Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Silver Linings - Computer problems!

The past few weeks have been a bit of a of a nightmare and I'm not just talking about the whole Corvid 19 thing either!

My main work/gaming desktop computer went 'BANG!'... Or at least the graphics card element of it did, my GTX 1080 is dead! This is sorta 'good' AND bad timing, bad because your gaming PC dying in the middle of a pandemic lock-down is NOT what you want...BUT... It was also good timing in the sense that if it had to go, going when I had just bought a new laptop that's 'game capable' was a lucky happenstance!

My new Asus TUF FX505DY 'gaming laptop'.
My venerable Apple MacBook Pro was creaking under the strain of newer design and video software projects and I had to bite the bullet and decided to finally jump ship and go over to the dark side by buying a Windows machine. I was gutted, but I couldn't justify the cost of a new Apple machine as I no longer have a job as a designer (and work paid for all my gear).

Funnily enough, I didn't go out deliberately to buy a gaming laptop as a replacement for my Mac, that was just the by-product of my wanting something with a bit of graphics oomph. Also, I only had a very restricted budget, but as it happened PC World had a sale deal going for the  Asus TUF FX505DY - an 'entry level' gaming laptop.

This, as it turned out, was a lucky purchase as a month later my desktop PC gave up the ghost!

Phew, I can't imagine how frustrating things might have been had my only means of gaming crapped out just as we went into isolation! I would have been a gibbering wreck!

Anyway, despite my laptop having to fill in as a part-time gaming machine and it only being of mediocre power for doing so I have to say that I've been very pleased with it. No, I can't rock triple-A games in the way that my desktop rig with it's monster GTX 1080 could, but the little Asus is keeping me sane with it's ability to run a lot of my favourite indy titles.

Back to Plan A...
Ok, so the laptop got me out of a tight spot but I needed to think ahead and decide what to do about my desktop rig. At the back of my mind is September's release of CD Projekt's Cyberpunk 2077, a triple-A blockbuster that I've been looking forward to for a very long time. I had to solve my graphic card issue.

The trouble is, I no longer bring in the same salary that I used to get as a designer - I can't just blow big bucks on a whim anymore. I am on a minimum wage job and only do part-time hours...Money is very tight!

I had to do some really hard thinking and not a little maths just to work out what exactly I could do to get my desktop PC back up and running. Buying a GTX 1080 even second hand was out of my price range and it's modern equivalent - a GTX 2080 series - was just pie in the sky! (I should note that I decided early on that whatever I bought it would be NVIDIA based as I love their Shadow Play recording feature.)

So, what were the options given my meagre finances? 😒

After a lot of research and watching a host of YouTube videos the shortlist turned out to be very short! In fact, because I limited myself to Nvidia cards it turned out that there were only two candidates for a replacement GPU...

Option No. 1 - GEFORCE GTX 1660 SUPER OC EDITION(£260)

Option No. 2 - GEFORCE RTX 2060 VENTUS XS (£310)

I was so tempted by the GTX 1660 Super, it was the right price and had excellent reviews. Obviously, I would have to turn down the graphic quality options in any of the horse-power hungry titles I play, but I'd still get very good frame rates playing at 1080p. However...

Being as I got so used to playing games at 1440 with my big widescreen monitor I kinda felt like this was a real backwards step. So when I came across the RTX 2070 at just fifty quid more I felt I really had to stretch my budget to it's absolute limit (and a bit more). I justified this by saying to myself that I was kinda 'future proofing' my rig a bit by buying this newer technology.

Ironically, the biggest feature of the RTX class of GPU is the one that I'm not actually interested in. Nvidia's RTX card's VR rendering and real-time ray tracing is not something that really excites me, instead I want the card's additional horse-power - as I said - to allow me to continue enjoying my big screen gaming at high resolutions. But, of course, buying on a budget is always a game of compromises, so I just spent the most I could on the best technology I could...

Many of you will be screaming 'why didn't you jump ship to AMD cards then?' A good question, but I am a 'Shadow Cast' devotee - I love this Nvidia technology.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Dad & Daughter Game Night - L4D2 'The Bridge'

This weeks Dad & Daughter gaming is the continuation o our play-through of Left 4 Dead 2. I particularly enjoyed this level - 'The Parish' - even though the game seemed to be throwing everything at us including the kitchen sink. Both of us suddenly discovered the joys of using the machete, even though I have never been much of a fan of the melee weapons in the past.

In the following clip we try to make our escape at the end of the chapter, the end seemed to be so tantalisingly close as we made away across the final bridge...

[Note: Just to confuse you, Stacey and I have exchanged genders with Stacey playing The Coach and me playing Rochelle!]

I was a bit gutted that I died with the end o level nearly in sight, but it was a fun fight and at least one of the team made it to the helicopter on our first attempt.

Recording Our Games...
I am still having issues recording footage when playing on my laptop (as my main machine is in the repair shop) - the ASUS TUF Gaming FX505DY. It's AMD based graphics card does not support - it seems - AMD's version of Nvidia's Shadow Cast recording software so I had to go looking for a third-party recording app.

In the 'olden days' - before I got my Nvida equiped desktop rig - I'd use things like FRAPS (nostalgia eh?)  and I think OBS had just started to make a name for itself. But 'Shadow Cast' kinda spoilt me and I loved Nvidias 'everything in one place' approach.

Anyway - so I've found a tidy little app called 'Bandicam' and also - surprisingly - rediscovered the overlooked Window's 'Xbox Game Bar' with it's built in screen recording.

Out of these, I like Bandicam as it's uncomplicated and compact and the quality of the tests I have done so far have been really good with little noticeable impact on my gaming. The downside is that this is not a free app, so there's a case for my looking at OBS but I just haven't got one with that app when I'm tried it in the past. 😒

I think that if you find an piece of software that you just get on with then it is worth forking out some money for it. Free is great, but then if the software is frustrating or difficult to use then 'free' isn't so attractive.

Other Things...
While there is plenty going on to keep me busy at the moment I still enjoy trawling around YouTube to see what's going on in the world of computer gaming, technology and cute dog videos of course! 😁

I posted up a short video about 'Joint Operations' recently. It was an old time gaming favourite of mine and in a similar nostalgic vein I came across a walk-through video of the classic 'Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon'...

It was wonderful to see footage from this 2001 tactical shooter, particularly in this walk-trough format as I can remember vividly trying to work out how I would approach this mission. 😊

Inevitably, I will most likely end up reinstalling this game - which is in my STEAM library - and having a go at the at this fantastic game again.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Sunday House Work!

OK, this doesn't sound a very interesting subject for a blog post, BUT I am sure many scale modellers and gaming miniature hobbiests have had t do this at one time or another (and maybe more than once)!

I'm finally making some real progress in the clearing out of my 'man cave', so much so that I'm finally willing to post up a photograph. I have to say, first, that it's a bit of a pity that I didn't take a 'before' photo to show just how stuffed with junk our attic room was - it was, genuinely, floor to ceiling with crap - but I was just too embarrassed to do that! 😂

Yep, it's still a bit of a tip BUT look! I can see some carpet AND I can actually get to my crafting desk at the back. OK, I can't quite use it yet - there's still stuff to move/chuck out - but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

Now, the reason I am adding this to the blog is that this rather mundane operation has to be done before I can get back to posting up some of my more interesting activities. With complete access to my desks I will be able to get back to documenting my scale model making, toy solder creation and my computer gaming on a regular and organised basis. So, this blog will benefit.

...One of the funny things about doing this is that I am finding LOTS of half completed projects. I really do not need to buy any new kits for a long, long time and I am determined to work though the unfinished projects before I move on.

...The downside, though, is that I still haven't found all my hobby tools - they may be in the boxes I still haven't opened - so my actual modelling progress is still a bit stop and start. 😐

Friday, 5 June 2020

Dad & Daughter Game Night - 'The Plantation'

This week's Dad & Daughter game night continues our play-through of Left4Dead 2 as we take on  Chapter 3, Act 4 - 'The Plantation'.

This finale to the chapter was another tricky tactical puzzle which took several attempts to crack. Once again Team Beaty found that we were somewhat handicapped by our AI teammates, but even so we have found that keeping them alive did more good than harm in the long run. So, thanks Coach and Rochelle...

I'm not sure how big the L4D2 game base is these days but I would to see if Stacey and I can get a full co-op game going,I think we would do a lot better with a team of four real players. We may try that next.

...On a lighter note, I only set fire to Stacey once this week! 😂

Thursday, 4 June 2020

'Man Cave' Update, June 2020

After nearly three years of neglect I have actually started making a little progress in removing the accumulated junk and household detritus from my attic 'man cave'!

Broken electrical appliances, Christmas decorations, the wife's spare shoe collection and her archived school work, old clothes and general crap had slowly piled up to the point where I could not get to my computer desk easily and my crafting desk not at all!

Anyways, this morning I finally made some real progress and managed to clear a path all the way to the back of the attic and to my modelling desk! (This hasn't seen the light of day for three years!)

I tunnelled through the crap in my attic... It went further than I thought!
Obviously, the desk is completely covered in crap! (That goes without saying. LOL.) But, the fact I can now actually get to the desk mean I could clear this and get down to some real modelling AND carry out a plan I had to set up a top-down video rig!

Now, I had already done some video tests in order to help me plan how I might Vlog my model builds...

Now, although the above contraption worked as a proof of concept there is no way I could set up something similar above my hobby desk because that is up against the back wall of my man-cave. So, I spent some time looking for alternative ways to rig a frame of sort over my desk and eventually I managed to find a custom solution for over-head videoing...

Unfortunately, and predictably, the specialist overhead video platform system is rather expensive and would have to be shipped from the USA (estimated total cost £230). All in all this was way out of my budget so that's where I had to leave things three years ago as priorities suddenly changed.

>>FF>> to 2020... Re-discovering my hobby desk reminded me of my fancy plans and I wondered if I could find a cheaper alternative that might have come along during the intervening years. Ten minutes of Googling proved very productive and I found a bit of kit that would do the job at a fraction of the cost...

Duronic DM453 80cm Monitor Desk Mount Pole
What I found was a monitor desk mount pole (£23) which can clamp firmly to my desktop. Additionally I found a studio double 'C' clamp for joining two intersecting poles...

With these two pieced of equipment, plus an additional pole, I can put together an inverted 'L' frame off which I can attach my camera and lighting. This clamp was £8 and I bought a short (solid) pole for another £10, so far then this setup has cost £41. A bit better than £230!

All the parts are extremely well built and very strong and so, despite not being a full two legged frame like the overhead platform, they will easily support the weight of my Fuji XT-2 (1 pound 3 ounces) camera and also some LED lighting or a microphone or both!

Now the good thing about this setup - aside from the price - is that it can be added to to make a full overhead frame simply by adding a second monitor mounting pole and another double 'C' clamp. This would turn my £41 'L' frame into a £72 'H' frame like the overhead platform...

So, this setup is quite modular and I can add bits as I can afford them. But, in the meantime, the 'L' frame will suffice me to begin with and will allow me to do some video tests to see how best to setup my camera and my lighting.

Hopefully I can get some short video clips out soon of my doing some model making.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Classic Insurgency - Again!

Insurgency is like a good wine or cheese... Wait, that's a crap analogy, in actuality the 2014 game INSURGENCY is more like pizza - it's comfort food that you never get tired of.

I've been playing quite a bit over the current lock-down, mainly because it's a very undemanding game that neither taxes my laptop or my WiFi! (Internet contention has been an issue of late as everyone is at home bingeing on Netflix!) 😑

A good reason to be playing older online multiplayer games at the moment. My broadband speed has crashed since the pandemic lock-down came into being and I'm only getting about half my original speed. Of course, the fact that my wife is 'working from home' at the moment has an impact as she video conferences while watching 'True Blood' re-runs on our streaming service! 😣

So, for the foreseeable future, I'm avoiding any newer Triple-A titles.

...Let's have another slice of pizza!