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This is the place where I feel inspired to post an article every now and then. I only do this when I think that something remarkable is happening in the gaming world. Enjoy your visit!
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Top 3 Strategy Games for PC
You can probably tell that I'm a hardcore gamer: I've got a powerful PC and several gaming consoles which were produced by Sony and Nintendo. This means that I get to compare the actual quality of the games that we're so spoiled with these days.
So, can you build a PC that matches PS4 Pro's performance when it comes to rendering games at the highest quality? The truthful answer is "maybe". You see, Sony's gaming consoles use dedicated gaming components and a dedicated gaming OS.
Let's not discuss Nintendo's console here. I wouldn't expect any high-end title to arrive on the Switch anytime soon. The hardware needs to become much more powerful for that to happen.
From my experience, PS4 Pro games look a little better at their highest resolutions; however, PCs have some key advantages as well. Some of the PC titles aren't ever released on consoles, for example. Prices are usually lower for PC games, in comparison with their console-based counterparts. You can also upgrade your computer anytime you want to, and thus benefit from higher frames rates, etc.
It's true that consoles make gaming easier. Once you've learned how to use a controller, you are set. With digital downloads, you'll never have to worry about scratching your PC game DVDs. And the latest 3D video card for your PC will often cost more than a new console!
I won't get into the "Consoles vs PCs" war, though. This article is about the top 3 strategy PC games, and here are the ones I promise that you are going to love.
1. XCOM 2
I am old enough to remember the first XCOM series, which was launched back in 1994, when only rich people could afford computers with 4MB of RAM. Graphics were really ugly by today's standards, but gameplay was awesome!
The game plot has stayed the same: you control an international team of elite fighters who try to protect the Earth against an alien invasion, which has turned our planet into ruins.
XCOM2 uses the same gameplay mechanism, but takes the action (and graphics, of course) to the next level. It's a turn-based/action game combo, and I promise that it will double your pulse. Why? Here's just one of the reasons. Your team members aren't a commodity: once they are gone, they're gone forever! So yeah, use them, but then you'll have to carry the wounded ones back to your base, and help them heal as quickly as possible.
Things get even worse when you realize that aliens evolve, and will easily outnumber your team. But this game isn't just about yourself! There are lots of civilians who need to be rescued, for example.
Fortunately, the game is not all about combat. I say "fortunately", because the action is way too intense. You'll also spend time congregating with other humans, trying to research new technologies, and so on. Remember that this is a turn-based game, and the aliens will intelligently try to prevent you from reaching the desired objectives. It almost feels as if you'd play against a real team of villains.
2. Total War: Warhammer 2
If XCOM2 is too much for you, you'll be glad to find out that TWW2 is on the slightly softer side. But don't ever imagine that this is a boring game! Battles are fierce, and the new version has brought a great variety of units.
Unlike the first installment of the game, TWW2 emphasizes the solo campaign, which is much better structured, rather than making you explore a world where you must find something to do.
It's not all blood and battles, though; you've got to put on the mayor hat every now and then. And this is always a good thing, because that's how you get to collect taxes, right? Some of that money goes into research, allowing you to get access to modern weapons, train your troops, and more.
The game starts at a slower pace, but things can get difficult quite soon. Fortunately, you can use diplomacy to forge alliances with others that belong to the same race - elves, for example.
This is one of the most complex strategy games that I have ever played. And with about 60 hours of furious gameplay in the "Eye of the Vortex" campaign (read "single player mode") I guarantee that it's going to be a lot of fun.
3. Civilization VI
Okay, I hear you. The games above are way too complex for a quiet Sunday afternoon. If this is the case, Civ VI should be a very welcome alternative.
So, you've played one of the older Civilization games. This means that you'll feel at home with this installation! Of course, there are several new things that you should be aware of.
First of all, the game looks lovely. There, I've said it! It's all bright and shiny and... kinda reminds me of the old Sim City games. Then, there are lots of tiny, perfectly executed game details, which are put into perspective when you really start looking at things.
As you play, you reach key milestones, moving to a new era. The game continues to be very complex, as it always was, but if you've played Civ before, you'll discover that this version is actually easier to play.
Diplomacy is much less important than it was in the game's previous iterations, but (really gotta tell you this) it gives you much more freedom. Sure, some allies may get upset because you aren't following mutual goals closely, but this is one of those features that allows you to "make the game yours".
Overall, if fierce combat is not your thing, this is a strategy game you don't want to miss.
Best Gaming Laptop - Alienware 17 R4
So, your friends want to throw a LAN party, but you're too skinny to bring the entire rig. That powerful PC you've built weighs over 20 pounds, after all. A recent survey from Data Alliance has shown that the weight of the top-rated gaming laptops ranges from 4 pounds (Razer Blade) to 12 pounds (Origin EON17). Here's their graph.
Powerful gaming laptops can be quite pricey. However, there are great gaming laptops that have an affordable price, at least for their entry models. Meet the new Alienware R4 laptop, which was built, according to its makers, with a clear purpose: "to wreak havoc".
Dell has bought Alienware several years ago for a hefty sum. It wasn't surprising news for industry insiders, because Alienware was making out-of-this-world laptops indeed. And now, the 2017 version of the highly acclaimed 17 R4 series is available for purchase. You can tell I'm excited! Take a peek!
Okay, let's get this straight from the very beginning: this laptop is a bit heavy. It weighs just like that 2,000 Watts power source in your computer - close to 10 pounds ;). The power adapter is heavy as well; otherwise, it wouldn't be able to provide enough power to feed this monster.
Still, this laptop is as good as they get, and the 17" screen outputs great looking graphics. Viewing angles are wide, as you'd expect from a high quality IPS panel.
The chassis was built using a good-looking magnesium/aluminum combination. Sound is loud enough to fill a medium sized room, but I guess that you'll either use headphones or a dedicated sound amplifier for your gaming needs.
Prices start at $1,300 for the "low end" version, which incorporates a Core i7-7700HQ CPU that runs at 3.8 GHz, has 8 GB of RAM and a GTX1050Ti video card. The more expensive version, which will set you back $1,800, uses the same CPU, but has 16 GB of RAM and NVidia's latest GTX1070 card, with factory-overclocked memory.
The laptop's graphics card can be upgraded as new GPU models are released. Alienware has incorporated its proprietary port into the system, allowing you to use a regular graphics card with its laptop. You won't need to do that anytime soon, though. Doom runs at over 100 fps at the laptop's native QHD resolution, using the built-in video card.
Actually, if you've got an unlimited budget, you can boost the performance of your laptop even more. The CPU can be upgraded to a Core i7-7820 running at a frequency of up to 4.4 GHz, for example. The OS can be changed from Windows 10
Home to Windows 10 Pro (an upgrade not really needed by gamers). You can have up to 32 GB of RAM, and store those huge games on a 1 TB SSD (used for the OS) + 1 TB SSD (used for storage) + 1 TB 7200 RPM SATA drive (also used for storage). Frankly, I would have preferred a 2 TB SSD option for storage!
The display can be upgraded to UHD, meaning that you can run your favorite games at a stunning 3,840 x 2,160 pixels resolution. And warranty can be increased from the default "1-year hardware service with onsite service after remote diagnosis" to "4 years of premium support plus".
It's time to mention a few cons of the laptop. Be warned, though - there aren't too many ;)
The first con that needs to be discussed is the loud fan noise. Sure, fans don't make audible noises while you are playing Solitaire, but the noise it clearly noticeable when you are running a modern 3D game. However, since most hardcore gamers use headphones, this shouldn't be a serious issue.
Shorter battery life is another problem. But, honestly, what did you expect from a laptop that packs such a punch? Alienware R4 managed to run for a decent three hours and a half while executing a benchmark application.
Finally, let's talk about price. You can get this great gaming machine for only $1,300, but if you only want the best, you'll have to splash up to $3,000 for a dream machine. This can be a lot of money for some of us, but it shouldn't stop you from purchasing the best laptop out there, if finances aren't a problem.
Top 3 Game Engines
I started to play games when I was a kid. Later on, I wanted to design them. I've tried to play with various graphics libraries, downloading lots of projects from the web and examining their source code. I was learning quite a few things, but I wasn't progressing a lot, because level editors were way too primitive.
You had to create level walls out of lines, for example. Yes, you needed to draw 12 lines, and then align them perfectly, in order to create a single wall in your level. Multiply that by the hundreds of walls you were needing for a simple looking level, and you'll get the picture. These days kids are really spoiled. They have access to some of the best game engines in the world for free!
But what is a game engine in the first place? Basically, it's a reusable framework that allows developers to implement and run their game ideas without reinventing the wheel.
Why should you write code that renders objects on the screen over and over, each time you start a new project, when you could have a library that can be reused anytime you want to, by simply including it in your project? The same thing happens with lighting, shaders, etc.
A modern game engine includes rendering code, a collision detection engine, a physics engine, and so on. Your role as a game developer is to add the missing/needed routines for AI, scripting code, etc. By using an existing game engine, developers can focus their energy on creating code for special functions, levels and models which make their game unique, and so on.
So, what are the best game engines out there?
Make no mistake: Unreal Engine is by far the best engine that money can buy. Actually, you get to download and use the engine for free, and you'll only have to pay its makers 5% of what you're making from your game, AFTER you ship it.
Yes, you get all the tools, the source code, full game projects that you can learn from, as well as new engine features, as they are released - how cool is that?
The Unreal game engine started small, but it rocked the world back in 1998, when the first "Unreal" game was released. Do you like the Mass Effect game series? It was build using the Unreal Engine. What about the Batman series? Yes, it was built with UE. Gears of War? Yes, it uses the same UE. So, if you start working with it, you'll be in good company.
Once you download the installation kit, you'll have access to everything you need to develop a game. No need to purchase any other plugins or tools - it's all included in the package.
UE can create projects that run on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Windows, Linux, Android, and more. Build your game, and then export it to almost any platform/OS that you can think of.
2. Unity 3D
Unity isn't just for kids, though; EA has used it to create the Lara Croft Go series, for example. Also, lots of games that can be found in Google's app store were built using Unity.
Prices range from free (Unity Personal Edition) to $125 / month (Unity Pro Edition). The most expensive edition offers free resource packs, team collaboration features, a customizable splash screen, performance reporting and analytics, premium support, etc.
CryEngine is marketed as "The complete solution for next generation game development from Crytek". It's amazing the way in which the Unreal Engine has shaken the game development world. Because the Unreal/Epic Games guys were the first ones to decide that their engine should be made available to everyone for free.
Now Crytek, which was selling access to its game engine for six figures, gives the source code to it for free. They include all the features, and they don't ask any royalties or license fees.
How is this possible? Well, they ask money for tech support. Prices range from $50/month to $150/month, which is peanuts even for a small game development company.
If you choose CryEngine, you will be pleased to discover that people have create lots of great projects with it. Crytek has successfully used it to create its Far Cry series, for example. Other firms have used it to create well known games such as Prey, Shadow of the Eternals, Project Unknown, etc.