The gaming box :)

There comes a time in the life of every hard-core mac user who is also a hard-core gamer when a choice must be made. The options basically break down like this: obtain an acceptably fast mac (say, 500 mhz g4 or better), purchase a somewhat pricy mac compatible agp video card, and play the games that work on os 9 or os X at acceptably playable performance levels. The problems with this option are twofold: 1) purchasing an acceptably fast mac if you don't already have one costs significant money, and 2) there's still a solid chunk of titles that simply don't exist on the mac.

Another option is to keep your slightly underpowered g4 (say, 400 mhz with no agp), obtain the most badass pci video card availble for the mac, and limp along playing cpu-limited quake with a super stripped down config (r_picmip = 5, 8 x 6 with all the options down, force models turned on, etc). That works pretty well for a time, but eventually you'll hit a point where the machine is actually preventing you from reacting quickly enough to things to the point that it's holding your game back. Benefits here include not having to shell out for a new mac, but drawbacks still include not having access to many of the other popular titles.

The Third option is to finally make the headlong, flailing leap onto the wintel platform. For somebody that finds M$ as distasteful as I do, this is a difficult decision to make. However, there are plenty of factors that helped me along. For example, for not a lot of money, I could build a box that games like a goddamn demon compared to my g4. And I'd have access to all the games that work in windows. I'd been threatening to build myself a gaming box for quite a long time, and finally had enough spare cash to actually do it, so I did. I must say, after having it for a few weeks, I'm totally thrilled with what it's done for my quake3 experience. Even on this apparently moderate hardware config, q3 absolutely screams, as you shall soon see. First, here's a quick rundown on the hardare itself:

OS Windows XP


AMD Athlon 1600
Drives 20 GB ATA
52x AOpen IDE CD-ROM
Motherboard Asus NForce A7N266e
Video WinFast A170 GForce 4mx 440
2x AGP

So, not too shabby. All of this for about $800 or so. Would have been significantly cheaper had RAM prices not shot up recently. Oh well. I also purchased it all at an actual store, as opposed to bargain hunting online, simply because I was impatient. After a couple false starts where I stupidly installed the motherboard drivers that came with the motherboard, I was on my way. I started with win2k, simply cause I didn't have a copy of XP, and everything was ok. Once everything was initially functional (I relied on the help of Damon, who was a wintel guy for a long time), I didn't really have any problems. My situation is simplified by the fact that the only thing I use this box for is gaming, so I don't have to fight with any poorly designed windows software, and my dealings with the OS itself are also few and far between. Then I upgraded to XP 'cause I could get a copy for cheap, and I have to say that it's hands down the best version of windows so far. It's stable and performs well. I don't use it for my everyday stuff cause I find OS X to be far supperior in just about every measurable way ('except for gaming ;). It is a little annoying to me that my fastest box is a windows machine, but just to give you an idea of how badass a g4 is, consider this: the distributed.net rc5/64 client running on a 500 mhz g4 does about 4.5 MKeys / second. A 1.4 GHz Athlon 1600 does about 6 - 7 MKeys / second. Obviously, that ratio is way, way off. A G4 with two 1 GHz cpus does 11 MKeys / second, and that's only using 1 cpu. Now, granted, this is one of those tests that takes full advantage of the G4's altivec vector processing unit, and this incredible performance disparity is not seen across the board. However, most of the big apps (including os x itself) are altivec accelerated, which is why any media intensive apps (photoshop, DV editing, etc) kick so much ass on a g4. Okay, enough of my rambling banter... check out these quake screens :)

Without uncapping the frame rate, it would stay pegged at 90 without ever dropping. Even when I turned on fullscreen anti-aliasing. Since I'm an fps freak, though, I turned off fsaa and uncapped the frame rate, so now it runs at between about 120 - 250 fps, depending on the map. woot!!! Here's some more screenshots.

The day before I built ball, I went to a software store and bought return to castle wolfenstein and counterstrike; both extremely popular titles, and until very recently, not available on the mac (cs never will be, most likely). Wouldn't you know that I haven't even touched either one! I'm still constantly freaked out by how well quake3 runs, and spend all of my gaming hours playing either q3 or q3 urban terror, which is a most excellent q3 mod. Anyway, my q3 game is getting pretty fierce... if you wanna piece o' this, just drop me a line :) Oh, and big ups to damon for the snazy artwork :)