Thursday, January 31, 2008

Treat Yourself to a Good Visual Experience: Why Video Cards Matter

Sweetie's View (Click on Picture to See Just How Detailed it Isn't)

Chey's View (Click on Picture to See Just How Detailed it Is)

Written 30 January, 2008

Treat Yourself to a Good Visual Experience: Why Video Cards Matter

When I first met my Sweetie, lo these many months ago, she saw Second Life as a collection of blobs, mostly gray. She had to sit still with camera unmoving for a long time before things would resolve enough for her to make them out.

I had no idea of the state of her graphics experience. I thought she was just being zen.

I didn’t realize how bad things were for her on her primitive Mac (hmm, primitive Mac; is such a thing possible?) until she got all excited about the whale by the lava flow..

The whale! Wait a minute! What whale? When did we get a whale? And if you didn’t put it there and I didn’t put it there, who did? Did it swim in from the ocean?

I said, “We have no whale.”

“Yes, we do,” she said, and gave me a snapshot to prove it.

Sweetie’s photo showed a piscine shape in a tidal pool. I could see how she might think it was a whale, as it was large and vaguely whale-shaped, but OMG! What was the matter with her camera that it took such unrefined pictures? Then it hit me—the problem wasn’t with her camera; the problem was with her video display!

As I hovered above the shark, stunned, I realized Sweetie had built her beautiful fountain and my beautiful house while suffering under a profound visual handicap.

It was at that moment that I fell in love with her.

When you look at my view of the same area, it’s clear just how profound a difference a good video card can make.

I was happy, a couple of months later, to send Sweetie the graphics card from my old computer (go here to discover how I blew it up). My new computer had a PCI slot and my old AGP card was no use to me. Sweetie and I had long ago shared mailing addresses, but I had to twist her arm to get her to take it. Sweetie has her pride, after all. But she accepted with graciousness and a sore elbow, and I had a joyful time one night as I sat on a couch in the House of 1000 Pleasures and received her excited IMs from the land below. “I didn’t know we had a frog!” “This bridge is beautiful!” “OMG, a bird!” “These plants are moving!” “Pele is so beautiful!”

The textures, the textures! Arggh!

Sweetie still labors under a bit of a visual handicap—her new dual core iBook has difficulty with Second Life for some reason, and the processor on her desktop PC is a bit slow. SL is still frustrating for her at times, but the quality of her visual experience has improved tenfold.

Why am I writing this? Because I love to write about my Sweetie. And because you, gentle avatar reader, deserve a decent visual experience of this finely detailed virtual world. So if your visual experience in Second Life is more like Sweetie’s than mine, please consider investing in a graphics card—and, if you have less than 1 gb of RAM, some memory. RAM prices have dropped dramatically, and really good video cards are selling for less than $100 US these days (I just bought, as part of my let’s-get-my-old-computer-running-so-it-can-serve-as-a-backup plan, a 512 mb nVidia card with DDR3; it was $99, $69 after rebate).

After all, there may come a time when you will need to be able to tell a shark from a whale.


Peter Stindberg said...

But you HAD a whale?!

Corgi said...

One of my co-workers is shopping PC parts for me - I'm gonna have a dual-core two-video-slot m/board Real Soon Now, woohoo!

Err... got any good deals on monitors?


Cheyenne Palisades said...

Woo hoo, Corgi! Your SL experience will rock if your internet connection can keep up with your computer!

The whale came later, Peter. Dodgeguy Woodward sold it to me when he left Forsaken to live in a treehouse. I guess he didn't want an air whale.