A friend of mine approached me one day, he is an avid MMO player and wanted to build a computer just for playing his MMO. The concept of the build was simple enough, it should play any MMO at at least 1680x1050, support multi-monitor as an option and keep cost under control. The software to be installed was Windows 7, MSE, Live Essentials, Ventrilo and the two MMOs he was playing at the time.
With this in mind I started working through parts looking for best return in performance for the money. While most MMOs do not take advantage of true multi-core processing, I did not want to hamper his ability to multitask with just a dual core. AMD offers a triuple core that gave me the perfect option. We settled on 4 Gigs of RAM to give him good multitasking performance and found a decent video card. The build looked like this..
AMD Phenom II X3 720
Kingston DDR3 1600
Gigabyte 870 based motherboard
ATI HD 5770
OCZ Solid II 60 Gig SSD
Antec Three Hundred (Illusion) Case
Antec Earthwatt 500 PSU
The SSD was a real kicker to this list. While it did reduce the HD space we found his software still fit with almost 50% of the drive open. We decided to not bother with an optical drive. MMOs are downloadable and we could set everything else up with USB Keys or downloads.
The system is nothing short of amazing in how fast it loads it's applications. Everything is near instant and a TON faster than spindle drive based systems. The X3 gives the MMO 2 full cores all to itslef and then uses the third core for the OS and Vent, the system is very responsive under all the multitasking he does.
The 5770 allows for good detail levels and keeps frame rates nice and high.
When we compared game play to my wifes gaming system we where quite suprised. Her system uses a Phenom II X4 965 with 8 Gig of RAM and a 1 TB WD Black drive, for video she uses a 5850. Now while benchmarks showed she got higher frame rates in real play there was no difference between the two machine at 1680x1050. In fact any difference actually made the smaller machine seem faster due to the SSD.
What this has shown me is that if you are a pure MMO gamer and do not use your PC for much else besides the web then this kind of build will get you a blazing system at a reasonable price. We paid a total of $750 for this system including shipping and it will compare will in real game play to much more expensive builds.