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Month: January 2023

Upgrading the Gaming PC

Upgrading the Gaming PC

Back on launch-day in August 2016 I began playing No Man’s Sky on the PS4. I fell so wildly in love with the game that a few weeks later I ordered parts and put together a gaming PC so that I could play No Man’s Sky at 60+ FPS with higher resolution options and also have the ability to adjust the player’s field of view (which one could not, on console back then). I detailed the system build in a post from way-back-when, but in a nutshell, the system consisted of:

  • Intel i7-6700K (4 core, 8 thread) @ 4GHz (4.2GHz boost)
  • Gigabyte Nvidia GTX-1080 Xtreme Gaming
  • 16GB Corsair DDR4 RAM-3200
  • 32-inch Samsung CF391 curved 60Hz 1920×1080 (16:9) LCD

As I’d hoped, this setup ran the game incredibly well. I started using it back in “the early days” and I played on this PC a little over six years, for what’s now 3,800 hours in the game, all settings on “Ultra.” In that time, I doubled the system RAM and in order to move up from 1080p to 1440p, the GPU and display were upgraded to:

  • EVGA FTW3 GTX-1080Ti (11GB, factory overclocked)
  • Samsung C32HG70 curved 32-inch 144Hz 2560×1440 (16:9) LCD

This worked out very well for quite a while but…those pesky (frequent and free) updates Hello Games keeps releasing began to take a toll on performance. (At the time of this post, HG has released 161 updates, 30 of them major.) As certain updates brought richer worlds with more details — Origins and Next Generation in particular — I noticed that framerates started to dip here and there. And, whereas a few years ago on my Freesync-linked GPU and display I had been mostly in the 80-95 fps range with very rarely a dip below 60 fps, recently when walking on worlds with particularly dense ground features, I began to see brief dips into the low 40s and occasional stuttering, even when framerates were up in the 70s and 80s. I have a little 7-inch secondary display constantly running on the PC, displaying system monitoring information from the app HWiNFO64, and I noted that the GPU was often not fully loaded, which showed me that I was CPU limited in terms of performance; the Skylake CPU was not able to keep the GPU fully fed. And so, I decided to finally upgrade the PC.

After bringing myself up to speed on the PC CPU landscape out there, and acknowledging that I don’t use this Windows PC for anything but gaming (the performance / efficiency cores proposition offered by Intel therefore not being of interest to me), I decided to upgrade the CPU to a Ryzen 7 7700X, which also meant upgrading the motherboard and system RAM to the DDR5 required by the Zen 4 architecture. I would also stay with Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. (Incidentally, this is the third AMD-based system I have built. The first was a 5×86 160MHz system from 1996, which I rebuilt not all that long ago, and the second was a K6 225MHz system from 1997.)

I posted on the Ars Technica forums asking for advice on making this upgrade and was given much helpful advice and told that if there were a MicroCenter near me (there was) I could get a number of in-store discounts, including a free 32GB DDR5 RAM kit, among others. And, so, I headed to the Fairfax, VA MicroCenter and purchased the aforementioned CPU along with an ASUS B650-A motherboard, a heatsink/fan combo, and a few other odds and ends. All of that in hand (including the free 32GB of DDR5 RAM), I headed home and opened up the gaming PC, swapping in the new parts for the old, reusing the GTX-1080Ti, the Fractal Design R5 case, the EVGA PSU, the optical drive, and my SATA SSDs. I took advantage of a $60 MicroCenter discount and purchased a WD_BLACK NVMe 2TB SSD for just $20 over the price of the 1TB unit to further increase loading speeds in the game. The core component build-out of this upgraded PC presently looks like:

  • Ryzen 7 7700X (8 core, 16 thread) @ 4.5GHz (5.4GHz boost)
  • ASUS B650-A ROG Strix motherboard (with WiFi, Bluetooth)
  • EVGA FTW3 GTX-1080Ti (11GB, factory overclocked)
  • 32GB G.SKILL DDR5-6000 RAM
  • WD_BLACK SN850X 2TB NVMe SSD
  • Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler

If you have a local MicroCenter — by all means use it.

Here, I will note that the GTX-1080Ti is a GPU that was “too good.” Nvidia released it to the market — only shortly — based on AMD’s performance claims about their upcoming Vega architecture … that ended up being exaggerated. Real-time raytracing hardware aside, the GTX-1080Ti with its 11GB of RAM is approximately equal in performance to the RTX-2070 Super and the RTX-3060 (but with more RAM), especially with older games — I would not trade it for either. The RTX-2080 is only ~10% faster in most cases. It seemed a foolish idea to consider upgrading the GPU at this time, not to mention — I didn’t have the budget for it.

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“No Man’s Sky” Featured in Apple’s January M2 Silicon Event

“No Man’s Sky” Featured in Apple’s January M2 Silicon Event

During Apple’s WWDC 2022 keynote back in June, Apple announced that No Man’s Sky would be coming to the Mac, featuring the game as an example of one of the first apps to utilize Apple’s new Metal 3 graphics API along with one of the new features it brings, MetalFX upscaling. During the demo, Apple’s Senior Director of GPU Software, Jeremy Sandmel, said that the game would be “coming to the Mac later this year.” And in early October, Hello Games’ front man Sean Murray tweeted,

2022 has already been a busy year for No Man’s Sky – Sentinel, Outlaws, Leviathan, Endurance, SteamDeck, MacOS, PSVR2, Switch and several expeditions… and we aren’t done yet!

But as we saw, the year drew to a close without a Mac No Man’s Sky release. (Several other games slated for Mac release by year’s end were also delayed, for what that’s worth.) And, with 2023 underway, posts across various web forums from anxious would-be Mac Travellers have started to appear, asking about any updates on the status of the coming Mac release.

Those waiting anxiously may be pleased to hear that Apple held a press event today announcing new MacBook Pro laptops and Mac mini desktop models featuring new iterations of Apple’s M2 processor, and in that event, No Man’s Sky was again showcased, this time by Senior Engineering Program Manager, Mac, Erin Turullols, as can be seen in the bookmarked video clip below.

And the new Mac mini is also great for games, running demanding titles like No Man’s Sky at even faster framerates. With this supercharged performance, the new mini with M2 runs laps around the competition.

The No Man’s Sky section of the event showed the game running on an Apple Studio Display, with a Mac mini and a Sony PS5 DualSense wireless controller by its side. There is little reason to assume that the demo footage shown in the video was actual footage of the game running on Apple hardware. More than likely, It was a PR clip from Hello Games, generated on a PC.

Unfortunately, no release timeframe was mentioned during the event, however, a bit of fine print shown at the conclusion of the video states that “No Man’s Sky will be available later this year.”

So, for anyone doubting that the game was still on the way — and there’s really no reason to have though that — the game is still on the way. Likely, No Man’s Sky will launch not only sometime in 2023, but soon. Some speculate that Hello Games is waiting for Sony’s Playstation VR2 launch for PS5 on February 22nd to release an update that takes advantage of the new headset while also using that opportunity to release the Mac version. That may be the case, or there may have simply been some setbacks in the development process that forced a delay in the Mac version’s release.

Whatever the reality, No Man’s Sky for the Mac will surely be here soon. (And for the iPad, too, if you believe what Apple stated in their web press release following the WWDC 2022 keynote, though as far as we’ve seen, Hello Games has made no mention of such a version anywhere else…)