Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
infamousjbe

Q For Comp Techs

27 posts in this topic Last Reply

Recommended Posts

So upon my return to SC4 on a laptop, I'm now starting to really feel the restraints of playing on such a disadvantaged "egg type" (Nonny Mouse). Even with a 4gb Ready Boosted virtual thumb drive (which actually improves game play by a slight amount) installed, it's just not going to be enough to play much further than my largest city (20k/med tile).

 

Since I can't put more than 0.5gb more of RAM in the laptop, that's just not going to do the trick. On top of the various other reasons using a slow laptop for SC4 is an oxymoron.

 

This got me to thinking of a solution which brings me to the question. Thinking of investing in a dinosaur XP tower using my TV for the monitor and a cordless k/m or k/touchpad combo to play SC. Actually having SC4 on the TV is rather exciting of a thought to be honest.  :ooh: No more damn laptop on my lap. Would prefer to only have the k/m/tp to deal with than the whole laptop.

 

So the question is: 

 

What would be the minimum spec to allow me to run SC4, playing a metropolis on a lrg tile, with many plugins, and the settings set to high, without experiencing any, or very slight game play lag?

 

Just to reiterate, NOT the minimum to run SC4 on an old rig but better yet, run SC4 like a BEAST!!  :ohyes:

 

I really do enjoy SC4 and glad it didn't make out with the donation box like it almost did. With all the available content, SC had improved exponentially from once it came. I would like to squeeze the full enjoyment out of the game, but that's just impossible with my laptop. 

 

 

And if all else fails, there's always the idea of looking to trade up to a laptop capable of handling SC4 much better than the one I'm using. It's still fairly new and mint cond, so maybe it would be much $ on top to improve my life. 

 

Proposed Rig

 

CPU: x86 dual core 

RAM: 4-8gb

HDD: 30gb  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, why not use a current machine with the appropriate cabling to your TV set including sound.  If you have a modern TV set it probably has a port for a proper cable from your machine.  Just get yourself a remote low-power gizmo to allow you to detach your keyboard and mouse over FM radio.  These can be had.  Have a chat with an OEM builder and you'll be quite surprised at what you can get.  It will probably be a USB 2.0 interface.

 

Now to run SC4 flat-ass out, you need a processor that NASA would envy.  Because it is single threaded, you need the fastest x86 processor you can afford.  Graphics doesn't matter much because none of the current 3D features are used by the program.  You can set the graphics card's 3D controls to "application selected" or equivalent wording.

 

Because it is a 32-bit program, even with the 4GB patch, you will never need more than 3GB space over and above your operating system kernel.  There might be a good argument here for not using Windows 8, but Windows 7 should be OK if you turn off silly services like the file indexer.  We are not talking about gazillions of files here.  That feature is for really big servers.

 

The operating system may want to page the program.  If so, all the better if you have enough ram to get the whole works, and your plugin tables into memory, bearing in mind that the total can't be over 3GB.  The size of your plugin files is irrelevant because the program converts them into tables that fit in its space.  If all the data doesn't fit (POVs for example), you'll find the game accessing the disks when you zoom or scroll.  If you find this happening, you could put your plugins on a solid state drive rather than on rotating storage.  You'll save the disk latency at the very least.  City files should not be on a solid state drive because they become multi-extent and are written often.  (You can if you like, but it is hard on the drive.)

 

Other than using the -CPUcount:1 to tell the O/S not to monkey with the scheduling, and appropriate options for your graphics, any really fast machine should do the job.

 

The problem with most lap tops is they are really designed for word processing and other office stuff, not heavy computing.  SC4 will drive any processor I've ever seen at 100% and therefore lag when the number of objects being simulated reaches the knee of the simulation curve.  This is the nature of simulations.  Most of them don't run very long, but this one can run for days.  The only ones that I am aware of are the Accuweather programs that run on the big CRAY supercomputers, and they can only approximate the weather.

 

So, yes, any good desktop will do the job.  It has the advantage of being able to swap out the CPU chip if you get a more advanced one, except that the mobo is usually not designed for very much upgrading.  However, you can get a new mobo cheaper than the whole works.  I've moved my peripheral gear now through two recent machine upgrades (in the last ten years).  It never hurts to get some new storage as the state of practice in that area is advancing very quickly.  Try to avoid being on the bleeding edge.  You can get cut.

 

A second though would be to dump Windows entirely, and run with Linux using the Windows Executive (wine).  Runs fine for me, even with my lame graphics chip set which is no longer supported by AMD (ATI 3000).


  Edited by A Nonny Moose  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • Because it is single threaded, you need the fastest x86 processor you can afford.  

    Noted.

     

    Well, why not use a current machine with the appropriate cabling to your TV set including sound.  If you have a modern TV set it probably has a port for a proper cable from your machine.  Just get yourself a remote low-power gizmo to allow you to detach your keyboard and mouse over FM radio.  These can be had.  Have a chat with an OEM builder and you'll be quite surprised at what you can get.  It will probably be a USB 2.0 interface.

    Have the mouse. The cable is being donated to my mother's dinosaur computer till I can track down a back up. But I would still have to invest in the k/b. With the laptop connected, it doesn't make accessing the k/b easy. Though you don't really need the k/b to play, I've grown accustomed to using hotkeys preferably. But all of that was being taken into consideration for budgeting.

     

     

     

    Because it is a 32-bit program, even with the 4GB patch, you will never need more than 3GB space over and above your operating system kernel. 

    Don't believe I needed the 4gb patch since my laptop only has 3gb already and according to the manual, can only hold 3.5. 0.5 would not make much of a difference at this point of the game. 

     

    So by this statement, and that OS systems already tax 2gb from the get go, SC4 is only accessing about 1gb of RAM, give or take? Does that mean I'll only need roughly 5-6gb RAM? And does that mean anything over that amount really is overkill? For SC4 of course. I know plenty of other programs that can tax RAM more than this game.

     

     

     

    There might be a good argument here for not using Windows 8, but Windows 7 should be OK if you turn off silly services like the file indexer. 

    I'm running 7 on this laptop, so should I turn off the silly file indexer? And is that an easy access, or a BIOs thing?

     

     

     

    all the better if you have enough ram to get the whole works, and your plugin tables into memory, bearing in mind that the total can't be over 3GB.  

    When you say 3gb (over the OS's designated RAM), is that for the RAM or the Plugins Folder or Both?

     

     

     

     The size of your plugin files is irrelevant because the program converts them into tables that fit in its space.  If all the data doesn't fit (POVs for example), you'll find the game accessing the disks when you zoom or scroll.  If you find this happening, you could put your plugins on a solid state drive rather than on rotating storage.  You'll save the disk latency at the very least.  City files should not be on a solid state drive because they become multi-extent and are written often.  (You can if you like, but it is hard on the drive.)

    I don't hear the disc running any time after the initial boot sequence. 

     

    Regardless of the disc being accessed, would it still be better to have the Plugins on a solid state (assume you mean thumb or external [nondisc]) anyways?

    I have a couple usb drives I could use for the plugins folder if so.

     

     

     

    Other than using the -CPUcount:1 to tell the O/S not to monkey with the scheduling, and appropriate options for your graphics, any really fast machine should do the job

    Wouldn't know where I would be with the SC launchers doing all that for me. Not that I don't understand how to manually plug it in, just found the launcher prior to knowing about the manual strings. Though from this point on, don't think I wouldn't use a launcher now. Also helps when I need to deselect the auto save for testing things.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • The problem with most lap tops is they are really designed for word processing and other office stuff, not heavy computing.  SC4will drive any processor I've ever seen at 100% and therefore lag when the number of objects being simulated reaches the knee of the simulation curve. 

    Exact reason for my thread. Lag is something I'm not really good at dealing with. It ruins my gaming experience. And with this egg already cracking under pressure at such an early stage in my cities development, don't want to have to resort to playing on small tiles when mediums already run out of space too quick.

     

     

    So, yes, any good desktop will do the job.  It has the advantage of being able to swap out the CPU chip if you get a more advanced one,

    So any x86 processor (the higher the better), at least 6gb of RAM, and a basic graffix card to start.

     

    Not worried about the CPU change since this rig will be built solely for SC4. Probably wouldn't need but a 30gb HDD to hold everything

     

     However, you can get a new mobo cheaper than the whole works.

    Lost me here..  Not familiar with the term mobo.   By "whole works", you mean building the tower? I was hoping to go to the a local mom/pop computer store (known accquantance) to see if they could possibly put something together for me as cheap as they can, bearing in mind the base line specs of course. 

     

    Or as I mentioned, possibly trading up for a laptop with a bit more gusto under the hood.

     

    A second though would be to dump Windows entirely, and run with Linux using the Windows Executive (wine).  Runs fine for me, even with my lame graphics chip set which is no longer supported by AMD (ATI 3000).

    I've thrown in the towel with trying to learn/keep up with most of technology. I'll keep it basic and user friendly as possible. 

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    I will post my specs and experiences so that the opening poster and others may have something to compare it to...kinda. I'm not typical.

     

    Processor: Quad core AMD at 3.2 ghz.

     

    Graphics card: Radeon 5700 series, 1 gig of  DDR5.

     

    Memory: 8 gigs, DDR3.

     

    Hard drive: Raptor, 10,000 RPM.

     

    Plugins suite: 1,100 files taking up 3.9 gigs of space and encompassing 1.03 million TGI. Do note that I am far from typical in this regard. I heavily pruned and optimized my plug-ins suite to remove as much of the cruft as possible and spent a considerable amount of time doing it.

     

    General state of computing environment: Quite clean. Programs are locked down, services have been cut back to barebones. Scanner-type programs are told to ignore the SC4 directory so no resources are used as game information is read and loaded into memory.

     

    General state of SC4: 4 gig patch applied, core affinity patch applied, video card information entered into Graphics Rules and Video Card sgrs. Video card has been informed it may not apply any of its advanced or not-so-advanced features to SC4. I have not experienced a generic crash in over two years, a save crash in four, and I've never had a zoom crash (Lucky?).

     

    Graphical settings: All on high (Even shadows!), 1600x1200 resolution.

     

    Initial load time from splash screen to region screen: 30~ seconds. Before I optimized my plugins, 1 and 1/2 minutes.

     

    Initial load time from region screen to playing largest city in region (10+ million sims): 40~ seconds. Before, 2 and 1/2 minutes.

     

    Average computer memory usage while playing said city: 1.5 gigs.

     

    Video card memory usage while playing said city: 130 megs (Starting), 600 megs (After extensive play). Note that SC4 wasn't using all of the initial 130 by itself; the system was already eating up about 120 megs...

     

    Video card processor usage, regardless of what's happening: 24%. So on a 2009 card, the game is capable of utilizing about 1/4th of its processing capabilities...

     

    Conclusions based on the above:

     

    1: SimCity 4, despite common belief, does benefit from newer video cards. Mainly in memory utilization, as the DDR5 in the video card is much, much faster than the system's  DDR3. What information is kept in the video card's memory, you ask? Likely building models and other graphical information (As you would hope). While a consistent 1.5 gigs of system memory was used, the video card's memory usage floated depending on how many buildings had been loaded.

     

    2: The city tile used for obtaining data was large, 75% occupied, and experienced only minor lag in the farthest zoom. I would say with specs in the pallpark to mine and a datpacked plugins suite, there will be no problem running a large city regardless of how many buildings are in it or how big they are.

     

    3: DatPacking is important. The biggest single thing I did to enhance load times and decrease lag was compressing 5,000 files into 1,000. Almost all of the compressed files were .lots and .desc files.

     

    4: Gigantic buildings and their lots use less props overall than many small buildings and their lots taking up an equivalent zone size. Therefore, one can expect memory usage to be higher if the city will contain mostly small buildings.
     

    Feel free to ask questions.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    There remains some open water.

     

    To turn off the indexer you have to be an administrator or in safe mode.  Then you access the Services set up and turn the indexer off.  Sorry, but I haven't run a windows machine in over 10 years and things are a little hazy.

     

    Understanding computer memory utilization is very important.  So, you have 3GB.  The O/S takes what it wants out of that, and the rest is normally available for programmes.  You can think of the kernel space as rings 0 (really critical stuff) and ring 1 (drivers and such).  The user space lies in ring 3.  A ring 3 process cannot write in the lower rings, and can only communicate with them via system calls allowed by the operating system.  The ring 3 memory is what is available for user processes including SC4.  Once the O/S is loaded this is usually a fixed layout.  {I don't propose to discuss virtual memory here}.  Now the SC4 executable text isn't very big.  What is large is the data tables or read/write space.  Because of the CPU architecture this space can never exceed 3GB or so for a program.  I believe this only applies if you are running a 64-bit operating system and machine with a 32-bit program.  The 4GB patch changes the division between 32-bit allocation from 2GB for the O/S, 2GB for the process to 1GB and 3GB respectively.  If your head is ringing, don't let it bother you.  You don't really have to know how this works, only that it does.

     

    So in answer to your question: if you had a desktop machine with two cores, I would recommend 4 GB as a minimal memory (2GB per core).  In this case 8 GB of ram might be considered to be overkill, but certainly worth a thought if you have the money.

     

    The comment by our giggly friend is quite correct insofar as getting more graphics memory on the graphics card is concerned.  If you run hardware mode especially, much of the graphics load is taken up by the GPU co-processor and if it has its own memory, the more the merrier.  Since most video cards have built-in OpenGL capability it is really too bad that SC4's OpenGL coding is not working.  If it were, with a large memory GPU, SC4 would run like a scared gazelle.

     

    Now according to my system monitor, 845 MB of my system available 3.5 GB is taken up by the idle machine including about 300 MB for this memory hog of a browser (firefox).  So my system overhead appears to be on the order of 500 MB.  The missing half gig is taken for my graphics buffers since the AMD/ATI chip doesn't have any.

     

    Some users have experimented with using some of the 3D features of their GPUs with mixed results with SC4.  Worth some careful fooling around, I think.

     

    Unless you can source a very fast CPU with a very large memory GPU, it doesn't much matter about anything else.

     

    And BTW, I get a lot of disk activity when I am running the game, but I have to run in software rendering because of a hardware/software conflict.  This system has a disk channel activity lamp.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • To turn off the indexer you have to be an administrator or in safe mode.  Then you access the Services set up and turn the indexer off.  Sorry, but I haven't run a windows machine in over 10 years and things are a little hazy.

    After doing some research, it was rather easy due to 7 having that feature easily accessible.

     

     

    So in answer to your question: if you had a desktop machine with two cores, I would recommend 4 GB as a minimal memory (2GB per core).  In this case 8 GB of ram might be considered to be overkill, but certainly worth a thought if you have the money.

    With SC4 being single threaded, why the need for the second core? A single high-end x86 wouldn't be suffice?

     

    So 4 would probably do the trick, but 6 would definitely be enough, yes? Or 6 is even overkill. 

     

     

     

    The comment by our giggly friend is quite correct insofar as getting more graphics memory on the graphics card is concerned

    Since the "Recommended" for SC4 was only 256+, 1gb seems extremely overkill. That sounds like a card more for today's standards than for SC4. Wouldn't there be a significant difference in cost for a 256mb<1gb?

     

    After looking into the prices of mentioned graf card, this project is already not sound very  reasonable for building a rig solely for SC4

     

    My original assumption was, because SC4 was built for machines 10 years ago, the equipment to run SC4 extremely well wouldn't be very expensive. But if the prices of the that video card are an inclination of what these parts are still going for, it won't be worth it for me financially.

     

    It might come down to trying to upgrade the laptop instead of building a desktop rig.

     

     

     

    Unless you can source a very fast CPU with a very large memory GPU, it doesn't much matter about anything else

    Which I can't by today's standards. Was hoping that the "minimum" to run SC4 well would keep the idea within justifiable reasons to fund the project, being that it's such an old game. 

     

    You can find old comp towers a dime a dozen at the local thrift stores. Figured it wouldn't be much to upgrade one of those dinosaurs. Or just have the Comp store build me a frankenstein rig on the cheap with parts laying around/left behind.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • Hard drive: Raptor, 10,000 RPM.

    I remember using a HD with 10k rpm, but that was for when I was (trying) producing music, would it have that much of an effect on playing SC4 to make it worth the price increase? I also remember it wasn't a standard back then and came with some trickery to use it as the main HD for the OS. Are they still like that, or now a bit more user friendly.

     

     

     

    Plugins suite: 1,100 files taking up 3.9 gigs of space and encompassing 1.03 million TGI. Do note that I am far from typical in this regard. I heavily pruned and optimized my plug-ins suite to remove as much of the cruft as possible and spent a considerable amount of time doing it.

    Not quite there yet, and have not done a finite pruning yet, which might help a bit on the laptop as is right now, but I know even after a pruning there are still plenty of CCs yet to be installed which is just going to bog things down exponentially. Since I'm still in a slight discovery phase with CCs, it won't be until I get to a point of gathering pretty much everything I'll eventually keep from here on out before being able to actually do a proper pruning. Hoping it all falls in line with this project.

     

     

     

     

    3: DatPacking is important. The biggest single thing I did to enhance load times and decrease lag was compressing 5,000 files into 1,000. Almost all of the compressed files were .lots and .desc files.

    I've dat. packed a few of my largest CC folders, but to be honest, I couldn't tell the difference in performance and/or load times. 

     

     

     

    4: Gigantic buildings and their lots use less props overall than many small buildings and their lots taking up an equivalent zone size. Therefore, one can expect memory usage to be higher if the city will contain mostly small buildings.

    This bit of news brings some elation with it. As it is now, most of my cities are spread out R$/R$$ and just now starting to increase in density. As larger building pop up, I usually take away some of the developed land surrounding the building to add parking, or lawn space. That also reduces more of the props. Hopefully this will allow me to keep playing a bit longer with my cities while playing on the laptop till the possible upgrade.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    The speed of the simulation depends on the number of objects in the universe of discourse.  In this case, every object, starting with the very grid squares (one object each) plus everything on them (trees, props, lots, etc.).  In a large tile you could have millions of objects, and this is not counting the sprites (animated Sims) walking around which are generated by the game.  The count of these is the Population.

     

    You can improve your speed slightly by adjusting the number of trees you sprinkle around in god mode.  Here is a little experiment you can do yourself:  Create two flat large tiles; sprinkle one liberally with trees, and one with none;  start each city and see how much CPU the empty city is taking in each instance.

     

    Now about cores:  I think it would be very hard to get a new machine with less than two and more probably four these days.  AMD had a hexacore chip out the last time I looked (Phenom).  Mostly all these cores are smoke and mirrors.  Most users don't run enough production tasks to justify more than two. 

     

    Not very many programmers are up to the work necessary to create a true multiprocessing program with all the communications and mutual exclusivity stuff that is needed.  Avoiding the good old deadly embrace is not so easy as one might think, notwithstanding all the stuff in C# and later languages.

     

    If you have two cores and are running SC4, you effectively give one core to SC4 and the other to the operating system and anything else you might be running.  Time slicing is so quick that you won't notice the switching unless you are running more than one CPU hog.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    To clarify a bit:
     

    Because of the CPU architecture this space can never exceed 3GB or so for a program.

     
    It's actually 4 GB, which is the reason for naming it the 4 GB patch.
     

    I believe this only applies if you are running a 64-bit operating system and machine with a 32-bit program.

     
    In this case, you always get 4GB of program address space with the 4 GB patch.  The kernel resides higher up in the 64-bit address space.
     

    The 4GB patch changes the division between 32-bit allocation from 2GB for the O/S, 2GB for the process to 1GB and 3GB respectively.

    This is true for 32-bit programs running on a 32-bit OS, and only in that case.  This requires the 4 GB patch plus certain changes to the OS boot parameters, which differ depending on which version of Windows you are running.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • When it comes to the RAM, is it safe to assume, the higher the numbers, the better the RAM?

     

    DDR3>DDR2

     

    800MHz>667MHz (PC2 6400>PC2 5300)

     

    Would a 1gb PC2 6400 be better than a 2gb PC2 5300? as an example

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    Only a benchmark will be able to tell the real difference.  I think you are starting to count hairs now.  The faster the better, which in terms of speed the higher number is better.  But look at the ratio (800/667 = 1.1994003) so about a 20% lift is everything else is the same.  You want to be sure you are comparing applies to apples.  If one of those processors is a RISC machine, there is a major difference in capability.  A RISC machine is a basic box that has very few instructions and the x86 architecture sits on top of this and is emulated.  If both are the same architecture, then take the faster.  You pays your money and you takes your choice.

     

    In that case, you really do need to make a comparative test by running SC4 on each machine and taking careful measurements to see if you get the same results in what time.

     

    And yes, DDR3 does tend to be better and considerably more expensive than DDR2.  Y'know, I remember when a memory cycle speed of six microseconds was considered fast.  Now we are talking nanoseconds.  Light travels about a yard in one nanosecond, by the way.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    Thanks for the clarification.  Doesn't really apply to Linux, but may apply to the wine layer.

     

    The 4 GB patch works with Wine, but somewhat differently from the way it does with Windows.  With Wine, the patch always gives you 4 GB for the process, regardless of which version of Windows Wine is set to look like.

     

    When it comes to the RAM, is it safe to assume, the higher the numbers, the better the RAM?

     

    DDR3>DDR2

     

    Yes.

     

    800MHz>667MHz (PC2 6400>PC2 5300)

     

    Not noticeably.

     

    Would a 1gb PC2 6400 be better than a 2gb PC2 5300? as an example

     

    No.  When considering RAM, always go for the bigger size.  Modern processors have enough cache in them that the effect of the RAM speed is minimized.

     

    I think you are starting to count hairs now.

    Most definitely, especially when it comes to speed.

     

     

    The faster the better, which in terms of speed the higher number is better.  But look at the ratio (800/667 = 1.1994003) so about a 20% lift is everything else is the same.

     

    And the effect of the CPU cache reduces that difference substantially.

     

     

    And yes, DDR3 does tend to be better and considerably more expensive than DDR2.

     

    These days, an equivalent amount of DDR3 is actually cheaper than DDR2, since DDR3 has long been the dominant form of RAM.

     

     

    Light travels about a yard in one nanosecond, by the way.

     

    Not to nitpick, but it only travels about nine inches in a nanosecond.

     

    OK, that's nitpicking.  Unless you're a circuit designer...

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • I think you are starting to count hairs now. 

    I'm known to do so in these circumstances. But in my defense, Since I'm not looking for the lowest or highest, which is easy to do, looking for the best of the middle takes a bit more consideration of speed vs $. Don't need the best of the best, but better than SC4 recommended.

     

    Don't have the means to run benchmark tests, or would even need to in this situation, just want to make sure the specs allow SC4 to run at full potential.

     

     

     

     

    And the effect of the CPU cache reduces that difference substantially.

     

    Is this something I should be paying attention to when it comes to the motherboard/processor combo?

     

     

     

    These days, an equivalent amount of DDR3 is actually cheaper than DDR2, since DDR3 has long been the dominant form of RAM

    Since I'm trying to bypass the SC4's "Recommended" system requirements, it'll come down to which ever one gets the job done at the best price.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    What would be the minimum spec to allow me to run SC4, playing a metropolis on a lrg tile, with many plugins, and the settings set to high, without experiencing any, or very slight game play lag?

     

    Having built many PCs myself, I'll tell you what I would do in your situation:

     

    CPU:  Core i5-4670K.  Yes, it's a quad core, but on a per-core basis it's significantly more powerful than the Core i3.  There's no hyperthreading.  The 4670 means it's a Haswell CPU, which is Intel's latest generation; you don't pay a significant price premium for that, and it's faster than previous generations.  The K means it's unlocked, so it's easily overclockable; overclocking is easy to do, and it gives you a lot more bang for your buck.  For example, I'm running a 4-year-old Core i7-920 which is overclocked from its stock speed of 2.67 GHz to 3.8 GHz; this makes it almost as fast as the current Haswell CPUs at stock speed.  For standard overclocking, the stock fan is fine; for serious overclocking, you'll need a better cooing solution.

     

    Memory:  8 GB of DDR-3 1600.  DDR-2 just doesn't come in new systems anymore.  Get 2 sticks of 4 GB each so you'll get the benefits of interleaving.  Get a good brand like Corsair.  You don't need a premium model, though.  If you're really serious about overclocking (which is a hobby in its own right), you can go higher than DDR3-1600 for a modest price increase.  DDR3-2133 is a sweet spot for serious overclockers.

     

    Motherboard:  ASRock Z87 OC Formula or Asus Z87 Pro.  I'd get the former (the "OC" stands for "Overclocking"), but if you want to save $100, the Asus is still an excellent choice.

     

    Storage:  250 GB SSD plus a big HDD.  The SSD makes a huge difference in SC4, along with everything else you do on your computer.  Right now, the fastest is the Samsung Series 840 Pro for around $240, which is very little more than the next fastest drives.  There's a "second tier" of drives which are a bit slower than this; they're about $50 less.  You can get a pair of these drives and put them in RAID 0 to get blazing fast speed.  Or get a pair of the 128 GB in RAID 0 instead, and save a bit of money if you don't need the space.  The big HDD is for everything you  don't access frequently.  A 2 GB size is probably the sweet spot, but 3 GB and even the cheaper 4 GB drives aren't too expensive.

     

    Graphics card:  Radeon HD 7790.  Contrary to popular belief, graphics cards do make a real difference in this game, especially if you want to use a decent monitor.  Specifically, I'd go with the Sapphire HD 7790 OC 1GB version of this card, but other versions are almost as good if your budget is tight.  These cards go on sale frequently.

     

    Monitor:  Dell UltraSharp U2412 24-Inch.  You need a good monitor for a good game, and the Dell is one of the best at a very reasonable price.  It's 1920x1200, and you can find it for $277 at Amazon.  Of course, a 30 inch 2560x1600 monitor will blow you away, but those tend to be very expensive (around $1300) and require a graphics  card with 2 GB of memory.  However, you can get a Monoprice 30 inch monitor for $700, or $630 if you can find one of their 10% off codes.  People tend to be quite happy with these.  But for most people, they're still too expensive.

     

    Newegg.com is a great place to get most of your parts.  Sometimes Amazon is cheaper, though.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  •  

    What would be the minimum spec to allow me to run SC4, playing a metropolis on a lrg tile, with many plugins, and the settings set to high, without experiencing any, or very slight game play lag?

     

    Having built many PCs myself, I'll tell you what I would do in your situation:

     

    Have to say z1, I appreciate all the info you've dispensed but I think you might have misunderstood just a tad. The specs you've given are more for a comp tech (hobbyist, as you say) that knows what they are doing. That's not really what I'm looking to build.

     

    Let me paint the picture of the scenario a bit better. The tower would be build solely for SC4 and nothing else. No need for the bells and whistles, just the minimal amount needed. Think of it more like a gaming console, but only for one game. It'll be connected to the TV whilst I use a wireless k/m. For when I want to just kick my feet up and junk out on some SC4 for a few hours and nothing more. 

     

     

     

    but if you want to save $100,

    Not to be offensive, but when I read this, I LOL'd. Hence the reason for my response.

     

    I was thinking of picking up a tower at the local thrift store. Have the local mom&pop shop throw in old (when I say dinosaur, I mean an old computer) motherboard that's just laying around the shop that'll suffice and possibly the video card & RAM. Though I can get VC & RAM online for dirt cheap. 

     

    The original thought was, because SC4 is so old, it shouldn't cost much to throw together a frankenstein computer on the cheap. Meaning, what was high end 10yrs ago, should be the bottom of the barrel by today's standards, so I thought it shouldn't cost more than $100 to build now a days.

     

    I've already found a VC & RAM on eBay for $45. That's half the bulk right there. Only other major elements are the board & processor.  The tower, & k/m are cheap. wouldn't even be surprised if the comp store threw in the tower for free. They got a pile of abandoned comps on the shelf.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    You can certainly take this approach, but you'll have a very, very slow game.  That's assuming it doesn't crash too often on that hardware.
     

    What would be the minimum spec to allow me to run SC4, playing a metropolis on a lrg tile, with many plugins, and the settings set to high, without experiencing any, or very slight game play lag?


    This is exactly what my response was geared to.
     

    Let me paint the picture of the scenario a bit better. The tower would be build solely for SC4 and nothing else. No need for the bells and whistles, just the minimal amount needed. Think of it more like a gaming console, but only for one game. It'll be connected to the TV whilst I use a wireless k/m. For when I want to just kick my feet up and junk out on some SC4 for a few hours and nothing more.

    Again, this is what I was going by, except for the TV part.  Your base requirements require a lot of horsepower.

     

     

    I was thinking of picking up a tower at the local thrift store. Have the local mom&pop shop throw in old (when I say dinosaur, I mean an old computer) motherboard that's just laying around the shop that'll suffice and possibly the video card & RAM. Though I can get VC & RAM online for dirt cheap.

     

    You could do this, but it would run slow as molasses.

     

     

    The original thought was, because SC4 is so old, it shouldn't cost much to throw together a frankenstein computer on the cheap. Meaning, what was high end 10yrs ago, should be the bottom of the barrel by today's standards, so I thought it shouldn't cost more than $100 to build now a days.

     

    What was high end 10 years ago struggled with large cities in the vanilla version, not to mention all the settings set to high.  I know; I played SC4 that way.  Throw in the NAM and several gigabytes of plugins, and your 10-year-old leading edge machine will sink beneath the weight.

     

    For $100, you won't get anything that's remotely usable.  If you want to even come close to your specs, you'll have to add another zero to that figure.  To fully meet your specs wouldn't cost much more than that, though.  Just speaking from experience here...

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • You can certainly take this approach, but you'll have a very, very slow game.  That's assuming it doesn't crash too often on that hardware.

     

     

     

    Not sure why it would be so unstable. The rig would be better than the laptop and I don't get many crashes as is now. 

     

     

     

    This is exactly what my response was geared to

    Then maybe it'll only need to run medium tiles well if I cut back on such extensive equipment. 

     

     

     

    You could do this, but it would run slow as molasses

    Just to reiterate, not just any old motherboard, but one that would suffice. Though by the sounds of it, anyone that would suffice would still be beyond reasonable cost.

     

     

     

    For $100, you won't get anything that's remotely usable.  If you want to even come close to your specs, you'll have to add another zero to that figure.  To fully meet your specs wouldn't cost much more than that, though.  Just speaking from experience here...

    Not to dispute your knowledge on this topic, because it's obvious you know more than I, but find it hard to believe it would run me 1k to build a rig to run SC4 much better than this laptop for that much. 

     

    Even if the board & processors ran me $200 each, and the rest for around $75, that's still cheaper than a grand.

     

    Don't forget, I'm not trying to by anything NIB. Hopefully find most it online like ebay or Craig's List (if I'm lucky)

     

    but if even if that's the case, this idea just went down the tubes. I'm better off trying to trade up on my laptop for something a bit better then. 

     

    I'll probably still do a bit of research to see how far I can get on a dime  or how much the comp store will hook me up. ;)

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

     

    You can certainly take this approach, but you'll have a very, very slow game.  That's assuming it doesn't crash too often on that hardware.

     

     

     

    Not sure why it would be so unstable. The rig would be better than the laptop and I don't get many crashes as is now.

     

    Hardware has a finite life.  Ten-year-old used hardware tends to be a lot less stable than new hardware, especially when you have a lot of it.  Power supplies flake out (especially if you've bought a cheap one) and may take the rest of your system with them.  Capacitors on cheap motherboards blow, and that's the end of the motherboard.  (Various other things will end the life of a motherboard.)  Hard drives typically reach end of life with head crashes, taking your data with them.  Memory tends to develop errors over time.  The CPU tends to be one of the more reliable components, but it's subject to collateral damage, such as bad power or overheating.  Fans eventually stop working, which is a big cause of overheating.  Even the paste between your CPU and heatsink dries out over time, and there goes your CPU temperature and your CPU.

     

    For systems up to about five years old, these things generally aren't a problem, although I run into them occasionally.  But for ten-year-old used hardware, it's a whole different story.  Why was it discarded in the first place?  How has it been stored over the years?  The seller's confidence in the hardware will be demonstrated by what kind of warranty he'll give you on it.

     

     

    Then maybe it'll only need to run medium tiles well if I cut back on such extensive equipment. This is exactly what my response was geared to.

     

    Medium tiles would reduce your requirements substantially.  You would still have to spend a few hundred dollars, but then you could get a cheap new or factory refurbished system, which would be much more reliable.

     

    Just to reiterate, not just any old motherboard, but one that would suffice. Though by the sounds of it, anyone that would suffice would still be beyond reasonable cost.

     

    My original recommendation was based on a fast SC4 system.  I think that for what you're talking about, you could get a decent motherboard for about $75.

     

     

    Not to dispute your knowledge on this topic, because it's obvious you know more than I, but find it hard to believe it would run me 1k to build a rig to run SC4 much better than this laptop for that much. 

     

    Even if the board & processors ran me $200 each, and the rest for around $75, that's still cheaper than a grand.

     

    Don't forget, I'm not trying to by anything NIB. Hopefully find most it online like ebay or Craig's List (if I'm lucky)

     

    Well, I was basing cost on new components; I figured that with everything, including a good power supply, basic case, mouse, and keyboard, the system I described would run around $1400.  But I had a decent-sized SSD in there and a big HDD; you could certainly save several hundred dollars in that department alone.  However, I wouldn't buy used hardware online.  Some people would, but for me, that's just asking for trouble.  If you buy it at your local store, insist on a decent warranty.  If they won't give you one, there's a reason why.

     

    Also, if you want to save some dollars, I think Moose is right; you might as well get Wine running under Ubuntu Linux rather than Windows.  But you'll need to be sure that it supports whatever hardware you get.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    I mentioned earlier that you can often find graphics cards on sale.  For example, if you want a cheap graphics card, right now you can get the PowerColor Radeon HD 5450 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express card from Newegg for $10 with free shipping (price expires today).  Now the Radeon HD 5000 series is two generations and almost four years old, and the 5450 was near the bottom of the line back then, but this card is brand new, has a two year warranty, and will still run rings around integrated graphics.  And Newegg is one of the best retailers around.  So you can find quite a few bargains if you look hard.

     

    And if you just want to go the pre-built route, there are some excellent bargains out there.  Some examples:

     

    Acer Aspire X Intel Core i3 6GB DDR3 500GB HDD $380

    Dell Optiplex 3010 Intel Core i5-3470 3.2GHz Quad Desktop w/ 3yr Warranty $539

    Intel NUC w/ Core i3-3217U 1.8GHz Next Unit Computing Kit Barebones Computer $269.99 (no memory)

    Dell Inspiron 660 Intel Core i3-3240 3.4GHz Dual-Core Desktop (8GB/1TB) $399.99  (look under Desktops near the top, under Top Deals by Product Category)

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    Well, I may be old and retired and somewhat out of touch, but what you want is to go to a big retailer and pick up a last generation refurbished machine which for a desktop should run under $500 (push them if you have to).  Have a chat with their techs about the box, and choose as near as you can get to a fast processor (number of cores irrelevant), 8GB of memory (DDR3 preferred), and a graphics card with at least 1 GB (this may be an extra cost).  If you can get an SSD in this mix is will really help and a nice big HDD (1TB would be nice).  And don't forget to get a new optical drive so you can read the Plugins libraries.

     

    Now, after you've reloaded the O/S without a lot of the bloatware, turned off the default indexer, you can get about allocating SC4.  You want everything except, maybe, your city files on the SSD.  Since this operates at close to memory speeds it is the best you can do for a loading device.  It might just as well be your C: drive.

     

    Whatever you have for human interface is fine if it will connect.  What you do about this gear is up to you.  If you can afford a big monitor, then by all means.  If you can hook up to your digital TV set, great.  Make sure you can switch off to something standard when you don't want to run your TV set.  Remote keyboard/mouse is not a problem.  They usually operate on infra-red so be sure you have a clear path to the receiver, where ever it is.

     

    None of this has to be acquired at one time.  The main box, yes.  The rest as you can afford it and build towards it.

     

    Since this is a leisure time activity (SC4) and not a race, the only point here is the limit of your patience.

     

    That nice big HDD can be used for backups of your files on the SSD, and you should do it once a week minimum.  The downloads directory for Internet pull-ins should be on the HDD.

     

    As a matter of not much interest, my inboard HDD is half a terabyte with two 250 gig partitions.  My 1TB HDD is a backup device connected over a USB 2.0 port.  I have used it as the system device and generally it is OK.  Of course, Linux is a different ball of wax.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • Hardware has a finite life.  Ten-year-old used hardware tends to be a lot less stable than new hardware, especially when you have a lot of it.  Power supplies flake out (especially if you've bought a cheap one) and may take the rest of your system with them.  Capacitors on cheap motherboards blow, and that's the end of the motherboard.  (Various other things will end the life of a motherboard.)  Hard drives typically reach end of life with head crashes, taking your data with them.  Memory tends to develop errors over time.  The CPU tends to be one of the more reliable components, but it's subject to collateral damage, such as bad power or overheating.  Fans eventually stop working, which is a big cause of overheating.  Even the paste between your CPU and heatsink dries out over time, and there goes your CPU temperature and your CPU.

     

    For systems up to about five years old, these things generally aren't a problem, although I run into them occasionally.  But for ten-year-old used hardware, it's a whole different story.  Why was it discarded in the first place?  How has it been stored over the years?  The seller's confidence in the hardware will be demonstrated by what kind of warranty he'll give you on it. 

     

     

    And this is way I love you tech guys. That was definitely not something I was taking into consideration. 

     

    Just for LOLs, even the comp store guy stated that some of the older equipment actually goes back up in price due to not being in mass production anymore. Also something I never would have considered. 

     

    I figured, obsolete = cheap....... but au contraire.

     

     

     

    You would still have to spend a few hundred dollars, but then you could get a cheap new or factory refurbished system, which would be much more reliable.

    Was similar to what the CORE (comp store) tech said as well. He was trying to put an old horizontal case computer in my hands before I could give him more of the finite details to my madness.

     

     

     

     I think that for what you're talking about, you could get a decent motherboard for about $75.

    Now we're starting to get on the same page.  :thumb:   The CORE tech originally started to put a mega machine together for me until he asked the budget. That took'm down a peg or two. hahaha  It's not easy to try and get tech people to understand what exactly I'm shooting for. By nature, you all want to go right to the best specs (which is totally understandable), but then again, who trys to build what I'm trying to build.  :no:

     

    Came across this V.C. on eBay,  Would it be suffice for SC4?

     

     

     

     I wouldn't buy used hardware online.  Some people would, but for me, that's just asking for trouble.  If you buy it at your local store, insist on a decent warranty.

    I've had the best of luck with online purchases so far, but it's understandable that there is always an adherent risk to that. Also why I would prefer locally face to face, even if it comes at a bit of a price hike in the process. It's just easier and more reliable having the them down the street, and now down the planet.

     

    I also always do the research on the seller before jumping into any purchases online. 

     

     

     

    if you want to save some dollars, I think Moose is right; you might as well get Wine running under Ubuntu Linux rather than Windows.  But you'll need to be sure that it supports whatever hardware you get.

    Again, I wouldn't dispute any advice dispensed from you guys, but besides the financial part of this project, there is also the reasonable side to it as well. I'm not a techy and would rather not placing a learning curve in my path just to play SC4. It's just a game, not a project, would like to keep it as easy peasy as possible.

     

    Was rather elated that the CORE tech was more than happy to help me with any and all questions on top of personal advice. So glad when the mom/pops treat ya like a human being rather than a dollar sign. 

     

    Whether or not the end results come to fruition, I'm enjoying the ride to find out. 

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    Sounds like you are having a good time.   With a different graphics system than the in-built chip, my machine might be what you want.  Here is a link to the utter gory details of this box.  I saved $200 on this when I bought it about four years ago by not having Windows loaded.  Net cost for the main box was about $600 including the memory upgrade to 4GB.  All prices in Canadian $.

     

    By now, something like this is likely to come with a more advanced AMD processor and a better ATI graphics system (AMD owns ATI).  Price should still be around $500 or slightly more.  You would probably get DDR3 memory now.

     

    New is better than old/used/refurbed because of the warranty among other things.  If I was getting a new machine now, I'd want at least a faster processor, a 1GB memory GPU, and 2GB memory per core.  Whatever disk came in the case would do, because I have tonnes of external disk. 

     

    If I could afford it, I'd like a nice big SSD for my main read-mostly drive (System/Programs/Tables).  The SSD eliminates most of the disk latency involved in just running the machine.  Swap files would have to be off this device because we don't want to write areas a lot in spite of the vast improvements in the technology.  I am chicken when it comes to that.  Fortunately, with Linux, you can allocate your swap space anywhere you like.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites
  • Original Poster
  • Think I forgot to actually post the link to the VC I asked about. lol      http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-ATI-Radeon-9250-128-MB-DDR-64-Bit-PCI-Video-Graphics-Card-VGA-DVI-S-VIDEO-/310666880168#vi-content

     

     

    Here is a link to the utter gory details of this box.

    I know about as much of speaking Spanish as I do understanding all the info in that link. Though it was interesting to try and figure out what info pertained to what part/function of the computer. Was probably ballparking 10%.

     

     

     

    New is better than old/used/refurbed because of the warranty among other things.  If I was getting a new machine now, I'd want at least a faster processor, a 1GB memory GPU, and 2GB memory per core.  Whatever disk came in the case would do, because I have tonnes of external disk.

    Don't really have a reason for having another computer, other than the urge to be able to play SC4 with less restriction. The idea of spending any money towards only being able to play SC4 better is already boarder line ridiculous. However, if it's something you derive pleasure from, it certainly can be justified to a certain degree. With me, anything past a bill is pushing it past  justifiable reasoning. Though if it's done over a longer period of time, the more the finances won't feel so heavy of an impact. It's funny how we can dupe ourselves into spending more in the long run than taking the initial hit to the budget.

     

    I'm definitely shooting for 4gb minimum, but will push to 8 if I can squeeze it in the budget.

     

     

     

    If I could afford it, I'd like a nice big SSD for my main read-mostly drive (System/Programs/Tables).  The SSD eliminates most of the disk latency involved in just running the machine.  Swap files would have to be off this device because we don't want to write areas a lot in spite of the vast improvements in the technology.  I am chicken when it comes to that.  Fortunately, with Linux, you can allocate your swap space anywhere you like.

    After looking into some of the specs on the SSDs, it seems as though the wear from continuous write is actually pretty insignificant by today's standards. Though it definitely had less of a life time over a longer period of time vs the HDDs. 

     

    For something like what I'm trying to build, it might be an option instead of the usual PATA drives. 

     

    Speaking of PATA. I remember it was an old SATA 10k RPM disk I used. It was so easy for me to get running as my main drive without a converter cable and some BIOs tinkering. Do they even make 10k PATA drives? Couldn't really find much information about that combo. 

     

    Now I've heard some benefits to using an optical drive, though I'm sure that's not in the budget, but more curious to the technology. I've only ever used opti for surround sound from my Playstation consoles.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    That little list is coughed up by my system when I ask.  (sudo lshw -html).  This is an output from the Linux kernel.  I don't know what the Windows equivalent is to get that kind of list, but what Linux does is cough up all the data it can find on the gadgetry.  Takes some time and a grain of salt to understand it.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

     

    This is an incredibly ancient video card, and is horribly overpriced at $22.

     

    In my earlier post, I mentioned the Radeon HD 5450 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express card from Newegg for $10, which was a one-day sale.  This is a vastly better video card.  Although the $10 sale is over, there's still a $15 rebate, so this $40 card comes out to $25 after rebate.  It's well worth the $3 premium over the 9250.

     

     

    After looking into some of the specs on the SSDs, it seems as though the wear from continuous write is actually pretty insignificant by today's standards. Though it definitely had less of a life time over a longer period of time vs the HDDs. 

     

    These days, the NAND memory is not what fails in the SSD; it's the controller.  Overall, SSD lifetimes are comparable to HDDs.  So are their warranties, which should tell you something.  They're a lot more expensive than HDDs, but definitely worth it if you can afford them.

     

     

    Do they even make 10k PATA drives?

     

    I don't think anybody's making new PATA HDDs of any type anymore.

     

     

    Couldn't really find much information about that combo.

     

    That's because they're much less popular now.  The data throughput of high capacity 7200 RPM drives has increased almost to match them (due to greater areal density), so the price premium isn't worth it any more.  They're also being squeezed by SSDs on the other end.

    Share this post


    Link to post
    Share on other sites

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an Account  

    Sign up to join our friendly community. It's easy!  

    Register a New Account

    Sign In  

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

    Sign in to follow this  

    • Recently Browsing   0 members

      No registered users viewing this page.

    ×

    Help Keep Simtropolis Online, Open & Free!

    stexcollection-header.png

    Would you be able to help us catch up after a bit of a shortfall?

    We had a small shortfall last month. Your donation today would help us catch up for this month.

    Make a Donation, Get a Gift!

    We need to continue to raise enough money each month to pay for expenses which includes hardware, bandwidth, software licenses, support licenses and other necessary 3rd party costs.

    By way of a "Thank You" gift, we'd like to send you our STEX Collector's DVD. It's some of the best buildings, lots, maps and mods collected for you over the years. Check out the STEX Collections for more info.

    Each donation helps keep Simtropolis online, open and free!

    Thank you for reading and enjoy the site!

    More About STEX Collections