22 January 2023

Next Gen PC gaming requirements (2022 update)


It's time for the yearly round-up of game recommended system specifications trending data! 

First up, I want to pay tribute to the person who helped inspire me to begin this yearly endeavour. It was his catalogging of the games released over a ten year period on Steam that jump-started this whole thing. He will be missed...

However, games keep being released and keep requiring more demanding hardware... so my sisyphean task remains.

Let's jump in!

15 January 2023

Yearly DirectStorage rant (Part 3)...


Yeah, I know this is getting bothersome and tiring but, as we finally approach the release date of Forspoken - the first game to include DirectStorage as a way of managing data from the storage device on your PC - I've noticed a trend of people posting about the topic in a very uncritical manner.

So, let's take a quick look at that and let me tell you my doubts...

8 January 2023

Analyse This: Does RAM speed and latency make a difference for gaming...? (Part 4)

 
Uber RAM...

I've looked at the performance of RAM speed over the last few entries and come to a few conclusions:
  • People are wont to interpret data incorrectly - or too little data.
  • On mid-range systems (or below): Pushing RAM to get the lowest possible latency (and system latency) in synthetic tests really does not correlate well with actual game performance...
  • On mid-range systems (or below): Pushing RAM to get the highest possible bandwidth (and system bandwidth) in synthetic tests really does not correlate well with actual game performance...
  • Intel and AMD architectures handle memory access in quite different ways - this may be an indication as to why Intel has historically had better gaming performance than AMD.
  • On mid-range systems (or below): RAM speed past DDR4 3200 really doesn't matter too much in gaming applications.
    • What DOES matter is the quality of the memory IC!
    • Samsung B-die is well-known for its overclocking and latency-reducing ability... but even at the same stock settings as another chip show a marked improvement on both AMD and Intel systems for higher-framerate gaming. No overclocking or tightening of timings required!
  • You cannot just look at static metrics like min, 1% low, average and maximum framerates to determine game performance - It doesn't show you the whole picture. 
    • Nowadays, we should be looking at the smoothness of the per-frame presenation. You can do this by adding simplistic numbers like standard deviation of the frame-to-frame variance... or you can plot nice graphs of the per frametime distribution during the benchmark run treated with the natural log (in order to normalise the results from the extremes).
  • The differences are pretty small... when taking everything into account. Optimising RAM timings and speed is the sort of thing people who are obsessed with an activity will do. I did enjoy seeing synthetic benchmark numbers go up until I realised that, after looking at all the data, it was all pointless anyway. You get more out of your time by buying the best memory IC at a decent speed (DDR4 3600 or 3800) and spending more money on your CPU and GPU and overclocking them than you do from optimising your lower quality RAM. 
    • Of course, you probably wouldn't have known what was low or high quality RAM when you bought it! I didn't.
So, with that summary of conclusions out of the way, let's head into the final entry in this series - raytracing.

4 January 2023

Looking back at 2022 and predictions for 2023...

... etc.

I'm not going to lie, 2022 kicked my ass in terms of work. I just didn't have the energy or time to properly dedicate to this blog, even though I had strong opinions on many events that occurred during the year - I just wasn't able to put my thoughts down onto paper (so to speak). Additionally, I didn't play too many games, instead I dedicated a lot of my free time to doing some hardware testing, in order to increase my understanding of that hardware and the ways it can affect gaming experiences in the mid-range.

Unfortunately, that testing is way more time consuming than just doing analysis or quick opinion pieces, but I do feel that I have improved the way I am able to analyse data outputs from game testing - and this is something that I can apply going forward, now that I have worked out the methodology to a greater extent.

In addition to this, the majority of the big hardware releases have happened this past year and there really isn't that much for me to be excited about for 2023, so my predictions may be a little weak for this coming year... 

But, the show must go on, so...

20 December 2022

Analyse This: Does RAM speed and latency make a difference for gaming...? (Part 3)

Who runs 3 dimms?!


Over the last two entries, I've taken a look at the effect of RAM speed, latency and bandwidth on a few gaming applications as well as synthetic gaming benchmarks. Across a Zen 3 and Intel 12th gen platform, I found that DDR4 memory optimisation had effectively zero effect on the minimum, average, and maximum fps values in the applications tested.

There were those pesky fluctuations in Unigine's Heaven benchmark scores and random-looking maximum fps waverings in both Spider-man and Assassin's Creed: Valhalla that could be explainable by conventional wisdom; manual-nature of the Spider-man benchmark; run-to-run fluctuation in Valhalla and Heaven's case... but I'm not content with that.

This time, I'm going to try and apply a statistical look at what I've obtained during the testing of Spider-man for all the various memory optimisation testing I performed in order to see whether I am correct in wanting the review industry to take a more statistical approach to reviewing hardware and software.