How I got Age of Conan to work.

Any one who knows me knows I love Robert E. Howard’s stories, especially anything with Conan the Cimmerian. With the recent release of the game Age of Conan (AoC), I could not be happier. However, if you try to play this on a low-grade PC, you realize how very opposite of happy you can become. Many people have gone far out of their way, and into their wallet to upgrade their system to the max to play this game. Frankly, there is little point in that. While the game itself is visually amazing, this means a majority of the more advanced graphic options only provide minimal noticeable differences. One top of that, for some reason these small differences are incredibly taxing on resources.

To me, these differences are merely a smoothing of a few pixels, or making “realistic” grass blow in the wind. To some people, these options mean alot, but to me, they are minimal and have no real impact on the game. However, at the time of the release of the game, I didn’t even have the minimal requirements on my PC to get this game going. Luckily, almost every component in my PC went out all at the same time and I had to completely reconstruct my system from the ground up. Naturally I wanted maximum power, for minimum price, so here is my step-by-step on what I did to get a system up to par to play AoC without making my pocketbook weep from starvation.

First thing I needed to get was a new graphics card, this was particularly hard for me considering my computer dual-boots with Ubuntu Linux. This means I needed a card advanced enough to play AoC, but old enough there were graphic drivers that were guaranteed to work in Linux. Not to mention the fact it had to remain light on price since this wasn’t the only device I was having to replace.

The majority of posts, and opinions I read regarding AoC and system preferences voted the Geforce 8800 chipset series was the best, but still many people had complaints of system issues. I did run across a few people that used the older Geforce 8600 chip set, and with very playable (if no more playable than the 8800) results. The key was making sure the 8600 version was using GDDR3 RAM. As for Linux compatibility, the latest I could find that has been proven to work with Linux was the 8600 chip set.

*A quick lesson in Geforce chipset numbers, the first number is the chipset series identifier, 7000 series, 8000 series, 9000 series, etc. The second number will be the advancement in that series, or the general power of the chipset. So essentially, while a 8600 chipset would be based on newer technology than a 7800, the 7800 would be more powerful than the 8600 and most likely able to complete more taxing graphic displays.

So I can get the more advanced 8800, deal with the likely graphical issues in AoC (which Funcom is working diligently to resolve, new releases come with new bugs), or the almost guaranteed 8600. This means my decision would now lay with price. 8800 is around $170 for the cheapest I found, 8600 is around $100. 8600 WINNER! Now I know Geforce graphic drivers are known to be notoriously compatible with Linux and other OSs, however, it has been my experience that it is usually best to go with the known. From NewEgg, I purchased a BGF Geforce 8600 OC2 (Overclocked) GDDR3 PCI-Express 16x card (a mouthful eh?) for right at $120, and I have not looked back since. It has worked great with AoC so far, and works amazing in Ubuntu 7.10. Overall in regular AoC play it gets at least an average of 32fps, and that is in graphic heavy areas. I do have alot of fancier options turned off, but the most important features to me, such as viewing distance, and NPC view distance turned to the med-high setting. In outter areas, away from towns and cities, I probably have an average fps of 40. I have not gotten the chance to see how well the 8600 works in siege warfare pvp, but I get the feeling the limiting factor there will be network speed more so than graphic speed.

Now the problem was with my motherboard. My current motherboard had only an AGP graphic bus, did not support Intel Core 2 duo, and used only DDR RAM. When it comes to motherboards, I cannot be more adamant about how much I love PC Chips motherboards, compatbility with a great price. I was able to get a PC Chips p53g motherboard which gave the PCI-E slot I needed, used DDR2 RAM and supported Core 2 duo for only $50. No sir, I cannot be more adamant… until the motherboard fried 6 days after I bought it. Yeah it was $50 bucks, and I would like to say you get what you pay for, except that as a replacement I was able to purchase an ASUS P5B-MX for only $80. Which, I thought would go great with the new budget E7200 core 2 processor Intel just released and I bought for only $130. At least until I started up my PC and got the message that the CPU I have entered is not compatible with this motherboard… I love my life. I can not express how important compatibility lists are. And ASUS will tell you the same thing when you call them and tell them the board is not compatible with this processor, regardless of it saying it is compatible with all LGA775 chips (which the E7200 is a LGA775) and it being such a new processor that it didn’t show on hardly any compatbility lists regardless of being perfectly functional.

Yet none of this means they are completely incompatible. Turns out my PC still turned on, and I was still able to run the processor at the normal clock of 2.53ghz, which is all I wanted. Not to mention, overclocking is fully functional. I just get an annoying message when the PC turns on that this chip is not compatible, and apparently ASUS prepared for that. Turns out in the BIOS there is an option to continue loading past annoying messages such as this. Needless to say, if you want perfect manufacturer compatibilty you won’t find it here, but if you want a set that plays nice together when they need to like a loving dysfuntional family, you have a winner. So far, I can’t really complain. Considering I was building a new PC on a very limited budget, these two work out really well together, plus compatibility may be (and should be) in a new BIOS update, I am fine with it for now.

And then lastly, I needed a nice new stick of DDR2 RAM to complete the PC. This was probably the easiest part, simply for the fact I cannot stress enough how far to stay away from budget priced RAM. As much  as you want to tell yourself that $20 2gb stick works just as well the $40 stick, you are absolutely right… For about 4 months, and then just outside of the warrenty the stick will die. So just head over to 1st Choice Memory, select the type of RAM you need, and get at least their premium grade.

And Presto!

I now have a fully functioning AoC compatible machine, and for right at $350. Granted it’s no $5000 Alienware… But hey, it’s no $5000 anything, and that’s the point! I am now playing AoC and loving it. I don’t have a tons of fancy frills, and stunningly amazing graphic effects, but I also hold very little value on that when the fact is I’m getting to virtually exist in the world that I have read about, and dreamt of for years!

, , , ,

Post navigation