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Age of Conan - The perspective of someone still playing

Age of Conan is not yet dead, and this blog is dedicated to keeping you informed by providing an unbiased perspective from someone who didn't already stop playing the game three months ago. That doesn't mean I go easy on Funcom.

Author: Lichthammer

Reduce your memory-related AoC crashes - Consolidated /3GB Switch help entry

Posted by Lichthammer Saturday August 23 2008 at 11:36AM
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Having more than 3 GB of RAM is not entirely uncommon these days, especially not on high-end gaming systems. Regrettably, 32-bit Operating Systems are still as common as ever, and the aging core architecture of the x32 is finally catching up with the evolution of hardware - at this point only virtually bottlenecking performance by artificially limiting your options - but sooner or later they'll be a physical bottleneck. Age of Conan runs much better on a 64-bit system than a 32-bit one, and indeed if you have a 64-bit version of either Vista or XP it's unlikely that you'll ever face any out of memory errors or memory-related crashes at all while playing.

First to clear up some myths: The 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Vista supports 4GB of RAM. However, the OS can't allocate more total memory than 4GB, which means that including your system BIOS, a gaming-grade GPU, and various other pieces of hardware, there's only around 3,5-3,7GB available to be effectively used by your 4GB of RAM.
Out of those 3,x gigabytes, the operating system won't allow you to assign more than 2GB to a single application. With the AoC engine being in the state it is (absolutely fucking dire), 2GB on a 32-bit OS is more often than not too little for AoC to run well over the course of 3-4 hours. Giving the AoC process access to an extra gigabyte of RAM, however, makes a huge difference. You should be able to play for much longer without getting to the point where the client requires to be restarted (or your computer requires to be rebooted). To do this, you need to do one out of two things. For Vista - input a simple command. For XP - add a parameter to your boot.ini file. Read on for the instructions.

I'm obviously aware that this is nothing more than a workaround, and nowhere near a fix. A proper fix needs to be in the form a game engine overhaul. One can only dream.

For Vista, open a command prompt (cmd) as an administrator (this is required) and type the following:

BCDEDIT /Set IncreaseUserVa 3072

Then reboot. And voila.
For XP (not sure if it's doable with XP home), open the boot.ini file - after you make a backup of it just in case.
Find the line that looks something like this (might vary slightly depending on your system):

[boot loader]
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS [operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Pro"

Change it so that it looks like this:

[boot loader]
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS [operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Pro"
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Pro with /3GB" /3GB

Save changes and reboot.

The chances of something going wrong should be very slim here. As long as you don't fiddle with anything other than the above, there's no reason at all why anything should go wrong. If anything still goes wrong, though, don't blame me.
This switch is documented and supported by Microsoft, for the record, but is - as most useful functions are - "recommended for advanced users only".


A heavy-handed gem nerf - the least elegant solution.

Posted by Lichthammer Saturday August 23 2008 at 11:19AM
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These are the new gem stats as reported from the TestLive server:

Lvl |         Name                    |     Stat on Live   | Stat on Test-Live  | 
80 | Vicious Cabochon Star Ruby       | +8.9 1HE dmg       | +0.5 1HE dmg       | 
80 | Scything Cabochon Star Ruby      | +8.9 2HE dmg       | +0.5 2HE dmg       | 
80 | Thrusting Cabochon Emerald       | +8.9 Dagger dmg    | +0.5 Dagger dmg    | 
60 | Brutal Teardrop Peridot          | +4% Fatality       | +1% Fatality       | 
80 | Sacred Cabochon Golden Bery      | +14.3 Holy mgc dmg | +2 Holy mgc dmg    | 
80 | Evasive Oblique Emerald          | +0.5% Evade Chance | +0.2% Evade Chance | 
80 | Inviolate Cabochon Star Ruby     | 0.4% Melee Invulns | 0.2% Melee Invulns | 
80 | Immutable Cabochon Tyrian Sapph  | 0.3% Magic Invulns | 0.1% Magic Invulns |
80 | Unyielding Cabochon Emerald      | 1.6% Crushing Invn | 0.3% Crushing Invn | 
80 | Tenacious Cabochon Emerald       | 1.6% Slashing Invn | 0.3% Slashing Invn | 
80 | Quenching Cabochon Star Sapphire | 1.4% Fire Invuln   | 0.3% Fire Invuln   |


The change is good in that it should eliminate the oneshotting problem and bring some balance to PvP again. However, they still chose the most crude way of solving the problem, and in the process made crafted gear kind of pointless. Looking at my sword now, which is a level 80 blue drop (Diregore, not crafted), it will be superior to any combination of gems on a level 80 crafted sword - because the gems with stats that - one must assume - were meant to be equal to fixed stats on non-crafted items, but not stackable, now do very little. If you wanted to emulate the stats on any weapon all you had to do was to go with different gems. One +physical damage, one +fatality chance, and one proc of some kind and look - your very own custom sword with stats that are remarkably similar to dropped weapons but still hand-picked by you. This hits armour even harder, as most armour sets or individual pieces have notoriously stupid stat allocation, whether they are class-specific or not.
My sword still has +11 Physical Damage on it, but it only has one iteration of that modifier. I like to think that they intended for gems to do the same, but at the same time allow for mixing and matching and increased customization through choosing your own modifiers. I can think of numerous other ways to solve this than the current heavy-handed nerf solution, in fact I believe you could roll back gem changes all the way to before +immunity gems were nerfed if they had done something like this:

Option one: Coloured sockets. Gems of a certain colour only fit in a certain colour socket, perhaps two colours of gems in one type of socket (three in total), as there are more gem colours than sockets on items. These should not overlap though, so that you never have one socket that allows for instance red/yellow and another one that allows blue/red, or you could still stack same-colour gems. And never two sockets of the same colour on a single item.
Basically, all damage gems are red. So you could have one damage gem per item. Compared to now, that would cut down the base dps of a high-quality crafted set to 1/3 of its current values, and that is quite enough. At the same time it would even the playing field a little when it comes to buying and selling gems - instead of damage gems going for 10-15 gold each and everything else being worthless, the price on damage gems would drop and the price on proc/stamina/stat gems would increase accordingly.

Option two: Only allow one gem of each prefix per item.
This should be even easier than making the sockets coloured. All gems have a prefix that determine their stat. Essentially, if you stick one gem with the "Scything" (+2HE Damage) prefix in a gem, you cannot add another Scything gem (regardless of it being of much higher or lower quality or not) to the same item. So you can still have multiple gems of the same colour, but not of the exact same type.

Both of these would fix the rampant stacking issue by lowering the total amount of +damage you can possibly achieve to 1/3 of what it is today, without making crafting disciplines obsolete and gemmed gear absolutely trivial. You would still be able to mix and match in a way that let you customize stats to your liking rather than going with the predetermined options of drops, but crafted gear would then adhere to the same "rules" as drops - only one of each particular modifier on any weapon or armour piece, no matter how many different modifiers there are.

How hard could it be to solve an issue - an issue that has thrown PvP balance in a supposedly PvP-orientated game into total disarray - without at the same time breaking three crafting professions? I'm still satisfied they actually acknowledged the issue and decided to do something, but the solution seems like a panicked shot from the hip. Maybe because you just realized you terminally fucked up a month ago and since then have spent your time actively ignoring the issue until it hit you in the back of the head in the form of the sudden evolution of the constant trickle of account cancellations into a massive waterfall of fail.

This change will adversely affect several of my characters, but I still welcome it. One character will be severely reduced in efficiency, and another will be somewhat reduced. The latter character is not fully stacked with +damage gems, but rather carries a balanced set in which I didn't use more than one +damage gem per gear piece. And yes, my gems are all legit, and I reserve the right to be slightly bitter about all that gold/all those dropped gems I've spent/wasted on this.

Even so, this couldn't last. Hence the reasoning behind giving the second character an only partly +damage based set: Not only because I feel gem stacking was and still is borderline cheating, but also because I was expecting a change to the way socketing works similar to the ideas I outlined above. I've now started gathering class sets from Epic Kheshatta instead, and should have them ready to replace the crafted armour when the gem change goes live.