GBS Beast v 5 is alive

WOW…what a whirlwind the past two weeks have been.  Just before 22 April, my gaming machine (Beast v4) had issues with installing Microsoft Windows 10 updates.  It finally reached a point where I had to reinstall Windows 10 (which I did).  But soon after I just wasn’t satisfied with the performance so I did a clean install of Windows 10 and was in the process of getting all my games installed and configured when the machine suffered a motherboard failure.  I was absolutely gutted.  It’s never a good time for a PC just to die like this and especially when I had hoped I could get another year of use from her.  But best laid plans and all that….

Need a Plan

I quickly put a plan together and began looking around my collection of antique radios and other gadgets I don’t use much.  I also went ahead and gutted much of the v4 PC and realized the market is quite good for used PC parts at the moment.  I managed to sell the 980Ti GPU, RAM and a few other components which I determined were fully functional.  With the available cash on hand, I began ordering all the pieces and parts needed to build v5.  They began arriving on Wednesday with the first batch of parts being the new case, motherboard, CPU, RAM and liquid CPU cooler.

v5 is honestly the most powerful gaming machine I’ve ever designed, built and owned.  While other builds (including v4) originally had a few less than optimal parts which down the road I upgraded, v5 will roll off the assembly line (my workbench) most likely the same way it’ll head into the sunset hopefully 5+ years from now.  Meaning….I’m cutting no corners in this build.  The pride and joy of this gaming machine is the Intel 8th Gen i7 8700K CPU and the 11GB GTX 1080Ti GPU.  It’s funny to believe that when I first built v4, I installed the GTX 780 TI (3GB) and about 18 months in upgraded to the GTX 980 Ti (6GB) GPU.  Now I’m jumping to a whopping 11GB of GPU goodness.

The Build

The build of v5 took place over two evenings.  I started assembling the parts which had arrived on Wednesday, 2 May and finalized the hardware build on the next evening (Thursday, 3 May).  I’ve updated the full breakdown of v5 which can be found here.  Thankfully, my build partners (Fedex, UPS and Amazon Prime) all managed to delivery everything on time and in the order I needed them.

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New ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero Motherboard installed inside the NZXT S340 Elite ATX Mid-Tower Case.

Keeping my Cool

When I initially built v4, I installed liquid cooling.  I admit I didn’t choose wisely on the brand and model I purchased.  Within about 6 months of use the water pump mechanism failed and thankfully I caught it in time and shut the machine off before I had a full meltdown.  I did my homework this time around and went with a more trusted/reliable brand of Corsair.  The install was super easy with the units radiator mounted at the front of the case.  The fans draw air through the radiator.  The other three case fans are configured to vent the warm air out of the case from the top, bottom and rear.

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With the CPU safely installed, it’s time to mount the Corsair Hydro Series H100i v2 CPU Cooler in the case.

An Open and Shut Case

I absolutely am in love with this new case.  If anyone is interested, its the NZXT S340 Elite ATX case.  It’s amazing and relatively easy to work with.  I love the cable management features and absolutely love the SSD drive mounting options.   The power supply mounts at the rear and under the red metal cover.  This really helps to keep all the cabling coming  from the PSU tidy or at least just out of sight.

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Cable management is made super easy with this case from NZXT.

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The SSD drives mount onto a metal tray which clips in and held in place with just one screw.

Speaking of Drives

At the heart of the v5 build is a superfast 1 TB Samsung 960 EVO PCIe NVMe M.2 Internal SSD drive.  I’ve never installed or used one of these in the past.  But OMG…this thing is fast.  Yes, fast…but also expensive.  For comparison, this NVMe M.2 SSD has a read speed of up to 3.2 GB/s and a write speed up to 1.9 GB/s.  Compared to a standard SSD drive (as pictured above) where read speed is around 550 MB/s and write speeds of 520 MB/s.  I thought Windows 10 booted fast on a standard SSD…but literally after POST, Windows 10 is ready to go in the blink of an eye.  I’m super impressed.

The moment of truth

With the final component installed and most cables tucked out of the way, it was time to test the build.  I grabbed an old monitor, keyboard and mouse and fired up v5.  She roared, actually whispered to life as she’s super quiet and a quick rap of the F2 button and I was in the BIOS.  I made a few tweaks mainly consisting of setting correct date/time and just verifying everything was set correctly.  I shut v5 down so I could properly secure all the visible cables and batten down the hatches on the case.  By the way, if you’re not aware….you never want to operate a desktop computer (especially a high performing one) with the case covers open.  The design of the cooling features in most modern cases depend on the case being closed down for proper air flow.

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Let’s get Windows installed

The fun can’t begin until Windows 10 has been installed and patched.  As this is not the first time I’ve installed Windows 10 in the past week, I’m old hat with all that needs to be done.  This also allows for a more peaceful break in period for all the components in the machine.   The first software application I installed was CAM by NZXT.  Yep, same folks that make the case.  CAM is a wonderful monitoring tool which I’ve used from time to time.   After installation, I launched CAM and moved the application over to one of my secondary monitors so I could keep an eye on v5 while she was taking updates and installing software.  Most likely I’ll rely on CAM and keep it open and active on my system for the first several weeks (at least) just to keep a watchful eye on my new baby.

A Lot of Work To Do

I still have lots and lots and lots of work still yet to do on v5.  Of course this is all software installs and configurations.  But to all my extremely loyal and wonderful Farming Friends, FS17 has been installed and tested.  I’ve verified everything is just as I left it (not by choice) with Green River and even ran a quick test for about 10 minutes where I drove around the map and had OBS recording.  The machine performed just as expected and GPU/CPU temps all stayed nice and cool.  I plan to record episode 10 of GreenRiver on Saturday, 5 May (Cinco de Mayo) which won’t actually be released on YouTube until the week of the 14th of May.

Something Old, Something New

Some of the funds that went into helping purchase the pieces and parts to build “the Beast v5” came from selling some old AM radios I purchased and refinished.  The illuminated USB thumb drive is made from an old analog tube.  I don’t know the exact age of the tube, but its most likely in the same age range as a few of the old radios I sold (circa 1940).  This is a 16GB USB thumb drive which I used to install Windows 10 into the new machine.  Sort of cool huh?

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The GBS Beast v5

As previously stated, I still have many hours of work installing and configuring software.  My flight sim setup is quite complex and takes many hours, actually a few days to completely get setup.   But in the mean time, please allow me to introduce you to the new Beast v5.  Yes, I’ll eventually peel that caution sticker off which is just a warning that the main case cover is real tempered glass.

 

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Thanks for reading and sharing in my excitement.  This build (like all the others before it) was a lot of fun both in the planning and building stages.  I’m confident this new machine will provide me many, many hours of enjoyment as I continue to play FS17, ATS, ETS2, Flight Sim and many other games.

Until next time…

Jerry

More PC Issues

Well…after all the time I just recently put into rebuilding the OS, reinstalling most of the software on my gaming rig, it has died.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, the four year old rig seems to have died on me.  All worked fine on Wednesday evening.  I had spent some time flying in P3D and on Thursday morning before work it booted up fine and I installed a few more airport scenery add-ons.  I came home on Thursday afternoon and attempted to boot up the beast and it briefly powered on, but immediately shut off.

The root cause appears to be a failure on the motherboard.  I removed the 1000w Corsair I had installed in the gaming rig and quickly replaced it with a known-good 750w I had from another machine I have.  Same issue.  I must admit that I’ve been really lucky with my self-built gaming rigs.  This one is the 4th rig I’ve built and the only one that has actually just died on me.  The others just simply become outdated as time goes by and usually get moved into other duties when I build a new generation machine.  But unfortunately, this one has died and at the current moment in time I have no other machine which is capable of playing the games I play.

To Repair or Replace

I really don’t feel repairing is a valid option for me.  First, the machine is 4 years old.  While replacing the motherboard is an option, I’m left with a 4 year old CPU (if that even still works) and most likely would just be delaying the inevitable.  While this isn’t a good time for me financially, I feel my investment will be best served by completely building a new PC based on today’s technology.

More about Finances (or lack thereof)

So as not to reveal too much personal information.  I’ll just state that at the present time our disposable income just isn’t in a good place right now for this project to be considered.  Fortunately, my wife and I had an opportunity to pay off our mortgage early.  In the long run, what we’ll save on interest payments if we had continued with our home loan was reason for us to take some of our retirement nest egg and payoff the loan.  I’m a home owner!  YEA!!!!  Again, while we’re not broke….we’re just not in a situation for me to immediately point my browser to Amazon and start buying parts.

What does this mean for the GBS YouTube Channel?

Good question.  If you’ve been watching any of my recent videos, then I’m sure you’ve heard me ramble on about the backlog of videos I have already recorded, rendered and uploaded to YouTube.  I have content already in the pipeline through 15 May.  This includes 9 episodes on the new map “Let’s Play” series I have recently started.  Unfortunately, I really don’t believe I’ll be up and operational before I burn through that content.  For this, I’m very sorry.

As I often say, and I know my loyal viewers also understand, hobbies must take a backseat to real life issues.  My wife and I had been going back and forth the past few months on deciding whether or not to pay off the mortgage early and as I mentioned, the amount of money we’ll save just in interest payments over the next 10 years will really mean a lot for our retirement.  Remember, I’m 51 (turning 52 in the fall) and I really only want to work as long as I need to.

The Next GBS Beast

I’ve already started planning the next generation GBS gaming beast.  The initial plan is to go with the Intel i7-8700K CPU.  This won’t be an off the shelf CPU, but a delidded version which is rated/certified to overclock to a screaming 5.1GHz.  The benefit of the delidding service is typically the CPU temperature will run anywhere between 12°C to 25°C cooler which ensures greater stability and longer component lifespan.  In addition, I’ll also be upgrading my graphics card from the 6GB 980Ti to the 11GB 1080Ti.

As with my four previous gaming machine builds, I’m building the machine to meet the gaming needs for not only today but also tomorrow and hopefully the day after that.  Meaning, I would rather wait, save up  the money and install the parts I feel are needed versus going with lower end parts and upgrading later.

ETA?

Ahhh, the million dollar question.  At this very moment in time I really can’t answer this question.  My initial plan right now is to sort through some old “stuff” I have laying around and see what I can sell and how much I can make from that.  After all, one man’s junk, is another man’s treasure.  According to my wife I have a goldmine of “stuff” laying around which I never use.  To her credit, this is actually a true statement.  I have enjoyed a wide variety of hobbies over the years and some of these hobbies no longer interest me and some of the equipment related to these hobbies are just sitting around collecting dust.

Update

So I began writing this article during the week of  21 April and as of today, 2 May I have made significant progress on obtaining the funds I need for the new build.  New parts are arriving as early as today from Amazon, Newegg and CDW.  Essentially the first parts to arrive are the ones I need first to start the build.  New case, motherboard, CPU and CPU cooler will arrive today and I’ll begin the process of installing the components into the new case.  While I’m really beginning to feel withdrawals from being able to play Farming Simulator and Prepar3D, I also very much enjoy this stage of PC building.  So I plan to take my time and truly enjoy the moment.  Hopefully by next week I’ll pickup the new graphics card, RAM and the remaining parts I need to fully complete the build.

Once the new machine is built, tested and fully functional…I’ll get FS17 installed and begin recording content.  If all goes as currently planned, there will not be any gaps between my video release schedule.

Stay tuned….

Until next time…

Jerry

Windows 10 Updates

While I’m sure you’ll find many differing opinions on Microsoft’s current OS, I must say that Windows 10 is perhaps the best thing that has happened in the PC gaming industry since sliced bread or a pocket on a shirt.  But the Windows 10 update process does lack a lot to be desired.

My PC gaming experience dates back to the early days of Windows.  Over the past couple of decades (geez, I’m getting old), Microsoft Windows has released some excellent operating systems and a few not-so-great versions.  In more modern times, Windows XP (with service pack 3) was a fairly reliable OS and performed well in its day.  Then there was the infamous Windows Vista (barf) followed by Windows 7.  Windows 7 (64bit) was also a very reliable and solid performer.  In my real life day job, we still have a fairly large number of workstations still running Windows 7.  However, over the next 18 months most of these will be decommissioned.  After Windows 7, we endured the Windows 8 fiasco (big barf) but thankfully Windows 10 came along quickly became the go-to OS.

You Get a Copy, You Get a Copy and You Get a Copy

Sometime in the summer of 2015, Microsoft began handing out free copies of Windows 10 much the same way Oprah handed out cars many years ago.  Licensed users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 could download/install Windows 10 without charge for one year.  I must admit that I was a bit reluctant to upgrade my gaming machine to Windows 10.  After all, I had a pretty reliable process for building/rebuilding my Win 7 system and everything (including all my Steam games and Prepar3D v3.x) was dialed in pretty solid.

However, I had been testing Windows 10 at work and had also updated one of my other home PC’s to Win 10 and was starting to see that Windows 10 was going to be the future of PC gaming.  My current instance of Windows 7 was starting to slow down and things were getting cluttered on the system.  I wanted to take the free Windows 10 update, but didn’t want to hassle of inheriting all the little issues I had been having with the Win 7 setup.  So I formatted my main SSD drive, reinstalled Windows 7 and then applied the Windows 10 update.

Time Flies when you are having fun…

For the past 18+ months my gaming machine has performed flawlessly.  Prepar3D version 4 (64 bit heaven) worked beautifully and all my Steam games performed like a dream.  While this particular gaming machine is approaching 4 years old, I built it with the future in mind and pending no hardware failures, should still handle my gaming needs for another year or two.

Windows 10 Updates

Having the IT background I do, I’m a firm believer in applying updates/patches etc. in a timely manner.  I began experiencing an issue shortly after the new year where my machine wouldn’t/couldn’t install Win 10 updates.  I did some research and tried all the usual things.  Nothing I did worked…but it was only a minor nuisance until about a week ago.

Last Saturday morning, with coffee in hand I went down to my basement office to play a little Farming Simulator 17 and record an episode.  I guess Microsoft was hell bent on changing my plans, because for the past 2-3 months these updates wouldn’t install, but magically they did…but to my fear it left my system in a terrible state.

I did manage to repair Windows 10 to a point where most things worked fine, but I ran into issues with Prepar3D and I just can’t live with that.

I’m a Perfectionist

I really don’t know if being a perfectionist is a good trait or a bad one.  I think it can easily go both ways.  In my real world job, I suppose it’s a good thing as I typically don’t settle for anything less than perfection.  In my personal life…well…it absolutely drives my wife crazy.  But the problem with little nagging issues is they can quickly become really major showstoppers and as I have just less than three weeks worth of recorded content ready to go, I figure now is a good time to fix this mess.

A Change is a coming…

Shhhhh, don’t tell my wife….but I’m about to plop a new 500 GB SSD in my gaming machine.  As I previously mentioned, I did build this machine with the future in mind.  At the time, I installed three 250 GB SSD drives in the machine with the idea that SSD #1 would run Windows, SSD #2 would be for all things P3D and SSD #3 would be for Steam Games.  In addition to the SSD drives, I also have one 500GB SATA drive that I use to capture my video recordings and also use it as a backup drive.

The new plan is to rebuild Windows 10 on the current 250 GB SSD.  The primary Windows drive doesn’t need to be massive and I feel 250GB will be fine.  The new 500GB SSD will contain all my Steam games as I’m quickly approaching the point where 250GB won’t hold everything.  P3D will continue to live on its own 250 GB SSD and finally, the older 250GB SSD will  contain nothing but the Documents folder.  After all, so many of the games I run utilize the “Documents” folder to save files, mods, aircraft, scenery etc.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

After backing up my precious game saves for FS17, ATS, ETS2 and other important items I began the process by kicking off the built in Windows 10 reset tool and selecting the option to delete all personal data, files, settings etc.  After all, I’m wanting to start from scratch.  This is a excellent feature of Windows 10 and it worked just as intended.  Less than 30 minutes later, Windows 10 was perfectly reset with all patches and updates safely and securely applied.  I then proceeded to update my Nvidia GPU drivers and a few other critical device drivers.  Another 30 minutes or so and I was ready to start installing games and other applications.

Steam – I love it!

I know a lot of people loath Steam and Steam games.  For me, I absolutely adore it and in a rebuild scenario it is your best friend.   As my primary recorded content on my YouTube Channel is FS17, FS17 was the first to get installed.  I changed the install directory to the new 500GB SSD drive and allowed Steam to download and install FS17.  Once FS17 was installed, I launched it so it would create the appropriate folders in the Documents directory (living on its own SSD drive) then shut down FS17.  Next I copied over the saved folders/files from the previous Documents installation.  This brought over all my mods and the appropriate game save folders.  It also pulled in the much appreciated keybindings file which worked perfect.  I fired up FS17, loaded up my new map game save and everything was just like it was on the old setup.  Love it!

Next I installed ATS and ETS2 and followed much the same procedure as I did with FS17.  I’m pleased to report everything is 100% like it was when I last played.  Fantastic!

Finally, I got OBS, TrackIR and a few other things I need to be able to continue producing my  video content on YouTube.  I highly recommend you backup your OBS configurations as it is super easy to import these back into OBS when performing a rebuild like this.  I’m now 100% ready to resume recording my game content for what I’m currently featuring on the channel.  From start to finish, I’d say I reached this point within less than 2 hours from the time I started the rebuild process.  Awesome!

Are we there yet?

My gaming rig wouldn’t be complete without my flight sim setup installed and dialed in to perfection.  While it only took me about two hours to completely refresh Windows 10 and get the rig back to a point where I could play and record FS17, ATS or ETS2.  Two hours is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of time required to get fully airborne.   In February, Lockheed Martin released version 4.2.x of their 64 bit Prepar3D Flight Simulator.  I had been running 4.1.x so I took advantage of this re-birth to go with the latest and greatest.  I installed P3D v4.2.x onto its own 250GB SSD drive and verified all was working by loading up the sim and choosing a default aircraft.  Success!

Next comes all the add-ons.  Now for those of you who enjoy FS17, ATS and ETS2 and enjoy those games with mods, you know we simply need to find the mod we want, download it and drop it in the mods folder.  Launch the game and a few clicks the mod is enabled and hopefully it’s everything we had hoped it would be.  The process for flight sim just isn’t that simple.  Every, single, add-on has its own .exe or some can only be downloaded/installed via a central application (as is the case with Orbx).  Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the new Orbx FTX Central.  Not only does it automate the download, install and updating process…it’s just really cool.  I’ve already praised this new application in a blog post last year.

But to put things into perspective.  In FS17, I have well over 150 mods.  Most likely closer to 200.  Getting FS17 downloaded, installed and running again just where I left off only took me about 2 hours and this included the Windows 10 refresh process.  But Flight Sim is much, much different.  On my mod spreadsheet for P3D, I have approx. 100 add-ons.  Again, each of these are .exe’s that need to be checked if they are the latest versions, downloaded if not, then installed.  With scenery add-ons, it’s advisable to restart the PC and load up the sim between each install.  I would estimate (and this really is a guess), but it most likely takes me well over 24 hours (I really don’t think this is an exaggeration) to get P3D running with absolutely everything I own running and dialed in.  This also includes configuring all my external controls including yoke, rudder pedals and various button/switch panels.  Very little is simply “plug & play”.

My typical approach to reinstalling P3D (which I do every 18-24 months) is to do a little at a time.  I typically install all the Orbx ground texture applications (base, vector, openLC etc.) then proceed to the Orbx regional terrain (Cen. Rocky Mountains, Southern Alaska, NoCal etc.).  Then I install the other add-ons like Weather, Sky Textures, VATSIM etc.  Then I proceed with payware aircraft.  Typically I always install the PMDG 737 NGX first along with add-on airports of KDEN and KDFW.  Then I typically begin installing other airports and aircraft as I fly around the virtual world.

Whew….well, I need to get busy again installing scenery and aircraft.  After all, it’s not gonna get done all by itself.

Until next time….

Jerry

Getting Started with YouTube

More than likely you’ve been a long-time YouTube viewer and perhaps you have often thought to yourself, “I’d like to record my game play and upload that content to YouTube for others to enjoy”!  This is exactly the thoughts that entered my head a little over two years ago and I’d like to share my journey.

The Fine Print

LOL…yes, there’s a little “fine print” I would like to throw out there for your consideration.  First, this is not meant to be the definitive guide to getting started with YouTube.  Far from it actually.  This is simply my journey, my thoughts, my opinions etc. on the subject.  Anyone…yes, even YOU can record your video game play and upload that content to YouTube.  The process isn’t rocket science once you gather a few key pieces of software which I’ll discuss later.  But is that all you need to do?  Can you then call yourself a YouTube Content Creator?

If you Build it, they will come

If you enjoy classic movies, then most likely you’ve seen the film “Field Of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner.  The premise behind the movie was if the character played by Kevin Costner built a baseball field in the middle of his corn field, the players from the 1919 Black Sox Scandal would return to play baseball.  He built the field and low and behold, the players showed up including Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Nice story, but is running a YouTube channel as simple as Field of Dreams?  Meaning, if I create a YouTube channel, will viewers flock to it and will I become a YouTube sensation overnight?  I’ll return to this question in just a few minutes.

First Things First, WHY?

I just want to get you thinking about one simple word…WHY?  Why do you want to start a YouTube channel?  Again, this blog posting is not meant to be the definitive guide to getting started with YouTube.  I’m merely sharing a few thoughts, ideas, concepts etc. with you which I’ve learned over the past two years.  While you are contemplating on your own reasons of WHY, I’ll share mine…

My Journey

I’ve been a huge fan of YouTube since it all began back in 2005.  I began producing content on YouTube in 2007 under a different user account and completely different topic than video gaming.  I produced and created “how to” content supporting the hobby and service of amateur radio (also known as ham radio).  Amateur Radio is another hobby I’m passionate about and I enjoy speaking to fellow hams all over the country and world.  Anyway, the entire idea behind my early start with YouTube was in an effort to share my knowledge with others.

Having a face for radio, I soon moved away from YouTube and started my own audio only podcast talking about and sharing information and knowledge.  When I began my audio podcast, it was one of only two or three in existence related to the hobby.  When I finally ended that show almost 8 years after it started, there was well over a dozen different podcasts related to amateur radio just in the USA alone.  But after producing an average of two episodes per month, I felt I had talked about and shared just about everything I started out to do and felt it was time to move onto greener pastures.

But just like you, I had been watching many YouTube content creators producing excellent content on some of the simulation based games I also enjoyed playing.  It felt like a good time to see if I could create a channel with more or less the same concept I used for my podcast so the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube channel was born.

Of course, I thought long and hard about what could I do that was different from some of the others.  After all, regardless of the video games you choose to play/record…the general idea is going to be the same.  Flight Sim videos will be about flying.  Truck Sim videos will be about trucking and Farm Sim videos will be about farming.

Finding Your Niche

Yes, it helps to be different.  I had been watching a lot of Farming Simulator 15 channels in an attempt to find one or two things which I could somewhat capitalize on and say this is how the GrizzlyBearSims channel will be different than everyone else.  The first was to establish my channel as 100% Rated G.  If you are unfamiliar with the motion picture rating system, a “G Rated” film is considered to be suitable for all ages.  Regardless of anything else….I wanted the content I created for my channel to be suitable for all to enjoy.

The second area which I felt important was to be helpful.  Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that I needed to become an agricultural expert and know everything there is to know about farming.  Or worse, pretend to be that expert!  No, I’m simply talking about being helpful to those who are wanting to enjoy the game and get more from it.  I often talk about the fact that I’m just an IT Guy…I’m not a real life farmer.  While I grew up in rural Texas and have had many agricultural experiences which I often reflect back on (including four years of FFA), I don’t actually know a lot about modern day farming.  Nor do I really need to know a lot about it.  What I know and what I strive to share with my viewers is simply agriculture based on the way Farming Simulator 17 depicts it.  Part of this goal of being helpful is keeping an updated list of all the mods I’m using in my game play.   Of course, there is nothing wrong with gaining real-life knowledge and applying that to the virtual world.  I’ve learned more about real-life farming and I do strive to apply that knowledge as much as I can within the limits of the virtual world.

The third and final thing I’ll mention is remain humble.  I really didn’t do much in the early days of my channel to promote it.  I stuck to my plan and just produced the sort of content that I desired to watch.  Yes, subscribers came and my numbers began to grow.  Some stayed and some left.  In time, the dozen or so subscribers I had became two dozen, then fifty, then one hundred, then two-hundred, five hundred etc.  But each and every time I sit down to record an episode, I’m recording and producing that content based on the original dozen or so subscribers I had in the beginning.  It is also why I try very hard to acknowledge each and every comment viewers leave for me on my videos.

Do you need to base your channel on these same principles?  No, absolutely not.  You’ll need to decide what works for you.  But I do urge you to give the subject some thought and once you figure out your niche, stick to it and make it your own.

The Tools I use

At a minimum, you’ll need a method of capturing your game play so it can be uploaded to YouTube.  Like most things in life, you’ll find there are a few different solutions for this task.  Some GPU’s (graphic cards) may have the ability to capture/record your game play.  Nvidia is one of these and provides a solution called Shadowplay a second very popular solution (and the one I use) is called OBS (Open Broadcast Software).  OBS is super easy to setup and does an excellent job in capturing your game play (with voice audio) and also livestreaming.  I recorded a video about a year ago regarding my specific OBS settings I use.  You can view that video here.  There are two varieties of OBS at the moment.  The first is OBS Classic (that is what I discussed in the video I mentioned) and the second is OBS Studio.  I’m now using OBS Studio, but I haven’t had the chance to record a video on that, but will try to do that at some point in the future.

As previously stated, OBS will capture the game video and game audio.  But what about your audio.  Do you plan to provide commentary while playing?  In my opinion, the answer to that question should be YES!  Some only upload their game play video without commentary.  But very few YouTube content creators can do this is such a way to keep me engaged for the entire video.  I personally believe it’s important to have audio commentary as part of your videos.  This can be role play based or just talking about what you are doing, the weather, things going on in your life etc.  But to do this, you’ll need a good microphone.

I won’t lie to you.  I have a $500 microphone mounted onto a boom mic stand which I almost never use.  The reason for this is I get pretty good audio from a brand of headsets I’ve used for years.  The brand is Plantronics and they are designed for VoIP audio applications.  I currently use a Plantronics USB headset model Blackwire 720.  Now these won’t be the most expensive, nor will they be the cheapest headsets you can find….but they work very well and most importantly they work very well for me.

I simply have my headset audio configured to capture/record by OBS.  OBS records my game play video/audio as well as my headset audio commentary into one file.  If simplicity produces a quality product, then why overcomplicate it?

Are there other ways to do this?  Yes, absolutely.  But remember, this isn’t the definitive guide…this is the GrizzlyBearSims guide or way of doing things.

A Few more thoughts about audio

All things being considered, OBS (or even ShadowPlay) will do a pretty good job capturing your video game play.   But you’ll need to do a little experimentation where it comes to audio levels.  Most of the simulation based game titles I play (and record content from) have a few different audio controls to adjust audio/sounds from the game.  If able, you’ll want to turn any control you might have for controlling music to ZERO.  Any music which gets captured and included in your video will be subject to copyright rules.  Leaving this audio in your final edited/rendered/uploaded video will most likely get you into trouble with YouTube.  This includes the intro music for games like ATS, ETS2 and even Farming Simulator 17.  Ask me how I know this?  Yep…I learned the hard way.

You may also need to individually adjust audio controls for other sounds including vehicle engine noise, birds singing etc.  You don’t want your audio commentary to be lower in volume than your tractor sounds.  There is a happy medium and experimentation will help you achieve the perfect mix.

To Record Audio During or After….that is the question!

OK…one last comment regarding audio.  I personally record my audio during game play and I allow OBS to capture/mix both the game audio and the audio from my headset at the same time.  This process works well for me and I believe I receive acceptable results.  Some will use an additional piece of audio software called Audacity to capture their voice audio then they mix the two together during post production.  While I personally believe this process will give you more control over your spoken audio, it is an extra step which I simply don’t believe fits into my own workflow.

Finally, some folks will record their audio commentary completely after they have recorded their game play.  Almost think of this as being similar to a play-by-play sports broadcaster.  Again, this extra step most certainly will give you better control of the spoken audio.  But it is another time consuming step which doesn’t fit well into my workflow.

So you have a video file, now what?  Am I done?

Congrats!  But now what?  Can I just simply upload the video file OBS created to YouTube and call it a day?  Yes, of course you can.  After all, it’s what many others do as well.  But should you?  I say no….

Up to this point, I’ve given you the basic information you need to record your game play.  But if you truly want to set yourself a part from those who just simply upload their raw, unedited OBS output file….then please keep reading.

If you’ve spent time thinking about why you are wanting to start a YouTube channel and you’ve formulated a few goals you desire to focus on for channel success, then take it a step further and edit your videos for a more professional appearance.

I use a relatively inexpensive video editing software called Cyberlink PowerDirector.  You should be able to purchase this for around $50.00.  I actually use an older version from 2014 and find it still does the job I need it to do.  But I believe its very important to edit your videos for YouTube.

Like many I suffer from seasonal allergies.  But just because I suffer, doesn’t mean you must suffer along with me when watching my videos.  Meaning, I do everything possible to edit out my coughs, sneezes and sniffles in my videos.  The other benefit from editing your videos is the benefit of time which I’ll discuss next.

Time Waits for No One

If you are familiar with my channel and my videos, then you know I strive for a finished video to be in the neighborhood of 30 minutes in length.  In my opinion, anything longer than 60 minutes is just simply too long and most of your viewers will think so as well.

Just like me, you’ll have lots of competition on YouTube.  You’ll certainly earn fans who will watch just about anything you produce and hopefully they’ll sit at their PC’s or on their mobile devices refreshing the page until they are alerted that you’ve just released a new video, but you may not find many who only watches your content exclusively.  Well except for your wife, your mother etc.  But even then….don’t assume they are not watching other content as well.

Everyone has a limited amount of time.  The time I spend watching YouTube videos is part of the available time I have for gaming, recording game play content, editing etc.  In the very early days, I used to watch a lot more YouTube videos…but sadly I’ve had to cut back as I have many other commitments.  So you must also think about your viewers in the same way.  Most likely, if someone is watching your FS17 videos (as an example) they too play that same game.  They may also have time commitments of school, work, family etc.  This is why the 30 minute video length works for so many.

To Stream or Not To Stream

While the subject of this blog post has primarily been devoted to creating/producing recorded content for YouTube, many enjoy livestreaming as well.  When time permits, even I really enjoy livestreaming as it allows me an opportunity to interact with my viewers in real-time.  But if you are seeking my advice (and you must be if you’ve read this far down the page) there are a few cardinal rules you must follow.

First, be engaged with your livestream audience.  You’ll need a way to view the livestream chat while you are playing and streaming.  A game like Farming Simulator (in my opinion) is one of the best simulation based games which allows you the opportunity to stay engaged with your audience.  The pace at which you are driving is slow enough that you can glance at your chat, read comments and easily provide commentary and answer questions.  Games such as ATS/ETS2 are just a little more difficult, but still very much doable.  The key is if you get your audience interacting with you, your livestreams will be much more enjoyable and successful.  If you fail to stay engaged with your viewers during a livestream, then you will fail at livestreaming.

Second,  This is just a pet peeve of mine.  But don’t clutter up the livestream video with a bunch of chat boxes, cheesy animations etc.  Yes, I realize a lot of folks like the self gratification of seeing or hearing their name when they subscribe…but to me (and perhaps this is only because I’m of the older, more mature crowd) it just causes a huge distraction and takes away from the main subject.  I subscribe to the philosophy of less is more.

Third, operate your livestream the same way you operate your video feeds.  Meaning, if you are running a G Rated channel and only producing G Rated content, then you need to ensure that your livestreams follow these same guidelines.  Recruit a few of your loyal, trusted viewers to act as moderators.  This will help to ensure your chat remains clean.

Getting Rich Quick

With the new rules governing YouTube Partnership and monetization, if you are just beginning your YouTube journey, then don’t count those chickens before they hatch.  You’ll be disappointed if you do.  Now I didn’t say that because I don’t believe being a YouTube content creator is not a real job.  While there are lots of people who have become quite successful in producing content for YouTube and earn a nice income from it, I have a feeling these individuals would find it a little harder to recreate what they have today based on the new rules.  But that’s not what this article is about so let me force myself to get back on target.

Once you meet the criteria to begin to monetize your videos, you have the potential to earn a little money.  I use the word “little” because until your channel grows and all the other factors grow along with it, you will only earn a little bit of money in the program.  But don’t let that discourage you from starting a channel if you desire and certainly once you start a channel, don’t let this discourage you from monetizing it if that is also something you desire.

Be Prepared for Criticism

Unfortunately, haters are gonna hate.  There are some YT viewers who make it their daily job to surf from one channel to another writing crude, rude and generally obnoxious comments just for the sake of getting under your skin.  For the most part these folks are not even watching your content.  They just write these comments and move to the next video.  While this is an issue, don’t let this stop you from seeking comments from your viewers.

The Power of Suggestion

Do you ever wonder why fast-food restaurants always ask “would you like an apple pie with your order”?  It’s because most of the time when you step up to the counter (or drive thru) and order that burger and fries combo, you are only thinking about burger and fries.  You may realize they also sell apple pies, but you aren’t thinking about that.  When that person utters the words “would you like an apple pie” your brain goes, oh…yea…that’d be nice and you say YES!  Well the same somewhat applies here.  During my videos (when I can remember) I generally always ask my viewers to “Like, Comment and Subscribe”.  Because if you don’t ask, you may never receive.

In Closing

Hopefully I’ve provided you enough information to help you get started.  Once again I just want to remind everyone that this isn’t meant to be the definitive guide to getting started on YouTube.  These simply are just a few thoughts of my own based on my own experience.   While I must thank many individuals for helping me start my YouTube adventure, over the past two years I believe I’ve also mentored a few as well.  It’s all part of the “give and take” of life.  I hope this article helps you and if I can be of further assistance, please reach out to me via my Discord channel.

As always, Thank You for your time.  Please consider sharing this blog article on your favorite social media platforms using the buttons below.  I appreciate it and I’ve just proven how the power of suggestion actually works.  Funny huh?

Until next time….

Happy Simming!

Jerry

One of our own…

One of our own…needs some help!  If there is one thing I truly know in the very bottom of my heart is as a community we do our very best to take care of our own.  Especially when the individual in need of help has helped so many.  Now please understand that this is the very first time I’ve actually put words down on my blog in an effort to ask YOU to help someone else.  So here goes….

A fellow simulation gamer named BiPolar Prophet is an awesome gamer and fellow YouTuber.  I’ve come to know him through his videos and I’m telling you his content is some of the best I’ve seen on YouTube.  He’s been producing “Let’s Play” gaming videos for several years now including game play on ATS, ETS2, Spintires, iRacing and of course lots and lots of Farming Simulator 15.  Actually it’s through his FS15 videos where I’ve come to know him and come to appreciate all the hard work he puts into his videos. 

Anyway, the BiPolar Prophet’s gaming laptop (the machine he uses to play, record and render his awesome videos) is on it’s last legs.   Unfortunately he’s not in a position to be able to just go out and purchase a new machine.  Also, BP is a very proud individual and hasn’t directly asked for assistance.  But many of his friends are asking the community on his behalf. 

So here’s the deal.  Many of you have known me through my blogging (and now YouTube) efforts for many years.  You trust me enough by returning and reading my material and now watching my videos.  I ask you to trust me once again, and please go visit BP’s YouTube channel and watch some of his videos.  IF you like what you see (and I believe you will), then at the top of his YouTube Channel page is a donation link (via Paypal).  I ask you, please consider making what ever amount of donation you feel you can.  BiPolar Prophet will use the donation to purchase another gaming machine and get back to producing his awesome content. 

Here’s the link to BiPolar Prophet’s YouTube Channel.  From that page, just look in the upper right corner and you’ll see buttons for Facebook, Paypal, Twitter, Twitch etc.  Just click the Paypal button and make a donation.  Any amount will be greatly appreciated. 

On behalf of BP and all his friends…I thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for the consideration. 

Jerry

Fifty

Number-50

The number 50 is a pretty special number for me in many ways.  I turned the BIG 5-0 just a few weeks ago, but even more important….my little YouTube Channel has officially reached 50 subscribers.  Because of this, I’m extremely happy.  Actually….I’m ecstatic.  I truly am!  Yes, I know the number 50 is still very small compared to some YouTube channels.  I know I have so much to learn and I need to really polish, polish and polish some more to get anywhere near the level of quality as those YouTube virtual farmers I truly look up to and admire.  I truly thank each and every of the 50 individuals who took the chance and subscribed to my channel and will work very hard to improve and make you all proud to be the first fifty.

A very special “Thank You” to Mike (Reefy1952) who (unbeknownst to him) serves as my mentor and personal inspiration.

As we continue together over the next several days, weeks and months….I will strive to do my very best and work hard to keep each of you as subscribers while hopefully gaining even more.

Thank you

Jerry

Logitech Acquires Saitek

I don’t always comment on news happening outside of the actual game titles I play.  But this latest bit of news will be interesting to follow.  Basically Logitech has acquired Saitek/Mad Catz.  Personally, I think this is fantastic news.  I’ve long been a fan of Logitech.  Their quality is far superior to that of Saitek.  I own/owned many Logitech products and have also purchased several Saitek items.  The Logitech hardware is still running while some older Saitek pieces have long been thrown away. 

It is uncertain what will happen with the Saitek Farming Simulator wheel, pedals and side panel controller which Saitek and Giants teamed up to develop.  I’ve heard rumors of these controllers being in short supply and Amazon retailers telling customers they didn’t know when they would get new stock.   For the record, I didn’t purchase the Farming Simulator Saitek controller.  I really had no need for this as I already had the Logitech G27 and a Logitech joystick.  But….But…I’ve thought more than once about purchasing the side panel. 

Again, time will tell how this all plays out.  Here’s a news article discussing the acquisition

Until next time…

Jerry

As Real As It Gets?

The other morning I was farming along when one of the Steam users I follow messaged me.  He was asking questions about Farming Simulator 15 and the level of realism it offers to the virtual farmer.  During the back and forth exchange, he was asking if things like season, climate, weather and other regional challenges were factored into the game.  Of course I had to regretfully explain that none of these elements are factored into default game play.  I did elaborate slightly about how mods like the awesome SoilMod do go a long way in helping to achieve a slightly deeper level of immersion.  However, I believe he was really seeking even more depth than what is available through the mods I’m aware of.   He went on to throw out ideas such as seasons with the idea that during certain seasons the virtual farmer would be forced to do other tasks on the farm.  Take certain aspects of the farming life indoors through the use of greenhouse facilities.  In addition, many of us would love to see more realism with regards to ground physics, vehicle mechanics (maintenance, damage, dirt) and perhaps even player fatigue come into play.   Of course, there are mods which try to simulate mechanical reliability (the damage mod comes to mind).  But there really is no penalty if we choose to never wash our vehicles.  Try that in the real world and see where that gets you.

While it would be safe to say the majority of individuals who will read this blog post either directly from GrizzlyBearSims.com, PC-SG Forums or anywhere else it’s being distributed do truly want a more “As Real As It Gets” level of realism from our favorite simulation based games (myself included).  But unfortunately, our numbers are very small and for many reasons.  First, cost!  But more about these things in just a minute.

Of the simulation based games I enjoy (think Planes, Trains and Automobiles – and Farming Too!) Flight Sim (Prepar3D, FSX or X-Plane) is truly the best at delivering the most “As Real As It Gets” experience.  Actually, the term “As Real As It Gets” has been the Microsoft motto for their flight sim franchise for as long as I can remember.  But if you break it all down, flight sim (again via Prepar3D, FSX or X-Plane) offers the enthusiast a 100% global experience.  Want to fly from Denver to London?  Want to experience real world weather conditions both on the ground and in the air?  Want to experience the effects of windshere or what happens when you mis-calculate the amount of fuel required to complete a flight?  Yep….it can be done in flight sim.   Take the level of immersion up a few notches with complex payware add-on aircraft which simulate how the real aircraft equivalent performs from a cold & dark flight deck experience all the way to engine shutdown.  It can be done!  Of course much of what I’ve described is only available through add-ons (or mods).  But it is available and they do a really good job of full immersion.   But the downside, it costs a lot of money to reach this level of immersion.

A company like Giants is in business to make money and it is my opinion that at the present date and time, they are the best at what they do.  Yes, competition is certainly on the horizon.  The fourth quarter of 2016 and early 2017 is shaping up to be the year of all things Farming Simulation.  Some titles are already here with others to come.  While it’s true all appear to offer a little more realism, much of what we may want may never come.  Especially at the price point of $19 – 29 USD.  But just as important, the audience numbers are also relatively small.  Most are just not interested in the full immersion.  In the example of farm sim, most just want to plant, fertilize, harvest then rinse and repeat.  Factoring in the need to make important decisions such as do I have enough hay, straw, silage to last the winter months…is it too early (or too late) to plant X crop or another number of any of the many other factors which go into running a real world farming empire.

Of course, these are just my opinions.  What do you think?

Until next time…

Jerry

Realism through Simulation

I play a lot of simulation based video games.  Actually…if the game doesn’t have the word “simulation” in the title, I’m very much liable to pass it by.  I also have an extremely narrow definition of the word “simulation” and there are some very popular game titles using the word “simulation” in their name.  Some of these titles have absolutely earned the right to be called “simulators” and some have not.  In addition to playing simulation based games, I also enjoy watching others via Twitch and YouTube.  There are a lot of really good gamers out there and likewise there are a lot of not-so-great gamers.  It may surprise you to know that my views of what makes a great simulation gamer versus a not-so-great simulation gamer may have little to do with regards to controlling an aircraft, backing up a truck, seeding a field or driving a train.  The reason?  We’re all a noob at some point.  The majority of the great simulation based gamers don’t have a pilots license, they’ve never driven a vehicle larger than a car and the closest thing they come to running a farm is when they walk through the produce aisle at their local grocery store.  For the most part, what makes them great is how much they strive for realism in their gaming style.

Realism through Simulation

I’m not sure if the tagline “Realism through Simulation” has been adopted by anyone.  I did Google it and I searched using that phrase on YouTube and nothing really relating to video game play or video gamers popped up, so I’m adopting it for my blog.  Realism through Simulation will become my goal as I not only play the various simulation based games I enjoy, but it will also become the threshold for what I write about and how I write about it here on GrizzlyBearSims.com.

Mods, Mods, Mods – The root of all that is evil?

One pitfall I see many gamers fall into with regards to realism has to do with mods.  Before I go any further, let me say this.  I absolutely love and support the modding community.  While you may disagree with what I’m going to say next, I truly believe the modding community has been instrumental in the success of many of the simulation based games I play.  Said another way, many of these game titles would have been dead a long time ago without a strong modding community supporting them.  Imagine what it would be like to play ETS2, ATS, FS15 etc. without mods?

But some mods are perhaps the root of all that is evil…or certainly go along ways towards breaking realism.  Again, before I go further….let me just say that I’m NOT writing this article to instruct anyone how they should play their simulation based games.  If you want to haul in the wheat crop pulling a loooooooooonnnnnnnnggggggg train of tippers that is your choice.  Likewise, if you want to cultivate a field with a cultivator measuring almost 150 feet, again that is your choice.

Perhaps the reason why I’ve been thinking about my own game play style and choosing to write about it has to do with a Twitch channel I watched recently.  I’ll keep the identity of the streamer to myself, but he was clearly struggling and I (and many other viewers) were trying to coach him on a few things.  Most of the issues he had were caused by some of the mods he was using.  But towards the end of his broadcast he mentioned that he was bored with Farming Simulator 15 because it was too easy.  Yes, he was cultivating his field with a 150 foot cultivator.

As I try to wrap this up, no I certainly don’t count the rivets or bolts and I don’t compare color swatches.  But for me and how I choose to play these simulation based games…I do strive for authencity.    I believe playing simulation based games as authentic as possible, goes a long way towards keeping the level of play from becoming boring.  It’s one of the reasons why I will routinely plow AND cultivate a field before harvest.  It’s also the reason why I don’t use a 150’ cultivator.

Realisim thorugh Simulation works for me.

Until next time…

Best of luck with your simulation adventures….regardless how you play the game.

J

PC-SG Simulation Gaming Community

PC-SG

If you’re like me, you desire to participate in internet forums or communities along with likeminded individuals for the sole purpose of learning, sharing knowledge or for just good ole camaraderie with good people.  While there are communities just for the farming folks, or for the truckers…there are very few which are geared towards all things simulation gaming.  And let’s be honest, if you truly enjoy simulation based gaming…you more than likely are farming, you are trucking, you may also be flying, driving a train, a bus…etc.  Of course, another issue with some online communities has to do with their heavy handed moderation tactics which in my opinion just says “UNFRIENDLY”.  As I’ve become older, I’ve found I have very little time for these types of places and tend to avoid them like the plague.  But…there is a place that is different.

Please allow me a few minutes to share with all my readers of the GrizzlyBearSims Blog, a wonderful community which is dedicated to all things simulation.  The community is called PC-SG.  The PC-SG site is managed by a wonderful individual named Stuart who is based in the UK.  I first learned about PC-SG last summer as Stuart was launching the community.  Stuart asked me if I would be interested in joining and helping him with some moderation duties and writing content.  I gladly accepted and really enjoyed my time assisting.  Unfortunately, I had to take a few months away due to personal reasons…but returned to PC-SG and have also resumed my staff duties as well.  I’m truly honored Stuart kept my seat warm during my absence.

I truly believe PC-SG is a different kind of community, built and designed for a different breed of gamer.  Stuart himself is an avid simulation gamer and passionate about helping others.  After all, he created PC-SG just for the sole purpose of bringing like minded individuals together who enjoy simulation based gaming and want an online place to call home.  At PC-SG you’ll find others who share your enthusiasm and interest in simulation games including Flight Simulator, Train Simulator, Farming Simulator, Truck Simulator and more.  At PC-SG you’ll also find extremely talented individuals who have taken their love of simulation games and combined it with their creativity to produce some of the best mods on the internet.

I think I can speak for Stuart when I say, we want and need others who share our level of passion and enthusiasm.  If you enjoy PC Simulation Gaming and looking for others who also share your same interests, then head over to PC-SG and register for an account.  Then…stop by the forums and introduce yourself.

Thank you for your time and I’ll see you at PC-SG.

Have a great weekend!

J

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