Newish RTX 2080Ti
Because of the cryptocurrency market crash, GPUs have really come down in price. They probably have a further ways to go but I decided that I’d waited long enough to finally upgrade my GTX 1050Ti, and picked up a supposedly-barely-used refurbished eVGA RTX 2080Ti Black Edition off eBay. The seller claimed it was bought from eVGA’s refurb department and used for only two weeks in a gaming rig. I’m not sure sure I believe that, but I figured it was a worthwhile risk to take. The total cost was $550 after tax and shipping, which happened to be almost exactly what I’d earned by participating in the itch.io queer games bundle, so that worked out nicely.
When I first installed it, it was definitely running very hot (as in, 80°C) and was thermally throttling, causing random slowdowns when playing in VR (which is a terrible time to have random slowdowns). Part of that is probably due to my case, but there were a few other signs that if it was refurbished, it wasn’t refurbished very well; in particular, the RGB LEDs were very intermittent (to the extent that I didn’t even realize it had any until they suddenly came on for a few seconds).
Taking off the heat sink was some amount of work, but only because the thermal grease was old, cruddy, and crumbling. Once I got it off I redid all of the thermal transfer material (the GPU getting some Arctic MX-5 that I bought back in 2017 and is still Just Fine, and the other components getting some leftover thermal pads I’d bought on eBay as part of a thermal mod for one of my cameras).
This, plus running my case with the panels removed, brought it down to a much more reasonable 45°C under load, and 30°C idle (with the 2080Ti’s fans not even running). With the case panels back on, it runs closer to 70°C under load and 55°C idle — still fine, but a little more concerning, so I ordered some additional case fans to try to improve the airflow. Hopefully that’ll help, and won’t make the dang thing too much louder. Although if anything it’s likely to make the machine quieter; even at idle the 2080Ti’s fans are running at around 1000RPM.
But anyway! Thermals are only a small part of the equation. The important thing is the gaming experience, and I gotta say, it’s really nice. VR is actually playable — phenomenal, even — and RTX-enabled games like Control look fantastic.
I also finally figured out how to enable GSync/VRR for windowed apps, meaning “borderless window” fullscreen now runs well on my 4K TV. This has had the end result of making Stepmania even better, since now it renders at 4K at around 1000 FPS (still displaying at “only” 120 of course) and there’s no lag anymore, and since it’s in borderless window fullscreen it doesn’t mess up my display settings every time I run it and also it keeps rendering when it’s in the background (which is important when I’m adjusting settings on my stream). I suspect I could have gotten this by properly enabling GSync on the 1050Ti, too, though.
Also, yesterday Moss went on sale, so I finally bought it (having originally meant to buy it on PSVR when it first came out) and I’m glad I’m experiencing it this way; the visuals are simply amazing, and it’s got this really great immersive feel to it.
On the minus side, its setup is a little fiddly (probably because it supports literally every VR platform and so they didn’t make it as SteamVR-integrated as I’d like — no chat overlay for my stream, sadly, and also managing the seated playspace was a bit fussy), but those are fairly minor issues in the grand scheme of things.
Also, it’s incredibly difficult to convey just how it feels to be in a lush VR space. I looked at some of my stream recording and gosh, it sure looked underwhelming. VR gives you this sense of presence and immersion that makes everything seem more vivid and it tactile, and when looking at a 2D capture of it, it feels so flat, and you don’t pick up on things like having little dust motes floating in the air or a feeling of the eye contact that you get with the NPCs and so on.
Also, when looking at the stream recording it becomes even more obvious just how much a first person view from an actual head sucks to watch when you’re not in the same head.
What would be really nice is if every VR game had a spectator view option, so that you can set a fixed third-person camera that shows the player character in the space along with everything else. I only know of a handful of games which do that (such as Fantastic Contraption) and even then the setup for that is pretty involved, since it’s also intended that you have a tracking device on a physical camera that lets you green-screen the player into the space. And of course it requires that the game even support it at all.
Meanwhile, I could really use some better social circles on VRChat. I’m still only going to public spaces and those continue to be quite a bad experience. The other day I went to the public “music visualizer” space to see how much better it was with a proper VR setup, and immediately got accosted by a dude who had Opinions about all of the “weird skins that people wear” (including mine). I suggested that maybe VRChat isn’t the right place for him.
Of course, he was wearing a character from some mainstream cartoon (Phineas and Ferb, I think?) so, take that for what it’s worth.
Anyway! Now that I have this setup I’m very tempted to start building my own VR things. I might start to mess around with LÖVR, which does for VR what LÖVE does for 2D games. I’m still in tech-job recovery, though, and also still in considerable pain, so I need to restrain myself on this. But maybe I could donk around with the VRChat SDK and at least build some simple art spaces in Unity. I’d love to at least port some of my AR works over, and maybe have a gallery art show space with wine and cheese plates.
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