May 28, 2006
MacBook video game tests

So I got my hands on a new MacBook Pro. It's seemed very fast, but you don't really know how good a computer is until you see how it runs a couple games, am I right? So I decided to test it out, espeicially after a guy over at the Vanguard forums asked about how good his Mac would be for Vanguard and he got all kinds of ign'ant guff from the regular brand of PC partisans who didn't understand his question (he was aksing if the MacBook running Windows would run Vanguard, not if there would be a "mac" version). So I typed this up:

Ok, first of all -- I'm no super star video game scientist, so don't start waving technical stuff in my face that I should have throttled the buffer overide and overclocked the stfpu in order to get "real" results.

How I did my "tests":

Stock MacBook Pro: Intel Core Duo at 2 GHz, 1GB ram, and a 7200 rpm hard drive, but could only afford to give Windows a 25gb partition (Apple really needs to get a 200-300 bg laptop HD from some vendor, do they even exist yet?). The video card is an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256 mb ram.

I used Bootcamp to make a partition, installed Windows XP Professional SP 2 and the Apple Windows Drivers. I did not install any updates (who has time for updates? I had video games to play).

I did no tweaking. I wanted to see what "Stock" performance was. The only other thing I installed was Firefox in hopes that I could go 24 hours without getting some sort of malware infection (sorry to make the jab, but it is perplexing to mac users how bad the malware situation is on the Windows platform).


I decided that in order to guage what a future game would be, it would make sense to install a game that pushed the limit of current computers. The MacBook just squeaks in under the minimum gigaherz requirements for Oblivion (2 GHz), but has twice the ram and video card ram. The X1600 chipset is a supported video card. But this install reminded me why a laptop is not a gamer's first choice for a rig.

Surprisingly, when Oblivion autodetected settings, it put the MacBook in high quality mode. I went with this, so keep in mind that better perfrmance could likely be squeezed out by lowering some settings (but what a shame since the engine is so beautiful). The resolution was set to 1024x 768 which I bumped up to the screen's native 1440x990. Lowering it back down didn't seem to enhance performance noticably.

Performance was basically acceptable. It hovered around 15-20 fps, both indoors and outdoors, although things could get a bit herky-jerky. I expected it to be worse in towns. If a number of NPC models were in view, fps could sometimes drop to 5-10 fps, but I'm not sure if that was the 3D engine or maybe the game engine loading & caching dialogue and sound effects. This seemed worst with humanoids, I'm guessing because of the complexity of the facial systems. Rats and Goblins didn't seem to chunk it up so bad, although in fights with 3-4 goblins fps was dropping to the 5-10 range, which was pretty jerky and hard to fight.

Oblivion verdict: Basically acceptable. To play the game through, you'd probalby want to explore a bit on high quality to get a sense for the beauty of the engine, but then you'd want to tone it down to medium or low quality for more fluid gameplay. I'm not sure how the end game fights would go (they had tons of actors on screen at once), but I'm not playing through the game again to find out.

World of Warcraft:

I didn't bother looking at the specs on Blizzards site, because I knew it would run. WoW is almost 2 years old now (goodness time flies), so a new machine will definitely run it. I was lazy and I just copied my WoW directory from my PC and ran it. No problem, of course.

Maybe this test is unfair since Blizzard tuned their engine and models to work on lower end computers, but this was smooth as silk. Well,maybe not in Ironforge (the Alliance Capital) where I was getting 15fps -- but they were a "smooth 15 fps), but I was getting an average of 30fps in the more normal "adventuring" areas. But unlike Oblivion, even when the fps dropped, the action on screen had a definite smoothness to it, so I guess I'm saying that there's 10fps and then there's 10fps that feels like a flip book. I had WoW running at 1440 x 990 with all options set to maximum. Again, you could probably get much better fps with some options turned down, but why? It played and looked great.

The wide screen is definitely nice in a MMORPG. It gives you a place to put all your gee-gaws and widgets and you still have a nice center area with a basic 3:2 ration (like a tv) for all the action.

World of Warcraft verdict: Excellent. This could be your main gaming machine for WoW. I'd still prefer a desktop (I usually play on a 2.21 GHz Athlon 3500 with dual SLI GeForce 6800s and 2gb of ram -- much preferable for games in general, but I wish I had money for a widescreen =P), but I can rationalize having a bunch of computers in the house since it's my profession and lifelong hobby. And my wife accepts that every 2-3 years I "need" to buy a new gaming computer.

Gut Feeling Summary

If you need this machine and want it but are afraid you won't be able to play games on it, don't worry. You should be able to play most of the current crop of games with no problem, all though the real gpu pushers might chunk you up a little bit (this is a curse of the latop, not due to the picture of the apple on the case). It's hard to know how Vanguard specifically will be since system requirements aren't public yet.

Maybe if I get into the beta I can let you know :D

Posted by illovich at 10:10 PM
May 25, 2006
Fly for fun (or fee?)

Flyff: Fly For Fun is the cutest free mmorpg I've seen in a while. I think they may use in game RMT for funding, which is less cute.

Posted by illovich at 04:54 PM
I think I'm in trouble

Dofus Arena looks to be Final Fantasy Tactics remade as a multiplayer internet game.

Uh-oh. I hear my productivity dropping through the floor now.

Posted by illovich at 11:54 AM
May 23, 2006
Race online, or "cybertypes"

A review of Cybertypes by Lisa Nakamura.

From: Kali Tal - Reviews: Lisa Nakamura: Cybertypes:

Nakamura gives us excellent coverage of the phenomenon she calls "techno-Orientalism" in her chapter "Race in the Construct and the Construction of Race: The ‘Consensual Hallucination’ of Multiculturalism in the Fictions of Cyberspace." In this chapter she takes a variety of popular ‘cyberpunk’ novels and films –including Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and The Diamond Age– to task for reinscriptions of racism within their texts. Her reading of Andy and Larry Wachowski’s The Matrix is most interesting for its incorporation of George Lipsitz’s notion of "the possessive investment in whiteness"(78), upon which her analysis of the character Cypher is founded: "the only white man on the crew betrays the humans precisely because he wants to jump the ship of multiculturalism and reclaim his possessive investment of whiteness."(78) Nakamura persuasively argues that "[Cypher’s] claims to being oppressed while he is receiving no less and no more than any other crew member … invokes the ways that a lack of white privilege can be experienced as oppression."(78) The comparison of Cypher to Allan Bakke (famous for his "reverse racism" suit in the late 1970s), filtered through Lipsitz’s lens of possessive investment is downright brilliant, and all by itself is worth the price of admission.
Seriously, was Cypher the only white guy in the crew? I swear there was another white guy.

Edit: yeah, there was another white guy. The idea that Cypher's sellout is an pointer to white privilege is still pretty compelling though.

For some reason the neologism "Cybertype" irks me. Apparently Nakamura also coined "Identity Tourist" for which I am eternally grateful, and so I'll probably let cybertypes go.

Posted by illovich at 02:57 PM
May 16, 2006
Terry Jones on Barbarians

Decline and fall of the Roman myth - Newspaper Edition - Times Online

The Romans kept the Barbarians at bay for as long as they could, but finally they were engulfed and the savage hordes overran the empire, destroying the cultural achievements of centuries. The light of reason and civilisation was almost snuffed out by the Barbarians, who annihilated everything that the Romans had put in place, sacking Rome itself and consigning Europe to the Dark Ages. The Barbarians brought only chaos and ignorance, until the renaissance rekindled the fires of Roman learning and art.

It is a familiar story, and it's codswallop

Posted by illovich at 05:04 PM
More on racism and video games

a post over at Terranova led me to this collection of links at Gameology:
Race and Video Games | Gameology

These should be helpful in future papers.

Posted by illovich at 04:01 PM
May 02, 2006
metafilter fm

The folks over at Metafilter were talking about this weird radio station in Arizona that seems to play mostly dinosaur rock, KCDX FM.

In the thread, people also mentioned Radio Paradise and of course WFMU.

Nothing to add, I just wanted to remember those radio stations.

Posted by illovich at 01:40 PM