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Using 1 Gaming Computer For 2 People? 424

Posted by timothy
from the quite-a-replacement-ratio dept.
True Vox writes "My fiance and I have recently taken interest in City of Heroes (she's currently got a character on my account). She's got a cute little netbook, but nothing nearly powerful enough for a 5-year-old MMORPG, let alone if we take interest in Champions Online! I am reticent to buy a new gaming computer simply for what amounts to a passing phase. Has anyone had any experience using one computer to control two monitors with two sets of input devices (e.g. two keyboards and two mice, or one keyboard, one mouse, and a 360 gamepad, perhaps)? I have seen one solution that might work, but not much information from users that I can find. In short, does anyone have any experience with setups like this?"
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Using 1 Gaming Computer For 2 People?

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  • by Phizzle (1109923) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:15AM (#28049471) Homepage
    Check out some of the refurbished systems available online and from places like Frys. You can get some raging deals on a solid mid-range box. Thin Client is absolutely abysmal as a gaming solution. This way you two can share a hobby and not drive each other nuts.
    • by iamhassi (659463) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:31AM (#28049581) Journal
      "Check out some of the refurbished systems available online and from places like Frys."

      Craigslist any 2+ ghz P4 1gb system for ~$100 and you should be able to play City of Heroes since that is the recommended system requirements [ign.com]. Slap in a $100 Radeon 4770 [techspot.com] (slashdot's new favorite [slashdot.org] card [slashdot.org]) and her system will probably run better than yours.... or you can continue to waste our time. Your choice, choose wisely.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2009 @01:08AM (#28049747)

        Craigslist any 2+ ghz P4 1gb system for ~$100 and you should be able to play City of Heroes

        2Ghz 1GB is in no way useful... it's my own desktop's specs. (Well, 1.9Ghz to be exact.)

        There used to be a time when playing CoH with a Geforce FX5200 was pretty smooth, back in 2005. When expansions like City of Villains came out, the engine changed a lot, and all the curvy landscapes bogged the PC down even if I was alone on the nearby map, using the superspeed power. The result was my needing to run 800x600 and 16 bit color, with 3D settings at like 50% detail.

        Even without Heroes, day to day operations are slow on XP SP2 (even 2.0 versions of firefox run very slowly, let alone play running are very ). I'm not sure if it's just Dell's choice of architecture for my Dimension 2300. The fact that the machine has only one processor, makes things that I could do easily 5 years ago be a pain. I'm not in favor for upgrading and replacing old machines. The problem is that with Flash and Firefox forcing you to upgrade every 8 months, you end up with a world where even clean installs are too slow to handle the overhead of all the bloat out there.

        At 2Ghz, even dual core, high-demand games such as any recent MMO will not be decently playable. Even if it plays OK today, the next set of patches can bring upgrades that kill your spiffy idle megahertz.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by paganizer (566360)

          Really?
          My kids system has a Nvidia 6600 256mb, 1gb of ram, AMD 2000XP and they don't have any real problems running CoH, it runs as well if not better than on my Core Duo with a Ge7400 512mb and 2gb RAM.
          Of course, their system is Win2k while the core duo is XP, so that might explain it; I don't have good benchmarks on the XP machine for CoH because I just tested out the game (I thought it didn't compare well to Freedom Force), but it is, of course, a bigger resource hog than the Win2k machine. The 6600 is a

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by x2A (858210)

          Err... get process explorer and start shutting things down that you don't need running. View your system services (start -> run -> 'services.msc') and disable unneeded services from starting up automatically with boot. My Dell laptop is a P4-M 1.7Ghz with 1.25G RAM, running windows 2003, and it copes no sweat. I was running a 5 way browser test on a project I'm working on not too long back (IE8, Safari4, Chrome, FF3.1, and Opera (forget the version)), all running at the same time, no problem. (short s

      • Or he could just get one new. Newegg sometimes has CPUs as cheap as $30, and I guarantee they're more powerful than a 2ghz P4.

        CPU - $30
        Mobo - $50 or $60.
        PSU - $40 (I never skimp on these)
        Case - $? (Anything with free shipping; those things can be heavy!)
        RAM - $10 (do you need more than 1GB?)
        HDD - $40 (or salvage one from an old computer)
        Videocard - $70 (Newegg had 9800 GTs going for $70 yesterday!)

        Brand new, and it comes to around or under $250. Toss in some peripherals like keyboard/mouse/speakers and you'

        • by Kokuyo (549451)

          Either you people have crazy hardware prices, or you and me really have very different ideas about skimping... 40 bucks for a PSU is cheap-ass, second grade, fell-off-a-truck stuff in my book.

          But I agree. This problem does have only one solution. Gaming costs money, but in case of a PC you at least have a choice about exactly how expensive you want it to get.

          Nobody would think to ask how to have two people game a single player game on a XBox 360 either, right? Neither should one try with a PC.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        2+GHz P4s/512Meg are commonly found in dumpsters/recycling centres by now.

        You're advocating spending 200$ for a system (Base purchase + Graphics card) where 300$ gets you a more capable *new* system. Also, you conveniently forget that P-IV class machines typically have AGP slots and those are hard to get these days. Your link goes even to a PCIe graphics card which is absolutely useless in these kind of machines.

        Believe me, I'm a dumpster diver.... Spending 50$ on a dumpster diven machine, is pretty much

  • Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DavidChristopher (633902) * on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:15AM (#28049475)

    Sounds like you're complicating things a bit.

    What you're not saying here is if you want to run multiple instances of the game at the same time. What kind of PC are you using now? It had better have a LOT of horsepower. 9/10 times, the simpler solution (a second gaming PC) is the smarter answer.

    Keep in mind, Windows was not designed as a 'time sharing' system - at least not in the way you're thinking.

    • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:32AM (#28049591) Homepage Journal
      It had better have a LOT of horsepower.

      Meh, it isn't that difficult. I had a friend get into 5 boxing on WoW. He got a beefy system a couple of years ago, and could run 4 or 5 instances of WoW simultaneously without any real problem.

      Two things to think about:

      Does the game you want to play with her allow multiple instances to be run on a single computer? WoW does, but you have to have multiple WoW directories. It is possible to program a game to force full screen mode or to terminate if an existing instance is already running. Do some research on the software before buying the hardware. Find out about any tricks you need to use to get it to work.

      Find out about the game controls and UI. Chances are, while it might be possible to play multiple instances on one box, it might be a PITA because of the complexity of the game to share a mouse/keyboard. Multi-boxing works in WoW because one person drives multiple characters. Two people using a single keyboard and mouse would not work very well for that game. Other games might be different.

      Search google for 'Multi-boxing' + '(your game name)'. Chances are someone has already tried what you are wanting to do.
      • CoX does allow you to run multiples instances, but you are going to need some hefty iron to do it.

        Even better than googling would be to drop by official forums, people are pretty helpful in matters like this.

      • by Gerzel (240421) *

        Most DO but sometimes you have to put a line into the preferences manually.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sandbags (964742)

        Yea, this guy's right. Even if you could run CoH in multiple instances concurrently (which shouldn't be hard, it's not THAT resource intensive for an MMO, though it uses a bit more than WoW to look good), you can't easily make Windows understand how to use 2 sets of keyboards and mice concurrently.

        Sure, the keyboard you could likely get past by having 2 and using completely different keys for each instance, but especially in CoH, the 1-8 keys, control key, and space bar are REALLY important... The mouse h

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by scubamage (727538) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:19AM (#28049503)
    Honestly, a 5 year old game could most likely run on the cheapest of cheap systems at best buy. Go spend the 2-300$ (yes, they have them that cheap) and fish around your local recycling center/craigslist for a monitor. When you're done with the phase, sell it on craigslist for a hundred bucks as a set, or keep it as a media pc. You're on a geek website bro, there's always a use for another PC. Always.
    • Cheap Refurbs? (Score:3, Informative)

      by frission (676318)
      I picked up a scratch & dent computer, dual core 2.6, 3 GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive for $220 from the dell outlet.
      http://www.dell.com/outlet [dell.com]
      Considering it came with a licensed OS, it was cheaper than me building one.
      just keep an eye on there, because they go quick. if it turns out that you can buy a better computer than what you have, just keep the new one and give her the old one...win-win?
  • by creimer (824291) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:20AM (#28049505) Homepage
    You're asking a bunch of dorks about a technical question concerning the opposite sex?

    head explodes
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by iamhassi (659463)
      "You're asking a bunch of dorks about a technical question concerning the opposite sex? "

      He's obviously lying.

      He's 14 and his cousin's visiting for a few weeks and left his Alienware laptop charger in LA. Any adult geek of marrying age would have a few 2+ ghz PCs lying around that a cheap video card could be thrown in, or spend $100+ on Craigslist and buy a suitable PC.
      • by adolf (21054)

        Close.

        It's actually his second cousin, and she's visiting him in Kentucky. That makes it all square.

        (Hey, if you can't fuck your friends and family, then who can you fuck?)

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Autonom (1480189)
          "(Hey, if you can't fuck your friends and family, then who can you fuck?)" (sic) "I gotta buy you, like, a proverb book or something. This mix'n'match shit's gotta go." Families that play together... Stay together. "Now make like a tree... and get the f*** out of here!"
  • Multiseat (Score:4, Informative)

    by Thalaric (197339) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:21AM (#28049511)
    It's called multiseat. It's a feature that's targetted for the next version of Fedora Linux [fedoraproject.org] . I'm not sure if there's any way to do it under windows but vmware or virtualbox might help when Fedora 12 comes out.
    • Re:Multiseat (Score:5, Interesting)

      by timeOday (582209) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:31AM (#28049575)
      I've been waiting for multiseat linux to gel for years. It never will. It reached its zenith in some version of RedHat several years ago and has only become more difficult to set up since then. Computers are powerful enough now, but they're also so cheap, there isn't a critical mass of interest.

      And Windows? Hah. You can't even remote desktop to a Windows PC without kicking off the user at the console.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by speedtux (1307149)

        I've been waiting for multiseat linux to gel for years.

        Are you joking? Multiseat on Linux is used everywhere and has been around nearly from day 1.

        People usually start it up via

        ssh -X someserver.com

        or

        ssh -f -L 5910:localhost:5910 someserver.com tightvncserver :10
        xtightvncviewer :10

        Granted, there is no brain-dead mode for people who don't know how to use VNC or X, but, geez, it's one or two commands. You can run Gnome, KDE, or whatever else your heart desires.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Erm multiseat has been around and will always be around due to the xorg architecture. It has *always* been possible. There are basically 2 solutions:

        *"the old way" setup xorg.conf with two xservers with seperate gfx card (it may be possible to do it on one gfx card but there will probably be driver/performance problems), keyboard & mouse. Additionally he can use a simple script to switch over xorg configurations and use the same setup as a dual monitor system. From a technical standpoint this is the way

    • by Korin43 (881732)
      Depending on how hard this is to do in Windows, it may be worth just running two instances of CoH in Wine. It sounds like it's playable [winehq.org].
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:22AM (#28049517) Journal

    Just get the cheapest inspiron from dell and dump the integrated graphics for...anything that's not integrated. Then you won't have to worry about virtual machines with direct graphics access or any other time sucking rough spots.

    Also, if you can wait a few weeks, keep checking the best buy circular for the coupon code for the extra-discounted cheap dell machine.

  • by Veggiesama (1203068) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:23AM (#28049523)

    Parentheses, man! Learn to use them (or if you don't want to learn how to use them, just avoid using them (unless you are just trying to be hopelessly recursive (which is not always a bad thing))).

  • by Jeremy Visser (1205626) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:25AM (#28049553) Homepage

    It can't be done with Windows (at least not to my knowledge), but multiseat on Linux these days is a cinch. Google has tons of resources [google.com] on the topic -- basically it involves a bit of xorg.conf hacking, and then Bob's your uncle.

    I myself have done it before on an amd64 dual-core 2.2GHz system with two video cards, a GeForce 7600GT on PCI-e, and a GeForce 6200 on plain PCI. Worked beautifully. I could multiplayer FlightGear [flightgear.org] by running one instance on each seat. Each user can log on and off independently with their own keyboard and mouse.

    This is a (blurry and fuzzy) picture of my setup [sunriseroad.net] (1280x1024 JPG). You can see glxgears running on each screen -- handled by the same computer. Cool thing about using two video cards is that each user gets his own GPU -- running two FPSes simultaneously (I tested Nexuiz) had absolutely zero slowdown.

  • by Shag (3737) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:28AM (#28049565) Homepage

    Gamer with a fiancee? I can't believe you guys fell for this obvious troll attempt.

    • by hyades1 (1149581)

      If I had any moderator points right now, you'd definitely be getting one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Khyber (864651)

      I don't know whether to mod you funny or let my gamer fiance, who's sitting next to me, slap you over the internet.

      We both game. He's playing GalCiv2 and I'm posting on /. and waiting for my Titan Expansion to finish downloading for UT3.

  • by Techman83 (949264) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:29AM (#28049569)
    Here LMGTFY [lmgtfy.com], found some interesting links, here's a standout Multiseat Linux - One computer, multiple monitors, mice, and keyboards [linuxagora.com] Probably lots of other ways to do it as well.
  • by GrpA (691294) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:31AM (#28049577)

    My wife went through a passing phase a while back ago, so I got her a quad-core P4 w/4gb/500Mb, Radeon 1950 x 2 in crossfire, 41" monitor, Wireless mouse, Keyboard, joysticks, gamepads. Basically everything I wanted in a game machine, while I only had a small netbook (although I could play Farcry on my netbook so it wasn't that bad...)

    I thought it was a GREAT idea... She would get tired of it and I get a new gaming machine that she would never let me buy.

    Unfortunately, she loved it so much she kept it and I didn't get to "inherit" it all after the passing phase.

    But at least she didn't give me any grief over getting (more recently) a much better spec machine, because it cost me a lot less than hers did at the time.

    GrpA

  • Have her use remote desktop (rdc / rdp ) to gain a second session on your box.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vux984 (928602)

      Have her use remote desktop (rdc / rdp ) to gain a second session on your box.

      XP Home doesn't support it.
      XP Pro will boot off the console user when a remote user logs in.
      Vista is the same set of rules, afaik.

      You need windows Server to active support multiple simultaneous interactive sessions.

      And that STILL won't let you run a 3d accelerate game 'remotely'.

      For the application at hand, it would be simpler to just buy a $300 budget gaming PC and be done with it.

  • Use a rental (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mr_Tulip (639140)
    If this is only a short term thing, why not rent a shiny new laptop for a few months. Not only will you be able to show it off at cafe's, but it will also be a tax-deductible expense.

    As a bonus, I guess your 'partner' could use it to 'play games' while in bed.

  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:44AM (#28049629)
    Well, aside from the fact that the software you pointed to requires a second video card, which for gaming, should be the most expensive part of the computer, you will also have the issue of game license issues due to only having one computer, running 2 instances of the same game at the same time will be very difficult if not impossible for many games. Most will check to see if multiple license keys are in use at the same time with online play, and to my knowledge, installing 2 copies of the same game on the same computer using different keys is not something that will work either since that is a use that was never designed into the games and they will usually check to se if it is already installed and basically say that it is already installed on the computer. And for most MMORPGs you are not allowed to connect two sessions/characters online at the same time, so that will be something you need to look at as well.

    It is probably just better to build a cheap game rig. Simply do a budget gaming PC:
    Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5200 Wolfdale ~$70
    Asus P5QL Motherboard ~$90
    4GB DDR2 RAM ~$20
    320GB hard drive ~$45
    DVD+/-RW ~$25
    SIGMA La Vie LBYWBP computer case with 500W power supply ~45 after rebate
    ATI HD4770 video card ~$100
    Total: ~$395

    If you need an extra copy of XP or Vista, well that will be another ~$100, and if you need a monitor, another $100-150.
    • by Stormie (708)

      running 2 instances of the same game at the same time will be very difficult if not impossible for many games. Most will check to see if multiple license keys are in use at the same time with online play, and to my knowledge, installing 2 copies of the same game on the same computer using different keys is not something that will work either since that is a use that was never designed into the games

      Bear in mind that the games mentioned by the questioner are MMORPGs, which generally are friendly towards runn

    • CoX will allow you to run two instances from one install. I do it all the time to xfer stuff between characters using two accounts.

  • "she has a cute little notebook.... what amounts to a passing phase."

    Are this condescending to your fiance directly, or just when she is not around?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stephanruby (542433)
      And which part did you find condescending? "a cute little notebook" a phrase she may have very well used herself, or was it the assumption that this was a just a "passing phase" (Doesn't everyone on this planet, both genders included, myself included, have "passing phases" of one kind or another?)
    • by x2A (858210) on Friday May 22, 2009 @06:02AM (#28051021)

      "Are this condescending to your fiance directly"

      Aww, you meant to say "are you this condescending..." but your little rage took over and the keyboard and the words got all confusing and it was all a bit much wasn't it? But it's okay, we knew what you meant, and it's just adorable that you tried so hard!

  • by Vermyndax (126974) <vermyndax AT galaxycow DOT com> on Friday May 22, 2009 @01:03AM (#28049727) Homepage

    Dude, wtf? You aren't going to be married long with this line of thinking. Get off of it and buy your woman a fantastic gaming machine and forget this crap. It shows you care. Priorities, man. She IS paying attention to your choices.

    Seriously. WTH.

  • I bought my g/f a PC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dave562 (969951)
    I just put together a $200 TigerDirect (I know, may I burn in hell) special for her and slapped in a GeForce 6800. She and I play WoW together every once in a while. She doesn't have the patience to raid, but she likes questing and running the occassional instance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2009 @01:18AM (#28049791)

    Its not worth it. She'll gain 20 pounds, lose her job, and end up blowing her 19 year old guild leader when she takes a trip to go "see her parents" so she can get some extra dkp.

    I'm not bitter.

  • You need a server (Score:3, Informative)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday May 22, 2009 @01:36AM (#28049875) Homepage Journal

    Desktop environments - especially WINDOWS desktop environments - will not allow two people to log onto the same hardware at the same time.

    Oddly enough, most Linux distros come with an X-server installed. Just create an account for her, she can log in, then direct the video output to her own netbook, or to a second monitor, or whatever.

    To do anything similar on Windows, you MUST install a Windows Server, whether it be Win2K, Win2003, or Win2008. You CANNOT log multiple people on at the same time with Win9x, ME, XP, or Vista or Win7. Microsoft won't allow it, you ain't doing it without some SERIOUS hacking.

  • Can it be done? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chas (5144) on Friday May 22, 2009 @01:42AM (#28049893) Homepage Journal

    Sure. Is it worth it? No.

  • Really, to use that program, or things like it, you still need a second video card. And even if you don't, by the time you have the input devices, speakers, screen, and game licence, what have you saved? You've saved about $400 of computer. Maybe $800.

    If you planned to die tomorrow, then the $800 loss wouldn't matter. If you don't, then the $800 of extra hardware will eventually come in useful, even if she never plays again.

    But most importantly, if you want her to enjoy it, and you want her to start gam

  • I've used BeTwin to run two simultaneous instances of Diablo 2 for a small LAN game. It worked okay, but at US$99 for a single license, there are probably cheaper ways to run old games.
  • Multisteating Windows is crap. But heres an idea of how it could be done with Windows. This idea does not involve Virtual Machines (not suitable for games) or RDP (also NOT SUITABLE FOR GAMES FOR THE LAST BLOODY TIME!).

    He could use the BeTwin software which appears to give direct graphics access (good for games) - and then to deal with the fact that a lot of games (Like WoW) don't like to run two different sessions at once (unless you are on Wine) you can also do some Application Virtualization using Sandb

  • In short (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ash-Fox (726320) on Friday May 22, 2009 @02:08AM (#28049991)

    In short, does anyone have any experience with setups like this?

    Since you asked in short, the answer is - Yes.

  • I am reticent to buy a new gaming computer simply for what amounts to a passing phase.

    The underlying statement here is: "if it's a passing phase, the money will be wasted because the new PC will be gathering dust".

    But actually that's totally up to yourself. If it turns out to be a passing phase, you can simply sell the computer.

  • Champions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Friday May 22, 2009 @03:05AM (#28050255)
    It might be worth considering that Champions Online is going to be released on the 360. That might be an inexpensive way to allow both of you to access at the same time. Consoles have their own sets of disadvantages and advantages over pcs.
  • Games are demanding (Score:3, Informative)

    by Krneki (1192201) on Friday May 22, 2009 @07:13AM (#28051363)
    There is no way you can run two 3D demanding games on the same PC. Maybe Vista has some advanced 3D engine to host 2 user, but I doubt it.

    VM still lacks support for GPU, so it won't work either.

    The cheapest solution would be a cheap overclocked system. Buy a reliable motherboard from Asus and overclock an Intel Dual-core CPU.

    I bought an Intel dual-core E4300, 1.8 GHZ almost 2 years ago and at 3.2GHz is still able to give me 60FPS in almost any new game.
  • by Wingsy (761354) on Friday May 22, 2009 @07:17AM (#28051401)
    "... does anyone have any experience with setups like this?" Oh yeah, mainframes were in most every large company a few decades ago. Perhaps you should get yourself a 360. (ummm... not talkin about Xbox either)
  • by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Friday May 22, 2009 @07:50AM (#28051617)

    I am reticent to buy a new gaming computer simply for what amounts to a passing phase.

    It works like this: She gets your current gaming computer, you then reluctantly get to go out and buy a quad core with 8 gig of RAM and a gig video card. This is the way of the geek relationship.

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