Articles: Graphics

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It may seem that system requirements of video games are growing at a tremendous rate. The GeForce 8800 GTX used to be the acme of technology just yesterday but today some games are not fast even on a platform with a Core i7 processor and a dual-chip GeForce GTX 295 or Radeon HD 4870 X2. It may also seem that system requirements are growing up much faster than the level of detail and graphics quality of game worlds. Much can be said in favor or against that point, but we will put this argument aside for once. Today, we won’t talk about the highs and lows of a particular gaming platform. Instead, we will take a look at a highly popular genre of games that does not put such a strong emphasis on visuals. We mean massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Their success is easy to explain. People want to play and it is always more exciting to play with or against other people rather than to sweep out computer-controlled monsters. A MMORPG gives this opportunity, putting the player into a world populated with hundreds and thousands of characters controlled by real persons where one can live a rich virtual life.

Contrary to the common opinion, this genre was born quite a long time ago, its precursor being a simple 3D shooter Maze War adapted in 1974 for multiplayer on the Arpanet. Closer to the basics of the genre are MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) games that had inherited most of the traits of the popular table gaming system Dungeons and Dragons. Although MUDs had no graphics and offered a text-based interface only, they were true predecessors of today’s MMORPGs. The first commercial MMORPG was Island of Kesmai released in 1985 by the CompuServe service. It supported up to a hundred gamers simultaneously. Neverwinter Nights was the first game of that class to be graphical. However, such games relied on special services instead of the Internet and this fact limited their distribution. The first wave of MMORPGs as we know them today came from 1996 till 1999 and the most popular title was Ultima Online. This game has quite a lot of admirers even now.

Today, this is a well-established million-dollar industry with a crowd of clients. World of Warcraft alone has over 11 million subscribers. A study of the cultural layer created by MMORPGs can provide enough material for dozens of scientific articles. This genre is often criticized and compared with drugs. Indeed, there are known cases of players dying through a few gaming days’ exhaustion or murdering other players in the real world for some offence in the virtual reality. We won’t talk morals here. We just state the fact that MMORPGs are a huge phenomenon in the gaming world that attracts numerous players and penetrates into the real life as well.

MMORPGs offer a wide choice of gaming universes to choose from. They come in various styles: fantasy, science fiction and many others. Since it is your computer that serves as the window into the virtual world, you want to know what system configuration is needed to experience it fully. As a rule, MMORPGs are developed for a broad audience with different PCs and their developers try to keep the project’s hardware requirements within reasonable limits. Besides, many popular MMORPGs were released years ago and modern top-performance graphics cards have no problems with them.

This is the general notion about online games, but we want to check it out by benchmarking a few modern graphics cards priced from $50-80 to $200-250 in a few popular MMORPGs. Again, the point of such games is not in eye-popping visuals but rather in the opportunity to interact with other players. Therefore a MMORPG gamer may appreciate an inexpensive card with passive cooling, especially as many such gamers play at nights and want to have a quiet computer nearby. We have got one such solution in our hands just in time for this review. It is called Sapphire HD 4670 Ultimate Edition. Let’s take a look at this interesting card before we proceed to the tests.

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