Category Archives: Gaming

Upgrading my Gaming PC with a Solid State Drive (SSD)

It took me years to catch up to the PC Master race when I first started upgrading my PC around 4 years ago. With the recent upgrade to RX 480 GPU my PC stepped into an uncharted territory. But there was still a final piece of puzzle that wasn’t in it’s place but which had the potential to make my PCMR journey to it’s final conclusion. Combine this with the fact that India was about to see a revolution in terms of economy with the new implementation of taxation, that is GST (Goods and Services Tax), I had to act fast. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and finally buy the last piece of the puzzle, an SSD!

I did my research on the forums. I studied the technologies provided by different companies, benchmarks and various kinds of SSD that was available. I studied the price to performance metrics, and price per GB of disk. I watched various youtube videos on YT, including the all too popular channel Linus Tech Tips. All that R&D pointed to me a very clear choice: Samsung Evo 850 250 GB.

Brand Model Capacity (GB) Price Price per GB Link
Samsung 750 EVO 120 4499 37 Link
Samsung 750 EVO 250 7499 30 Link
Samsung 850 EVO 250 7600 30 Link
WD Green 120 3999 33 Link
WD Green 240 6151 26 Link
WD Blue 250 6700 27 Link
Kingston SSDNow UV400 120 3949 33 Link
Kingston SSDNow UV400 240 6499 27 Link
Kingston SSDNow V300 120 4149 35 Link
Kingston SSDNow V300 240 9179 38 Link
Kingston SSDNow A400 120 4200 35 Link
Kingston SSDNow A400 240 6499 27 Link
Crucial MX300 275 7150 26 Link
Damn, it’s deceiving simplicity!

This SSD was one of the most technology superior SSD only below the Pro series of SSDs by Samsung. Unlike the Pro series though, Evo series was way better in terms of Price to performance ratio. But what sold me to finally go with Samsung Evo was the fact that it came with the software Samsung Magician. It has a feature which they call Rapid Mode, which when turned on, uses a portion of RAM (about  1 GB at the moment) as an SSD cache to better utilize the resources that we have, and also to increase the longevity of the SSD which is already very good than other competing drive. No this is not a promoted post, rather I am genuinely impressed by the features of Samsung’s Evo SSD.

I choose 250 GB since I needed to install two OS on the drive: Windows 10 and Ubuntu. I needed ample space on Windows 10 to install various big editing tools like Premiere and development IDEs like Visual Studio. With a 250 GB drive (which actually means 232 GB of usable space) I could use both OSes and even leave 20% of the drive empty (which is recommended to have the drive function optimally).

I waited for few days to see if the price of Samsung Evo 250 GB could go down (from Rs 7599), but eventually bought the drive from eBay where I managed to get the same for around Rs 6700. I think it was a great deal considering the fact that GST was about to kick in, and prices could go high soon.

The day I got my SSD, my happiness knew no bounds. I was surprized by the fact that the drive was so tiny and so light that it was baffling to imagine the power it actually hold. I installed the SSD as soon as I could reach home from my workplace and started to install the operating systems. I didn’t have any spare SATA cables lying around so I just borrowed the SATA cable of my optical drive. (At this moment, I was glad I had an optical drive, and didn’t fall in the suggestion from my online friend to do away with it when I was building my PC).

I faced numerous problems making my PC dual boot with Windows 10 and Ubuntu. I could manage to install both the OS on it, but the Ubuntu bootloader (GRUB) didn’t work. After various trial and error, I realized I accidentally made my SSD an MBR disk (when I first launched the Disk Management in windows). So I turned the SSD into a GPT drive (from Disk Management) and this time around after I installed both the OSes, the GRUB menu worked perfectly. I also did have to make a change in the BIOS boot meny, to allow the GRUB to take priority over Windows  Boot Manager.

I ended up making following partitions on the SSD:

  • /sda1 (150 GB for Windows 10)
  • /sda2 (30 GB for Ubuntu)
  • /sda3 (NTFS drive without assigning a drive letter and configured later to have Over Provisioning explained below).

And of course there are other partitions made by Windows which it creates before installing.

Over Provisioning is a feature which you can set using Samsung Magician and which allows to set aside a portion of the SSD  which will be kept free, since SSDs work best when there is less data on it. After installing the OSes on SSD, setting up over provisioning and running the standard benchmark I was all set to compare some application launch times. Following table shows the comparison of time taken by various activities on my PC before and after installing the SSD.

Activity HDD Time SSD Time Comment
Windows 10 Install 8:00 6:00 From Install start to first Reboot
Ubuntu 16.04 Install 8:00 7:00 From ubuntu installation beginning to first Reboot
Win 10 cold boot to desktop 0:45 0:23 Time from pressing the power switch to desktop. It includes time to select Windows 10 (which is 3rd option on GRUB menu) and login password prompt. So can be made faster.
Boot time to Windows including startup apps 2:14 0:50 Including various applications loading in background (Dropbox, steam, discord, telegram, IDM and more) and till Firefox’s speed dial tab loads.
Boot time of Ubuntu 0:40 0:30 Time from pressing the power switch to desktop. It includes time of GRUB menu and password prompt. So can be made faster.
Applications launch time on cold reboot:
Adobe Photoshop CS4 0:11 0:06
Premiere Pro CC 2014 0:17 0:08
VS Studio Community 2017 0:07 0:03
Rocket League first time 0:14 0:10 Time from launching app till 1st car appears skipping the cutscenes

Note following points regarding above timings:

  1. These are no way very scientific in numbers.
  2. Actual time can be decreased, like boot time, by removing the boot menu and password logins.

Here is the Crystal Disk Mark report of the SSD (which is more scientific):

In comparison following are the result of the benchmark on my HDD (WD 1 TB Blue):

After I enabled the Rapid mode, the results showed around 5X improvements:

This experience of upgrading to SSD has been really fruitful.  Not only I was able to give my PC a big boost in disk performance, but also managed to beat the GST (applicable in India from July 1) due to which (or coincidentally) prices of SSD is now Rs 8295 (up from Rs 7500) on Amazon.in and even better, on eBay.in, from where the original listings have ended and now lowest price is Rs 7699.

All I now need is a new monitor to make a dual monitor setup, a 1 TB HDD to make a RAID array of disk, another GPU to Crossfire for mining cryptocurrency… Oh, the need never ends. 😉

Ascension to PC Master Race: 11 years in the making

Its a dream of every PC geek out there to have a PC that they can treat it as their own personal super computer. It took me just south of 11 years to reach from a Pen 3 PC to now a Core i5, RX 480 rig. Two years ago I wrote about how I started working on PC from a Pen 3 PC. I quote here,

It was in my college that my father was able to buy for me a Pen 4 PC in 2005, Internet connection 3 yrs after that, and recently I upgraded to a Core i5 PC after more than 7 yrs.

So here’s a little back story of how I managed to pull off a Core i5 and what experiences lie behind it.

I started with a PC when I was in school that I didn’t own. I owe it to my relative, the PC of which included a configuration of Pen 3, 20 gigs of HDD and a 15″ CRT monitor, on which I use to play Carmageddon Apocalypse and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; and learn to program in C++ by building a program as my hobby.

Later in 2005 when I entered college, my dad bought for me a Pen 4 rig. It included a 512 MB of RAM stick and a 17″ CRT monitor. It was an exciting time. Steam, a much loved gaming platform from Valve had managed to reduce piracy in games and people started to buy genuine games legally. It was that time when I managed to build a good collection of games in steam sales. But the Pen 4 chip started to hinder my gaming abilities and motivated me to upgrade. So in 2012 I finally decided to upgrade my Pen 4 rig. But I didn’t reach to my Core i5 built until now. I didn’t use to earn much. So I assembled a very budget friendly following APU built:

SerialComponentModel
1Mobo+CPUGigabyte E350N Motherboard
2CabinetCooler Master Elite 310 Cabinet
3SMPSCorsair CMPSU-430CXV2UK 430 Watts PSU
4HDD500 GB WD Cavier Blue
5RAMKingston ValueRAM DDR3 2 GB (KVR1333D3N9/2G) x2
6ODDSamsung DVD Writer

[I used components of this PC to make my Core i5 PC later, but the heart, APU remains the same].

But this APU machine could only do so much. Sure it was a perfect blend of processing and graphics capabilities but playing a game on decent quality was still a dream. I managed to play less resource intensive games like Trackmania, Burnout Paradise, Portal, Grid 1 (on low setting) and multi player game like Teeworlds (which frankly could also be run from a Raspberry Pi).

I had a long term plan when I built an APU machine. I was saving up for something big. I got lucky to win a contest from Microsoft and got some voucher on Amazon.com. Bought the Core i5 processor from US in 2013 and assembled my primary PC which you can see the specs of below.

SerialComponentModel
1MonitorHP Pavillion 22XW Monitor (1080p)
2CabinetCooler Master E350N
3HDDWD 1 TB WD Blue
4PSUCorsair CMPSU-430CXV2UK 430 Watts PSU
5ProcessorIntel 3.2 GHz LGA 1150 4570 i5 4th Gen
6RAMG.Skill DDR3 4 GB X 1 and
G.Skill DDR3 8 GB X 1
7MotherboardMSI H87M-G43
8HeadphonePhilips SHP 2000
9Graphics CardMSI RX 480 4 GB
10UPSLuminous LB1000UNO UPS
11KeyboardTVS-E Gold Bharat Mechanical Keyboard
12MouseLogitech G90 Gaming mouse
13Optical DriveSamsung DVD Combo
14ControllerXBox 360 Wired Controller
15MFDHP Deskjet Ink Advantage 3545 printer
16RouterTP-LINK TL-WR840N (V2) 300 Mbps

But it was not until I got myself the beast RX 480 graphics card that my gaming PC was completed in true sense. It was a long journey to reach here. And members from digit forum needs a special mention which helped me to take decisions and assisted with the troubleshooting many nights.

Following is the Timeline for some of the stories from the forum worth documenting, so that it would be easier for me to be nostalgic towards the incidents:

  1. February 2011: I bought got a new Monitor for my Pen 4 PC, but I was having driver problem. Forum members came together and solved it.
  2. November 2012: I moved from my Pen 4 to built a AMD APU PC.
  3. July 2013: Bought Core i5 processor as a first step to build my gaming PC.
  4. August 2013: Bought motherboard as a second step for my gaming PC.
  5. June 2014: My research on buying a MFD (printer, copier and scanner) documented in this thread.
  6. February 2015: Got myself a treat with a new and beautiful fHD monitor.
  7. August 2016: Upgraded the RAM of my PC here.
  8. October 2016: As a possibly last step towards my Gaming PC I got myself the most VFM Graphics card, RX 480.

When I look back now, connecting the dots backward, each year have been leading me to the moment when I could be playing fHD games on my fHD monitor. And with RX 480 graphics card its been a giant leap forward. In Reddit lingo, I have ascended to PC masters race. But this is just the beginning as 144Hz monitor will soon join my PC. This will be followed by SSD upgradation and a multi monitor setup. Things will only get better I assure to my little ‘Super-Computer’.

I would leave you with this imgur album of the unboxing of RX 480 that I did a while ago:

MSI RX 480 4 GB

Rocket League : Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars!!!

Rocket League, by Psyonix is a game every racer probably desired, but didn’t even know that they do. If you are also a football player too, this game could be your love you were destined to meet. What’s surprising though, is that even if you are not a fan of sports game, this game will blow your mind.

Conceptually simple and hard to master, there is just one objective of the game. Use your rocket powered cars to kick the ball inside the net of opposite team. The way you do it is what separates the rookies from the pros and the pros from the masters. You can either play as solo, or in teams of 2, 3 or 4. There are quite few training to get your feet wet and to learn some skills and you can even play with bots before you attempt to face online players.

Rocket League Poster

So how did I fare going through various levels in Rocket League?

Rookie:

I still remember the first day I fired up Rocket League In January 2016, I was blown away by the amount of detail in the city around the arena where I spawned. Being a BTTF fan, I had started the game with my DeLorean. I didn’t have a controller. I steered the DeLorean with my keyboard. Boosting the car, kicking the ball in goal. “BOOM”, the ball exploded into a zillion pieces once it crossed the goal line. Little did I knew that it was start of a long journey stretching 4 months and counting. In these 4 months I have had a range of emotions I didn’t express in a long time. Rocket League was about to change my life.

It took me quite a few days before I started to use boost effectively. I just used to keep one of my fingers on boost button all the time and used to ran out of it before I could say “I have boost”. I played with few online friends, who were newbies like me. Together we played possibly the noobiest matches, which in hindsight now looks as if the buttons on the keyboard were being pushed by a cat. Jumping ever so often and getting my car out of position seemed to the best way to approach incoming ball. You can watch that gameplay for your amusement. Spoiler though, it will be painful to watch if you have any idea of how pros play.

Rocket League Field

Semi Pro:

As I started to play more and more of Rocket League I understood the depth of the game. The layers of skills it offered were stunning. Boost management, defending, and even passes contributed much to the success rate of winning. Slowly and steadily I climbed up the levels and became a Semi Pro from Rookie. I could now play significantly better. No longer did I miss ball by arms length.  I thought I am getting good. Boy, I was wrong.

Then I saw players who could just hit the ball in mid air. While my eyes was fixated on the ball and used to stop my car under it like it was a parking spot, someone would just steal the ball away from above and sometimes even made a goal. What I experienced was called, “Aerials”. It was an ecstatic moment. I could Fly! I didn’t just have to believe that I could fly, I could actually do it! It was then that I started the Aerial training. With the DeLorean, flying was eventual. When I first flew, the voices of Dr Emmet Brown echoed my ears. Where I was going, I didn’t need, Roads!

What came later was nothing short of compilation of epic fail montages. Flying was difficult. Making contact with a moving ball on ground was difficult enough. Add to it the axis of height and things just grew out of control. I used to try and try and miss every shot. So I tried and tried more. Watched online tutorials. Read articles on Reddit. Put on everything I learned into practice. It was around this time that I decided to finally buy a controller. Keyboard was not a viable option anymore. And then I faced the worst period as a player.

Dominus and Takumi

Pro:

The 100 hours I spent in Rocket League all seemed to go down the drain, once I started using controller. I just couldn’t manage to remember the buttons. I dropped controller multiple times and started to play with keyboard. But online friends encouraged me. Watching Kronovi flying effortlessly encouraged me. And I thought to myself if I want to become any good in Aerials I just can’t do that from Keyboard. Finally after countless hours and many losses I became used to the controller.

Veteran:

I was now 200 hours in the game. It was then that I reached the level of “Veteran”. It seemed a big title and I didn’t feel I was doing justice to it. So I hid my level. I couldn’t boast of being a Vet and keep making own goals. Something was missing. I could defend good, make some shots on goal too, but I couldn’t manage to make actual goals. My passes weren’t that effective and mostly my passes used to be more advantageous to opponent team players.

I started to watch gameplays more rigorously. Followed the Playing with Potatoes series by Gibbs. Whatever free time I had after I returned from my job, before I start the game, I used to spend on watching clips on the Rocket League sub-reddit. Watching amazing gif on the sub always used to amaze me. It introduced me the moves I never thought were possible. Though actually trying those moves mostly proved fatal to my games.

Season-2-Division-Titles

Expert:

I then completed 300 hours. I started to play mostly with an online friend who had helped me initially to migrate to controller. But he was not happy. I used to miss shots a lot. Even when ball was rolling on ground, I used to miss shots by hair length resulting in goals for other team. I used to get disappointed and heart broken when that used to happen. Again I felt something was wrong.

He invited me to 1×1 one day. And then the reality hit me. I was a terrible solo player. I used to take many risky shots. In the solo game mode, that was not acceptable. I used to take every chance to hit the ball, try to take impossible aerials. I became very sad. I realized that in team play my misses didn’t really effect that much but in solo it resulted in epic failures.

I decided to stop playing Rocket League. And I left the game entirely. I started playing some indie and racing games. But my habit of checking out incredible shots on Reddit was not gone. Eventually after a whole 3 days I fired up the game again. But this time I started playing with bots. Unfair match with bots seemed to be a fair way to become good in the game. But more often than not the bots used to give me a field trip, literally.

Playing with bots proved tougher than playing with actual people online. Since unlike online players bots made less mistakes. The penalty for being impatient or a miss, or a bad play used to be instant. This made me learn to play more patiently than before. And once I started to stop and think, I didn’t try to hit the ball at every occasion. This made me slightly better. But even now my biggest weakness is dribbling. These days I am trying to improve on that in free play. I seem to be going backward, since dribbling is such an elementary skill for this game. With dribbling comes mind games. So, once I become good in dribbling and ball control I am sure I could play more patiently.

After around 400 hours, I think I have just begun to understand the basics about the game. Such are the layers of skill required in this game. After 400 hours, where do I stand? I can’t dribble properly, miss easy shots sometimes, can’t make good aerial shots, can’t give good passes to team mates, and its still hard for me to predict where the ball is going to deflect. The only thing I think I am good at seems to be defending and now I could score by hitting the ball by jumping and double jumping.

By the time I reach to Master, Legend and then eventually Rocketeer (the last level), I would be at-least a bit better, but I hope I could make it there despite the overwhelming emotions Rocket League makes me go through.

Rocket League DeLorean

Community:

The community of Rocket League players is a mixed race just like with every other online multiplayer game. But so far the players I have played with are mostly at the brighter side. People respond with “gg” (good game) even after loosing. There are occasional sour grapes but they are in minority. There are quick chat options to say things like, “What a Save!” and “Nice Shot!” and are the mostly used phrases in game. Sometimes people tend to use it to sarcasm, and those proves funny too a lot of times.

It have been said that the players are divided as per the rank where they belong. Players at the lower most and upper most tiers are generally good, while in the middle ranks are where the most frustrated player resides. So generally a player encounters players who flame, mostly in the middle ranks. I am not entirely sure if that’s true but it does make the most sense.

Reddit Community:

Significant number of hours I have spent just dazzling over the GIF’s posted by Redditors. The incredible goals, saves and aerials posted on the Rocket League made me motivated to keep trying. When I took hiatus from the game for 3 days I couldn’t stop surfing and I can give credit to these GIF’s for my comeback in the game.

The sub is active with tons of players who post in additions to GIF, their experiences, rants and suggestions on the game. Developers are Psyonix do browse the sub and notice them first hand. Even top players like Kronovi and Gibbs are part of the active members in the sub, and mostly can be seen trolling their own friends. You know devs love the community when they fix even minor issues and incorporate features like Replay name, after discussion on Reddit.

The Rocket League Reddit sub also have been a great part in the form of guides and tutorials that it contains from amazing players. One such post is the compilation of such useful guides.

Car Customization

One of the best thing about Rocket League is the amount of sheer customizations you can do to your car. All of the changes are cosmetics though, so tweaking any of them wouldn’t give anyone an unfair advantage. The variety of cars are less, but with DLC you can choose some of the more amazing cars like, DeLorean, Dominus, Takumi and recently Batmobile. While top speed, boost power are all same for all the cars, the only slight difference is the hit box and turning radius, which a player can choose as per their style of playing. As for the customization you could choose colors (from predefined template of colors), toppers (hat), flags and boost trail. Some of the toppers are quit funny like chick-magnet, which puts a chick on top of a magnet on your car (just as you would expect).

Rocket League Car Customization
Rocket League Car Customization

A word on Wasteland:

Wasteland is the most popular map in Rocket League. RL players have extreme views about this map depending on either they love it or hate. This map was plagued with weird ball deflection bugs and being laggy in nature due to it containing a huge amount of artifacts. But even on my iGPU HD4600 the map never let me face any issues. Personally I really like the change of pace this map provides. Part of the likeness of Wasteland I would admit was due to the fact that due to unpredictable bounces it gave me an opportunity to score against the mistakes of other pro players. With the recent patch though I think Wasteland would be more fixed, but still it would have a good place in my heart for it being the most challenging. Psyonix also released a set of 4 maps seemingly inspired from TRON movie, and those are good to play, but it failed to create a space which other standard maps have done.

Wasteland

This article:

I wrote first draft of this article on 28 Feb. And it took me more than 2 months to get it completed. I have started a new section on my blog for Gaming, and this is the first game which provoked me to do that.

I originally intended to write this guide to have a repository of everything awesome about this game. Tutorials, Guides, Videos montages and a collection of awesome stuff from Reddit. But I will be doing that in an another post. And I will try not to delay it much.

You know a game is good when you don’t get time to write about it because of the game itself. You know a game is good when people keep coming back even after severe server downtimes. There’s a lot to be said about this game and I believe I have just scratched the surface.

In the end I would leave you with a video that shows how players who played the Rocket League beta when it came out for PS, took the server hostage when the server was about to shut down! (It begins at 05:17, but this whole video is worth watching).