My Raiding Rig: Intro

(This post is picture-heavy, so feel free to click on any of the thumbnails to get a bigger picture.)

6-legged robot I built once
Walking's boring. So I made it sit back on 4 legs and wiggle the front 2.

So, I’ve been talking for forever about getting myself a new computer, specifically a desktop that can handle decent 25man raiding graphics.  I’ve been planning on building it since that way I know exactly what I’m getting and I think it’ll be a bit cheaper as well.  I’ve also just always wanted to build a computer myself.  I’ve built robots before (ground yourself!), but never a desktop PC.

Here, have a robot (albeit, built with a manual, but I’m pretty good at soldering if I gotta).

Unfortunately, cost-wise, I need just about everything.  The guts of the computer tower, and then also a keyboard, a mouse, and a computer monitor.  Maybe some speakers, since the ones I have are kinda cheap.  However, I’m going to hold off on the speakers since I’m not sure if it’s my speakers that are crap or just my laptop.

MY CURRENT RIG

So, the first thing, I guess, is to introduce my current setup for 25man raiding.  I raid on a Fujitsu Tablet PC laptop that’s going on its 4th year now.  It’s got a 14″ inch screen; if you need a real-world comparison, hold up a sheet of loose leaf paper or an 8.5″x11″ piece of printer paper.  That’s my screen size.  Its maximum resolution is 1024×768.

picture of my laptop on the desk
Yes, I'm aware drinking next to your computer is a bad idea. But I'm a Mr. Pibb fiend.

In today’s internet of widescreen-everything, I learned to rock the horizontal scroll bar a lot.  I also utilize the zoom feature on Chrome a lot — Ctrl+ for in, Ctrl- for out.  Some blogs I read I just have to horizontally scroll because zooming out makes the text too small to comfortably read (especially if it’s a long post).

I run Windows 32-bit because my laptop cannot handle 64-bit (I asked when I upgraded from XP, and the thing said no).  I have a CD/DVD drive, and I use it a lot as a DVD player since I don’t really watch much cable (I stream mostly).  The fan is really loud and crappy, therefore I have a fan mat below my computer, which is then propped up on a binder to keep it at a comfortable typing level (my chair is crappy, but the band geek in me prepared me for not having totally crappy posture).  Without the fan mat, my keyboard gets warm and sometimes hot, which worries me.

The power cord adapter is almost always plugged in since Fujitsu (or, as we used to call it, Fu-shit-su) is apparently unable to make a battery that lasts more than a semester of use for engineering students.  I got tired of paying for a new battery so often, and now it just sits plugged in.

I have 2 GB of RAM, a 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 98GB hard drive (my xHD is 250GB), and the graphics card…the graphics card is whatever the onboard chipset is.  In terms of WoW, here’s a screenshot of my settings.

my WoW graphics settings
I'd win at graphical Limbo Stick, essentially.

GRAPHICS — THE MAIN ISSUE

Now, on a good day in the middle of nowhere (say, leveling in Northrend now that nobody likes it there), 30+ FPS is awesome.  Most of the time, I hang around with 15-30 FPS.  It really depends on population density around me, what graphical effects are going on, and what exactly I’m running in the background (how many tabs of Chrome, etc.) while I’m playing WoW.  When I raid, I run only WoW and Ventrilo; but when I’m running around often I have 5-10 tabs of Chrome up.

In 25m raid, anything in double-digits is rather godly.  (In 10man, it gets about 3-6 FPS better.)  You can see my FPS is big numbers (thanks, SLDataText) next to my action bars in the lower center of the screen.  (Latency is just above that, though it seems to only show whichever is lowest.)

Tanaris Quests achiev
Nobody's in Tanaris...usually. (purple blur = WIM distorted)

The other night, my guild was working on 25m Baleroc.  There was a comment out about how you should be able to see where the crystal is about to spawn.  I made the comment that I could not see it since my graphics were all the way down.  Someone said to, obviously, turn them up, what’s the big deal.

Now, I’d run into this problem before, in ICC when I’d just newly joined Conspiracy.  At that point, my fps was barely 1-2, which is just unplayable.  Once it hits about 3-4 FPS, it becomes ridiculously difficult to do anything in a timely (for raid performance) manner.  In Conspiracy, my problem was I didn’t even have projected textures turned on, which meant I could not see most of the ground effects.

I told Vent (and therefore the entirety of my guild, really) that I play normally on the lowest settings, and I tend to rock about 6-9 FPS in combat for 25man.  And really, that’s fine for me.  Yeah, it’s jolty sometimes, but I’m used to it, I suppose.

As one guild raidmate put it: “FLIP BOOK RAIDING.”

I might gib my FPS through a highly-customized UI in WoW, but most of my UI customization aims to get things off the screen (or, through macros and things like OPie, out of the way until I need it).  I’ve been playing on the lowest settings in WoW since I started WoW, and only for a few select fights have I had to turn them up or risk being a liability in raid.

THE PERIPHERALS

The keyboard has no numpad, so I think I hate funky character names even more than raid leaders.  I can technically get the numpad through the Fn key on my laptop, but it takes away half my keyboard in the process.  Several keys are starting to come loose or stick.

For example, I have no 1 key.  I don’t know where I last put the actual key, but the little plastic on the back of the key that held it to the hooks on the keyboard-side of the key slot were broken off from hitting it so much.  For a while, I played with the nub, and now even that is gone.  I can still hit it — 11111111 — but it’s hard to spam it (I can’t really machine-gun that one Harrison Jones machine-gun-airplane quest in Uldum).

Hence most of my nukes / spammable abilities are on the 2 key.  Now…the end bracket key (  ]  ) is loose, and floats around (sometimes under the backspace key).

Why not fix it?  I get repairs through the university bookstore, which is where I bought the laptop, and they are just rather plain bad at fixing it in a decent amount of time.  You can get a loaner laptop, but I don’t dare put WoW on it (for a time, I had it on my external hard drive for this reason).  And the loaner laptop?  Just as crappy as this one.  It’s not really worth it to me to send it in for one key.

PORTS

I normally use headphones plugged in since the onboard speakers are rather crappy quality.  I do have some separate speakers, but the headphone & mic jack is in the front of the laptop, and I keep bumping it (creating very loud static) when I plug the speakers in.  The jack is unfortunately pretty sensitive.

The mic jack has usually been used by a headset (for Vent & Skype purposes), but while my headphones lasted pretty well, it was always either the mic or the headphones that broke on the headset and never both.  So this time around I’m using a desktop mic (you can see it tucked just behind my laptop’s monitor; it’s the black stick to the right) and my normal headphones.  Aside from my noisy fan in the background, it’s working pretty well.

There’s three USB ports: one on the left side of the computer (right next to the fan grate), and two in the back.  The back right one is where I hook up my USB squid, so I can have my external hard drive (for a while, had WoW loaded from there) as well as my mouse.

The 2-button USB mouse
My current/old mouse with the USB stick off to the side, since I've plugged the Naga in.

I got my mouse when I decided in Ulduar that aiming (aka, right mouse button + moving the mouse) in order to shoot dynamically in a demolisher just wasn’t that awesome with just the trackpad (yeah, I played all the way up until Ulduar with just the trackpad as my mouse).  Trash would fatigue my hand so much, so I got me a simple wireless USB mouse so I could play on the floor of someone’s dorm if I had to.  My mouse is a simple Logitech USB Wireless Mouse.  It’s got the left & right buttons as well as a scroll wheel, and it’s just about perfect for my hand size.

I placed my USB squid near my mouse so perhaps the wireless didn’t lag too much.  I found I got mildly spotty reception for it when the USB was on the left USB port of my computer (I’m right-handed).

My hands are small.  I can’t hit an octave on one hand on the piano.  I can still fit my hands into the goalkeeper gloves that I used when I was ten (Yet I can legally buy & drink beer in the US, mkay.)

MORPH STEADILY

The biggest part of the new computer that I’ll need to get used to will probably not be the awesome graphics at ultra settings with fluid FPS.  While that will be awe-inspiring, and I’ll be flying circles around Outland and Northrend to just look at all the sights I’ve been missing for 3 years, that’s not the part that determines my skill in raids.  I think I’ve shown that by raiding as a good player (I’m not sure I can call myself excellent) on a crappy graphical setup.

The part I think would jar me the most would be my own interface with it; that is, the mouse, the keyboard, and the monitor.  So I’m getting those first so I can get used to them while I get the guts a few pieces at a time.

The monitor is planning to go from a 14″ to a 21-23″.  My Screen size influences where I put my unit frames and my castbars.  My monitor is more squared than the popular rectangular widescreens.  So I can put DoTimers over there and see them with my peripheral vision, while the rest of you with DoTimers in the same spot might have to actually glance.

The keyboard –while I’ve used real keyboards before, it’s not what I raid on — is going from small, flat keys to the wider spaced and actual button-y keys of a separate keyboard.  I keep starting a keybindings post and never finishing it because I keep wanting to explain that because of my hand-fingers layout, my stretch distance, my keyboard layout, and how I move…these things all influence how exactly I keybind things.  I have small hands, so having a small keyboard actually works for me.

My main deal-breaker on a new keyboard isn’t whether I can see the keys in the dark or how many macros it can hold or whether it even has the numpad or not.  My deal-breaker is whether I can WASD and still reach as many keys as normal.

The mouse is going from the minimum 2 buttons and a scroll wheel to the complex Razer Naga.  My biggest concern, again, was size, since I’ve palmed gaming mice from friends and said “that’s too big for me.”  I was looking at the Razer Orochi for a while, since it’s advertised as being smaller, but I had a good surprise in the store with the Razer Naga.

It came in a box that opened in front like many PC game boxes do (the front folds out like a booklet, which usually has another panel of information or screenshots or what have you).  Instead of another “front” of the box, the Naga box had the Naga right there, of course behind a plastic panel to preserve it from buyers trying it out.  I palmed it to see, and yay!, it fit my hand well enough, even with the bulk of the plastic.

So I bought it.  The Razer Naga.

My Razer Naga in place
My new Razer Naga plugged into the USB squid.

….That’ll be another post as I get used to the side buttons.

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My Raiding Rig: Intro

6 thoughts on “My Raiding Rig: Intro

  1. Jason says:

    Dunno if you’ve actually planned out a parts list or not, but since I too am planning a new computer, here’s my thoughts on one, by which I mean what I’m building later this year or early next year:

    Intel Core i5-2500K – Currently the bang for buck champ in the CPU market; very overclockable and very easy to do so.
    Asus P7P67 Pro Motherboard – Again, very easy to overclock on this motherboard, plus it’s got solid onboard audio(which I won’t be using, but if you don’t want to pay for an extra soundcard, it’s good stuff) and a very good onboardnetwork card.
    ATI 2GB 6950 – Again, very much at the top of price/performance when you’re looking at 1920×1080 resolutions, which is what you should be shooting for in the 22″ widescreen monitor range.
    16GB DDR3 1600 RAM – Yes, 16. If you catch a good sale, you can get this much RAM for around $100.
    Seasonic X650 80+ Gold certified Modular PSU – This is a bit much power supply for current games, but in a year or two I might add a second 6950 for Crossfire.
    Corsair 650D Case – Very solid case, exceptionally easy to work in, fantastic airflow as well. The last case i will ever own.
    Corsair H60 closed loop water cooler – This is for enabling the overclock; a stock cooler doesn’t quite cut it and I’m super cheap on my AC during the summer, so this will ensure the CPU stays nice and cool while I overclock the hell out of it.

    Things like monitors, drives and such I’ve already got in my current homebrew PC, so that will all be getting reused. Samsung’s 1TB Spinpoint drive is a fantastic HDD though, highly recommended. For 22″ monitors, Asus makes some very nice displays, and for optical drive, LG and Asus are pretty solid.

    GL to ya!

  2. I don’t know how you managed ToC Poneria. When my FPS was down in the single digits, I could not complete the final champion fights for the Argent dailies. I was always getting out-dueled on those fights and dying way too quick. Maybe I just need to tweak my graphics settings much lower than I admitted. New video card, my frame-rate jumped to 60fps and the fight was now cake. When I upgraded my PC last time, I cheated and bought a refurb off NewEgg. Same great warranty as new, but none of the headache of assembling it myself. Plus only $400 USD for the box (already had a monitor, keyboard and mouse).

    On the other hand, this weekend AB was the BG of the day. I had 3 or 4 intense fights where I had a lag spike and timed out most the fight.. So, maybe if I ever run 25-mans, I may need to revist my settings.. (Priest needed 300 honor points for new PVP ring).

    1. Argent dailies…I’m guessing you mean the jousting. <3 Jousting! Just shield throw, charge, shield throw, charge, weaving circles around the opponent, refreshing your own shield back to 3 if needed. I used to finish them pretty quickly, too.

      1. :) Yeah, those.. I couldn’t get passed one of the champions and had a friend logon and play for me one time. He said watching me on a duel, they would charge me, I would sit through it, then I’d react a few seconds after it happened.

        1. It probably helped that around the time the Argent dailies came out, I had been part of a fencing club. Particularly as a sabreuse, which is a bit more similar to the jousting than epee or foil, I’d say (the bouts are lightning fast and thus, there’s less parrying that goes on).

          Plus, charging is remniscent of flunging, which was way too fun when you could get it to work. :D

  3. Khwai says:

    If you haven’t bought a keyboard yet, i would recommend the razer arctosa, which isn’t that “wide buttoned”, or maybe even going for a gamepad if the keyboard doesn’t fit your hands. There are also laptop style keyboards, but most I’ve tried have had horrible button feel (important to me, but it’s a matter of taste).

    Your best option would probably be finding a store that has the keyboards they sell on display so you can try them out.

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