You can make a superior gaming PC for less than a console

In this thread about which console someone should buy, I tried to suggest in a non-adversarial way that the OP should consider turning his computer into a gaming computer for less cost and better results. This got me blasted, and if I were to respond there, I would get blamed for hijacking the thread when it wasn’t my intention. So I’m starting a new thread, both to address the responses people gave me in that thread, and in general just to try to dispell some myths and give some knowledge about PC gaming.

The most important issue is that people have a mistaken impression that a “gaming PC” costs thousands of dollars to build. This isn’t true. Sure, Alienware sells way overpriced PCs with overpriced top of the line components, and you can run up the price paying for the top end of everything if you wanted because it carries a very steep price premium, but it is in no way necesary to enjoy good quality gaming on the PC. I’ve been a “hardcore” PC gamer for years and the most I’ve ever spent on a computer is $1200… and that’s when I had a lot of money and I was kind of splurging. The other idea is that you MUST upgrade your hardware every few months or you can’t play new games, which is also bullshit. I build a new system roughly once every 3 years, and it works well enough for the duration and only when it’s really starting to show its age will I upgrade it. You have the option of upgrading constantly if you always want the absolute best, but by no means is it a requirement.

Another issue is that you don’t necesarily have to build a “gaming pc” from the ground up. There’s a good chance that if you have any sort of recent hardware on the computer that you’re using to read this post right now, then you already have a case, power supply, ram, decent CPU, keyboard, mouse, DVD drive, hard drives, monitor, etc. You have most of the computer right there. If you have any sort of decent modern CPU - even something low end like a 2 ghz core2duo (price? $40 +/-) processor and 2gb of ram (price $30 +/-), you will be able to run pretty much any game at reasonable settings if you simply add a good video card. You also don’t need to learn how to build a computer from the ground up to do this - you’d just need to open the side of your case and swap out a video card, which is a very easy process.

I made a case in this thread that current generation consoles are comically underpowered relative to current PC hardware. Specifically, this post details the hardware comparisons. I said in that thread that this $35 video card ($25 after rebate!) plugged into a modern low/mid end computer would outperform either console graphically, and I stand by that. However, I wouldn’t recommend that - if you’re building a gaming machine you might as well get something decent by modern standards. This $144 5850 Radeon card is an insanely good deal. It’s a DX11 card so it can run the most advanced features out there, and it’s at least 30 or 40 times more powerful than the GPU in the xbox 360 (made by ATI, the same company, so it’s directly comparable).

It may sound hard to believe, but really, why? We all know computers advance at an incredible pace. Last year’s top of the line hardware is this year’s bargain. Computers are able to get twice as fast every few years. So why is it hard to believe that the hardware in consoles, which is low to mid end in the first place to save costs, which are locked into whatever hardware they had when they were first designed would be woefully behind years later? Video cards/GPUs are by far the most important component in a gaming system and their development cycle is typically about 6 months. So every 6 months, there’s a significant advance in GPUs. So after 4-5 years, current GPUs are way ahead of the GPUs of 2005.

Most of the X360’s library is available for the PC too. I can’t think of many big budget titles that aren’t offhand. Forza 2/3, Halo 3, and the last few years of Madden are the only ones I can think of. There are more I’m sure, but I would imagine at least 80% of the X360’s library is available on PC. But it doesn’t work so much in the reverse. There are lots of PC games that don’t make it to console because of control limitations, hardware limitations, or distribution/licensing issues.

For example, here’s a list of stuff on my PC right now that I couldn’t play on a console:

Civilization 4
Arma 2
Flight Simulator X
World in Conflict
Warcraft 3
Sins of a Solar Empire
World of Warcraft
Silent Hunter 4
IL2: 1946
Empire: Total War
Battlefield 2
Dangerous Waters
Garry’s mod
Red Orchestra
Counterstrike: Source
Trials 2
Battlefield 1942
Rome: Total war
Hearts of Iron 2

That list isn’t exhaustive, just stuff I’ve played lately and have currently installed.

Additionally every PC game ever made is available for play. Some really old ones require some tweaking (simply setting a compatability mode in the file properties works well most of the time) and really old ones require a DOS emulator, but there are still plenty of old games worth playing.

And every game plays better on the PC. Superior controls, superior graphics, better multiplayer systems (this is why people are so irate over modern warfare 2 - they’re trying to dumb down the excellent PC multiplayer model with console garbage), and superior moddability.

A lot of people say “but I prefer playing [whatever] genre with a gamepad!” - well, my first response to that is that if you prefer playing a shooter game with a gamepad then you should be honor killed by your family. But even so, PCs do not put limitations on your control choices. When I play racing games because I don’t have a wheel, I use my xbox 360 controller through a $15 wireless xbox usb receiver. I use a joystick for flight sims. You can control games with whatever peripherals you want.

The graphics are unquestionably and demonstrably superior. I detailed this more in the thread linked above. Even games that are just ports and aren’t specially designed for the PC look way better. I play at 1680x1050 resolution which is roughly 3 times what graphically intense Xbox 360 games run at. I get all sorts of high quality post processing effects like 16x anisotropic filtering and a huge range of antialiasing options. I get more detailed particle effects. There are more detailed physics. It’s hard to describe without seeing it in action. It’s sort of like HDTV vs SDTV… you think SDTV looks fine and you don’t know what you’re missing until you see HDTV, and then suddenly it’s painfully obvious how crappy SDTV is.

As for the multiplayer superiority, I covered that in a lot of detail here.

As far as moddability goes - it’s huge. It takes many forms - just having more ability to tweak gameplay settings by editing configuration files is one example, having far more control over all sorts of aspects of the game. In some games, like Oblivion or Fallout 3, there’s a community out there that makes thousands of little (or some big) gameplay tweaks which lets you customize your gameplay in whatever way you want it. Fallout 3 is relatively good out of the box, but the stock Oblivion gameplay is crap whereas a modded Oblivion is a really great game. But you would never know if you only played the console version.

Modding also leads to “total conversion” mods which basically create an entirely new (free) game out of the old one by changing everything. Counter-strike, probably the most popular multiplayer game of all time (it’s still going strong 10 years later with often over 100,000 people playing at a time) was originally a half life mod. Desert Combat for battlefield 1942 is probably the most fun multiplayer game I’ve ever played. There are hundreds of these sorts of mods. If you bought half-life or half-life 2, you could play any of these hundreds of essentially new games for free - all done by volunteer work of people creating works of love. Other games have plenty of mods too, of course - but half-life seems like the gold standard of moddability given how many popular ones there are.

Anyway, hit me with your attacks and questions. If anyone is interested in how to go about creating or buying a gaming PC, I’ll help with that. If you want to know if yours is good enough to convert it into one I’ll try to tell you. If you want to bash me because I insulted your precious consoles, feel free.

Dismissing arguments makes it easy to declare victory, huh?

Honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass that the mouse and keyboard are “more accurate”–a well designed game is built with the abilities and limitations of the input device in mind.

That aside, the fact that your post is as long as it is support an argument you ironically didn’t address: gaming on a PC is a giant pain in the ass. Sure, you may not have to update your rig for every game, but there are so many other nuances that have to be dealt with that I just don’t have the patience for.

These include installing games, dealing with CD-Keys, tweaking the game for the ‘best’ compromise between graphics and fluidity, managing background programs so it doesn’t interfere with the game, hoping the game doesn’t crash for the random arbitrary reasons they often do, customizing the controls for a game pad (as you suggest) for games not really designed with them in mind, finding and installing patches, among other things.

It’s all shit that I don’t want to deal with when I want to game.

Did you not see the very next line where if I said you prefer to use a different controller then you can use it? I didn’t summarily dismiss it, I said it wasn’t an accurate argument because you are not artificially constrained to using a certain controller on the PC.

Sticking a DVD in, clicking install, and entering the CD key taped to the CD case is the big hassle that you can’t handle?

Most games have a “recommended” graphics setting that autodetects your hardware and gives you the best compromise between graphics quality and rendering speed. And… quite frankly, for most games you can max them out with that $144 video card I linked and still have room to spare, so tweaking wouldn’t really be necesary.

“Managing background programs”? How often does someone actually have to do this? Short of having a scheduled virus scan pop up when you’re playing, I don’t know what situations you’re encountering.

You care way too much over something that’s supposed to be a welcome distraction in life.
Then again, I was the same way with fantasy sports a few years back and I had to cut back drastically.

A) My main hobby is being destroyed and B) I actually would like to educate people on the issue and help them along should they not understand that cheap high quality pc gaming was an option for them.

The OP of the other thread had “a little bit of money” and may not have known he had another option. But me just non-aggressively suggesting it made everyone else go nuts, so I decided to bring the idea to its own thread as to not hijack that one.

If it’s being destroyed, then that undermines your case, especially the part where you point to the vast library of games that the PC enjoys.

Hell, I’d like to educate folks in the Call of Duty forum that Call of Duty is for people that suck at Halo, but my opinion wasn’t asked.

Eh, I imagine everyones got something.

We had to mail back my brother-in-laws Xbox three times (with a lag of a few weeks every time before we got the next box) due to red-ring-of-death. So its not like cosoul gaming is devoid of PITA issues.

Having something is okay. Balance is important.

All gaming is suffering from a loss in quality due to the current market for video games, so I’m not sure it undermines my case specifically.

When games are all developed for the lowest common denominator on a multiplatform release, we all lose.

You’re obnoxious. You would not be trying to educate anyone in that case, just bashing. As far as my “opinion not being asked” - I created my own thread. WTF do you want? Why not go into every thread on this forum and criticize OPs for giving an opinion that wasn’t asked for? It’s funny that you say I care too much about this, but you have to butt your head into every thread I make about gaming to be the self-appointed Defender Of Console Gaming on the SDMB. If this thread doesn’t interest you, or you don’t care about my opinion, then don’t open it.

In this case I actually am trying to help people understand the options they have, and the benefits. I offered to help people by answering specific questions about how they might go about meeting their needs

Multiplayer gaming is great for me. I’m as happy as a clam in a clammy orgy. Life is grand. If it’s the lowest common denominator, then it can only get better, and then that’s great.

I don’t see anything wrong with bringing up an alternative that might not be thought of. There’s no indication either way in the thread in question, at least not how I read it. Meh. If it were me, I think I’d have sent him a private message or not have replied in the thread in the first place. I don’t blame you or think any sinister thoughts about it, but it’s not how I think I’d have handled it.

For clarification, when I put “superior” in the thread title I meant specifically superior technically. That is to say that for less than the price of a console you could get a much more powerful gaming system.

Obviously I think the whole experience is better, which is why I do it… but my main point in this thread is to dispell the myth that you need to pay several times what a console costs to get a decent gaming PC, and the thread title was meant to say “for less money, you can get more”.

I don’t know why you think multiplayer has anything to do with this. PCs have had internet multiplayer gaming years before the current generation of consoles.

Why would I send a suggestion to him in a private message in a thread asking for people to give him feedback about his options? It’s relevant to the thread. You act like I came in there and said “HAHA YOU CONSOLE IDIOTS GET A PC INSTEAD” but my post was respectful tried to be helpful. I wasn’t trying to start a flame war, but just bring up something he may not have been aware of, given that there’s a myth (mostly perpetuated by console gamers) that PC gaming is way more expensive than console gaming. He was on a budget and wanted a new gaming system, so I gave my recommendation. I wasn’t instigating anything - it was the posts that responded to me that were looking for a fight.

Pretty much. In isolation, none of those items are really deal-breaking, but those little nuisances add up. And when you have to do it for every damn game, it does get tiring. Especially when I restore my machine and have to reinstall some games–god forbid I haven’t mis-placed the CD key.

It’s totally cool that none of that bothers you. But it’s for those reasons that I don’t play PC games recreationally–it’s more hassle than it’s worth as compared to console gaming for me.

I did, actually, which I addressed later on in that same post.

Well, I saw talk of a Black Friday ad for a 360 and 6 games for $299. Also, according to this, the 360 is under the $300 price point.

I was cracking a joke about it, and then explained it. You only quoted the joke and then implied I had no explanation for it, as if it were an argument I had no way to handle. It was dishonest.

I suppose it’s fair enough, but you did start a new thread for the fight.

When it became clear that the next few posts in the thread were going to argue with me, and that from there I was going to get blamed for the hijack, I thought the courteous thing to do would be to open a new thread about it and end the hijack in that thread.

I apoligize if it came across as dishonest, as that wasn’t my intent. I just didn’t want to blanket my response with quote boxes. I honestly didn’t even think it would come across as such.

That aside, you didn’t so much “explain” the joke as simply offer an alternative, which is what I later addressed.

No one should ever game on a 4350 and your great deal 5850 is really a 5750, so a 4870 is probably a better deal.

Woops, you’re right, it is a 5750. I agree that no one should game on a 4350, but if you look at the stats point for point, shaders, clock speed, memory, etc. factoring in the efficiency advances in generations, the 4350 is indeed more powerful than the Xbox 360 GPU. That’s mostly to make a point rather than a recommendation.

I might still get a 5750 over a 4870, but I’d have to do a little more research. Still, a 4870 at $150 or so or a 9800GT at $130 are also great options.