Sunday, April 27, 2008
AoC and the $100 graphics card
I got my Age of Conan open beta key, downloaded the 12+ GB client, and then signed an NDA, so I can't talk about the game before that is lifted, except for the publicly available information. Like for example that the open beta starts May 1, or that the client is 12.6 GB big, and that is before unpacking. My complete WoW installation including Burning Crusade and all addons etc. only is 9 GB big. The difference in size is obviously due to the higher quality of the graphics. The system requirements for AoC say that you need at minimum a "NVIDIA GeForce 6600 or better", and recommend a "NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTX or equivalent". For World of Warcraft, a "NVIDIA GeForce FX 5700 class card or above" is recommended. But of course in all likelyhood you have a different graphics card than any of these mentioned. And if you are like me, you don't really know whether any given card is "equivalent" or "better" than those requirements. Charts on sites like Tom's Hardware help, although a card as low as the FX 5700 isn't even listed any more.
But once you compared various video cards and benchmarks and prices, you'll come out with a result like this: a $100 video card will run World of Warcraft perfectly, even at higher resolution and with lots of graphics details turned on. The same $100 video card will meet the minimum requirements for Age of Conan, but you'll have to tone down the graphics options. And that is with a $100 video card you buy today. If you bought a $100 video card in 2004 when WoW came out, that card will still run WoW at acceptable speed, but it won't run Age of Conan at all. AoC is not only three-and-a-half years younger than WoW, it also was designed with the idea of having stunning graphics. Gamers like me might enjoy it, but my video cards only last 2 years and are more expensive than $100.
It is safe to say that there are considerably less PCs out there that can run Age of Conan smoothly than there are PCs that can run WoW smoothly. Now nobody ever proposed that Age of Conan will reach 10 million subscribers and kill WoW, but nevertheless one has to ask whether relatively high system specifications will hurt the game. Besides the video card the recommended specs for AoC include a "Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz or equivalent" and 2 GB of RAM. I still know a lot of people without a dual core CPU and 1 GB of RAM or less. (btw, if you have less than 2 GB of RAM, upgrading this to 2 GB is probably the cheapest and most effective way to upgrade your PC for all sorts of games). If the selling point of a game is "pretty graphics", but said graphics are either not quite as pretty or stuttering because of the customer's graphics cards, some people will be disappointed.