any driver updates you might download, no matter how old they may be; you never can tell when you might suddenly need them to fall back on.

In the end, I decided to re-install my OS from scratch anyway. I'd been running it for a few years now and no amount of maintenance and tweaking was going to fix some of the issues it had developed (like my frequently-crashing Windows Explorer). It's all turned out for the best now, and in the process I discovered that even my old Dell Dimension E310 can run Windows 7 64-bit even though it shouldn't be able to do so.

Hence my recent brief and almost irrelevant blog entries; I hadn't been able to do much quality gaming until the last week or so. But finally things are running smoothly again and I'm back to attempting to finish playing Two Worlds. I'm also in the process of re-installing several hundred Neverwinter Nights modules, so you might expect a blog post regarding that in the near future.

But first, I have in mind a rant regarding Realm667 and just how displeased I am with the way they run things over there...

I'm Herculine, and I approve this message.


  1. I can't imagine how frustrating that had to have been for you to put up with. I think I would have freaked majorly if it had happened to me. I'm glad to hear you got it all sorted out though. I'd be lost without my computer and my assortment of games >.<

    1. There was a time when I would have freaked majorly as well; since then I've learned the hard way to make backup copies of anything important and to always hang on to any driver installers I download so now it's less freaking out and more just being majorly inconvenienced. One thing I forgot to mention in this post (which was a major part of the problem) was that I actually kept older versions of my video drivers and it just never occurred to me that something could be wrong with the latest version and I should try an older one! DOH!