SWTOR and Graphics – Part 8
Another part in the saga. This has to do with an overall system look. I have had the honour of helping a friend upgrade their PC recently and myself. As far as the upgrades go, both of us were running processors that were fairly old, basic run down of what was previously happening. For me, I was running the following specs;
- Intel Q6600 Core2 Quad Processor @ 2.4GHz
- 8GB DDR2 800MHz Dual Channel RAM
- nvidia GeForce 570GTX (over-clocked to 580GTX speeds)
- Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional Series
- SanDisk 128GB SSD Extreme (SWTOR installation)
These are my specs, I also had 2x 500GB WD Green HDD RAID 0 as my Windows system drive, 1 x 1TB WD Velociraptor 10K rpm drive.
This ran SWTOR decent. I would get a little bogged down in some areas, especially fleet, thinking this was more to do with my network card. Looking at my fps counter in SWTOR (CTRL + SHIFT + F) it was constantly red and often would go from about 50fps down to 18fps in some areas. Average was about 25-40fps.
My friends specs, if I can remember was;
- AMD Phenom Quad Core @ 2.4GHz
- 4GB DDR2 RAM (Don’t know speed)
- nvidia GeForce 550Ti (equiv to a 560)
- Sound Blaster (I do not know the type, but was not a PCi or PCiE card)
- SSD Drive (SWTOR installation)
Similar specs, not the same, but I did notice that when I went from 4GB to 8GB, there wasn’t a performance hit, a little smoother in places, less jerky but certainly not smooth. With those specs my friend was experiencing, sup 20fps constantly on Very Low settings in game. Using the tip in Part 7, she turned the PhysX to default to the video card and she saw an instant improvement over the performance. Not brilliant but more playable.
The minimum specs for this game are as follows;
- Intel Core2 Duo 2GHz or AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better
- 2GB RAM
- ATI X1800 or nvidia 7800 or Intel 4100 integrated graphics chip or better (256MB on-board using Shader Model 3.0 or better)
These specs, are very conservative, it is the minimum and if, according to the minimum specs, a machine exceeds it, it should run OK. But since it was running at Very Low and was still chugging along it shows a lot as to what is happening.
She requested I provide some upgrade items to upgrade her machine, within a budget.
So I picked up a;
- Intel Core i5 @3.4GHz (4 threads)
- 8GB RAM DDR3
- MSI LGA 1155 Z77 Intel Chipset motherboard
I am sorry I can’t remember the specifics, but I will get them soon. This simple and sub $400 upgrade to the system was able to make the game a visual feast for her and, certainly increases her level of enjoyment. PvP isn’t a struggle, areas normally grinding to a crawl are smooth and accessible, the fleet just runs as it should, the number of cores is the same on this processor, but it is running 1GHz faster. The RAM, faster and has a wider bus than the DDR2 RAM previously. The motherboard supports SATA3 connection which the SSD was connected to, boosting this drives performance from max 3Gbs to 6Gbs
ME. I went a little more upscale, since I do develop on this machine run virtual machines I thought I would give myself a little more grunt.
- Intel Core i7 @ 3.4GHz (8 threads)
- 32GB GSkill 12800 (1600MHz) DDR3 RAM
- ASUS Sabertooth Z77 LGA 1155 motherboard.
So, as you can see the components replaced in each case are similar, but there is a difference. But with the inclusion of these new components I can say, I have never seen SWTOR running any better and any smoother. It is regularly at 80fps or higher. I haven’t gone top of the line but I have done enough to make the game run so much better. When I start running the ops and
Do you have issues with running SWTOR, well do a comparison to your specs. What I have found is, often the video card is moot, it is the CPU, disks and RAM that can really affect things. Here are some recommendations for you.
How to determine where the problem is?
This is done using the FPS display. Press CTRL + SHIFT + F this will show the number of frames per second in the lower left corner of the screen. This displays is shown like xxx.x (yyy.y) where xxx.x is the actual frame rate, and yyy.y is the lowest frame rate over the last 10 seconds, or so). This meter is also a particular colour based on what is throttling the frame rate.
- RED – The GPU is the bottleneck
- GREEN – The CPU is the bottleneck
- YELLOW – Both are the bottleneck
So if it is red, the GPU is causing slow downs. Do not be scared if you are running above 60fps and it is red. It simply means that the video card can’t process any more frames at that moment. If it is green it is unable to send enough data to the GPU for rendering and yellow is they are both processing things fast.
For most it will be red most of the time. Some places will cause it to change or flicker a lot between the colours. I have found this on Tython recently. Here are some items to think about. Disregard the colour if your are happy with the performance of the game, above 60fps is very enjoyable, 40-60fps is barely noticeable, 25-40 you can notice a stutter, below 25 things are become a problem. Only when you fps drops look at what might be causing it. Work out how this can be improved with what you have.
SWTOR stream textures from the disk in many areas, you may notice this as you travel on your speeder, stop next to something and you find that the low res textures are there and then the higher ones pop in. This helps with in game memory usage but if you are running a slower disk or older bus, then this can be a drag on the system.
A quick fix for this, an SSD drive, low capacity are very cheap at the moment, lots faster and the textures can be streamed from them quicker. If you are running SATA or SATA2 devices, buying an IO card with SATA3 on there, using a PCiE slot (if available), hooking this up. An IO card is really cheap.
- 60GB SATA3 SSD, is about $80 (see here for details)
- USB3.0 and SATA3 card about $22 (see here for details)
Then if you have USB 3.0, then you could use an external drive which will still give you better speeds than some SATA2 drives. But not really recommended unless you are building a USB device yourself with disk and enclosure.
If you have 8GB of RAM or more, then I might suggest using SWTOR Unleashed. This loads some or all of the game files into a RAMDISK. You can decide what file to load into the RAMDISK. You must launch the game from this interface as it points the game at the right location for the files. This is recommended on laptops as they often have 5400rpm drives, but really only for machines with a lot of RAM.
Erratic Frame Rates
This is a hairy one to deal with as there can be many different things causing this. Certainly looking over the series for SWTOR and Graphics would help, but it might be an area that is still causing issues. If you find the gameplay is jerky, then lower the max frames rendered on the video card if available. 3 is default, 2 would be the lowest I could recommend.
Try SWTOR Unleashed, as this may smooth some things out as simply transferring from RAM along the bus without the need for reading from a disk will improve things.
The PhysX processing on the card if you can do so. Multi-core CPUs will always have physics running on the CPU as the GPU doesn’t care how fast things are.
Constantly Slow Frame Rates
This is when you look down and see frame rates regularly below 35. This might be calls for an upgrade if you need to. Tweaking the settings will improve things, turning off settings, over-clocking things will add those additional frames one needs to make the game bearable.
Once you have looked at everything and still need improvement it is time to perhaps looking at putting your PC out to pasture and get a new one. If like me, you had some still very good components then am upgrade might be the way to go. Trust me, you can upgrade your PC to better specs that will run this game great with little money.
EDIT – 14 Nov 2016
After a comment I thought I would rack down the information and include a reference. I should have included the reference sooner. Thanks for reminding me that I should, not directly.