The rock and the hard place

May 17, 2006 by Tim

So most of you probably know that Vanguard recently changed publishers in the middle of their beta phase, citing “differences of opinion” or some such with Microsoft. However, apparently now there’s a report floating around suggesting the exact reason that spurred the sudden change. I was already enjoying the irony surrounding Sigil, the company Everquest co-creator Brad McQuaid founded after his much publicized exodus from Sony/Verant a few years back, having to turn around and go knocking on SOE’s door. But after this new rumor (and without official comment it is only that) I just couldn’t help but imagine what that meeting might have been like.

I got my Ageia PhysX card yesterday, and I promised I’d report in once I had it running. Installation was a breeze (I mean it’s only a PCI card), however it was a tight fit in my system. I’ve got two 7800GTX’s running in SLI, and SLI takes up a lot of mobo space to begin with, but the 7800GTX is pretty large card to boot. I was able to fit the PhysX card inbetween the two graphics cards, but the heatsink/fan assembly is practically touching the top of one of the 7800’s. I have a spacer in there giving them a bit more breathing room, and it’s been running all day with no problems, but it’s still close. Just a heads up to people with SLI.

Drivers were easy, I grabbed the new beta drivers from the Ageia website. For such a new technology, I figure it will be a month or two before we start seeing driver support from the big two (nVidia/ATI), but the beta drivers seem to work well enough for now.

Some people have reported framerate loss in games that previously ran well, but so far I’ve experienced none of that. City of Villains runs just as well now as it did before, but we’ll see how it does after Issue 7 drops when it’s optimized for the PhysX card. I haven’t seen any marked increase in performance in any games, but my gaming system is pretty powerful to begin with.

I downloaded the Cellfactor demo, since it was truly designed to use the PhysX card, and gave that a spin. It ran really well. The bots kicked my ass, but it was all very pretty while they did it.

Whether the investment is worth it, only time will tell. I definitely love the increased particles and explodey bits it gives me, so hopefully CoH/V Issue 7 will hit next week so I can try it out in some mayhem missions. And then Unreal Tournament 2007 and Vanguard will be the next two big tests, with hopefully more titles making use of the technology in the next year or so. I’m almost considering rebuying G.R.A.W. on the PC just to make use of the card’s power.

The card is still a bit expensive, so if you’re strapped for cash, don’t feel like you need it to enjoy any games. You can wait a year or so for prices to come down, and more games to use the technology. However, if you’ve gotta have the latest tech for your computer, and have some spare cha-ching lying around, hell, pick up the card. Support for the technology means we’ll end up with this sweetness in our games.


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