Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maximum System Requirements

So after doing a little searching around after having wow crash on me in Dalaran repeatedly since the patch I found that Blizzard is aware of the issue and working toward a fix. I also found out that the issue has been reported for at least a year and a half and 3.3.5 was just the straw that broke the camels back.

Apparently support for 64 bit operating systems hasn't been a priority for testing and users who have reported issues have been getting the update your video driver and disable your add-ons run-around for months. Since it was such a small percentage of the player base it makes sense that it didn't get much attention, but it still looks bad for Blizzard now that 64 bit systems have become more or less the norm for new computers.

So we have a slow memory leak affecting some systems which causes intermittent crashes. I noticed this myself when I upgraded my machine, but I disregarded it as being related to my choice of running with two video cards in an SLI configuration. I ran with shaders off for quite a while as they caused outdoor areas to flash like someone was turning the light on and off, but that was fixed with the release of wrath.

Out comes 3.3.5 which exacerbates this preexisting issue by turning a small memory leak into a large one. Now pretty much everyone running wow at max settings on newer hardware is experiencing regular crashes at least in computationally expensive places like Dalaran.

Blizzard's solution while they work on returning the problem to its 3.3.3 state is to reduce graphics settings. Note they did not say they would fix it, only make it work as well as it did previously. That's good enough for me I suppose, a little annoying, but good to know I wasn't doing something horribly wrong.

My guess is that stable support for todays newer hardware won't be flushed out until Cataclysm at the earliest and by that point there will be even newer stuff out there. Warcraft is rather unique in that is runs on such a wide range of systems and can be played on fairly ancient computers by todays standards with minimal impact on playability.

The take away from all of this is something most people who buy, upgrade or even build computers for themselves have known and kept in mind for years, don't overspend. The 100 rule comes to mind, you should never spend more than 100 dollars on any one computer component, including those fancy graphics cards despite how manufacturers would have you believe otherwise. I know I've broken this rule when I built my own machine, but only just barely and I still think SLI is cool. :)

Software companies aren't developing for or catering to excessive hardware as Blizzard has demonstrated, they might not even be considering it or even testing for it. Not to mention a piece of fancy hardware that costs two or three times as much will not last you two or three times as long. In the long run it is more cost-effective to buy older cheaper technology and then replace it when needed. That could be a very long time so far as warcraft is concerned seeing as system requirements have only gone up a little for wrath in six years.

Even then consider that I was up until shortly before the release of Wrath running wow on a dell manufactured in 93' a whole 7 years before warcraft. I did have to replace the video card and even then I was having issues in 25 man raids when AOEs started flying around, but everything else was completely playable at a decent frame rate and quality. Hardware has far surpassed current software needs and left us all spoiled.

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