Taking a break from some great games, staff writer Gareth Harmer takes a closer look at NVIDIA's latest graphics and mobile hardware.
Let’s face it: as MMO gamers, we’re usually pretty poor at upgrading our PCs. Compared to our FPS playing brethren, we try to eke out as much life as possible from our components. When it is finally time to buy a new base unit or bundle of parts, we try to stretch our cash as far as possible. Considering our tendency to splash out on mice with more buttons than the average calculator, it’s surprising that we’re less inclined to think inside the box.
During Gamescom, I had the good fortune to meet up with NVIDIA representatives and check out their latest collection of hardware, from brand new desktop and laptop chips to the latest in mobile gaming. I also managed to get a close look at some of the latest games and MMOs running on this new kit, so that I could see for myself just what a difference it makes. From multiplayer Mech-fest Hawken to contemporary MMO The Secret World, the results are stunning.
Probably the most important announcement to price-conscious MMO gamers, the new GeForce GTX 660Ti range of graphics cards is likely to be a component of choice for mid-range system builders. Based on the low-power, high performance architecture that’s found in pricier cards like the 670 and 680, this new entrant is the first Kepler-based card that breaks that magic $300 or £250 price barrier. With plenty of overclocking headroom and pre-overclocked variants also available, there’s the possibility of squeezing out even more bang for your buck. The GTX 660Ti also falls neatly in the latest generation spec for those looking to drive crisp, 1080p high-definition monitors.
Normally, the latest graphics hardware wouldn’t be of interest to any except the most cutting-edge MMO player. But times are changing – World of Warcraft now supports DirectX 11, bringing higher frame rates and smoother gameplay. The Secret World supports more advanced features such as Tessellation (more on that in our One Month Review), as well as NVIDIA-exclusive improved anti-aliasing techniques such as FXAA and TXAA in order to soften those jagged edges. Future MMOs, including PlanetSide 2 and MechWarrior Online, will use DirectX11, TXAA and PhysX in order to serve up even better visual delights. If you’re still rocking that four year old graphics card, it’s time to think of upgrading.
Of course, upgrading might be something you’re already considering. With so many great MMOs coming out, and Windows 8 looming like a juggernaut in front of us, retailers are going crazy to swamp us with offers. Before putting your money down, it pays to check that your planned purchase has enough poke to play the games at the settings you want.
Moving up a few brackets, I also got a taste of some top-tier laptop gaming. Housed in a blisteringly fast Alienware laptop, the GTX 680m was comfortably devouring everything thrown at it. From The Secret World with every switch and toggle enabled, to an early preview of Hawken, the sleek green and black machine barely flinched. Such performance doesn’t come cheap though, with prices being roughly around $2500 for this hefty slice of gaming goodness.
A prod at the latest Tegra tablets and phones rounded off the session, including Google’s latest Nexus 7. While these machines aren’t too important for MMO gamers right now, it’s something to consider when contract renewal time arrives. We’re already using our smartphones as authenticators to secure our account, and games like PlanetSide 2 are already planning a more integrated app for iPads and iPhones. As it’s likely that in time we’ll be playing portable games that plug into our regular MMOs, it makes sense to pick something with a bit of graphical grunt.
Gareth “Gazimoff” Harmer, Staff Writer