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The specs

Well I have now thought I will post what I am physically dealing with.  I am getting the business end of the graphics post and certainly I felt that there would be people who might be interested in knowing a baseline of what I am dealing with.  So I have taken some screen shots of CPU-z and GPU-Z.

The Desktop.  This is the machine I have been doing all of the writing on.

CPU

The Laptop, the machine I am writing this on at the moment since my internet is shaped and I need to you a 3G WiFi device.

CPULaptop

So as you can see the laptop has an i7 but the desktops Core2 Quad has a some better speeds to it.

Now the GPU, the desktop.

GPU

A pretty good card, not top, but still I think bang for buck it is pretty good.

Laptop has 2, but not available at the same time.  I can’t say if it is good or not, but it means I can use my laptop with the 9 cell battery for about 6-7 hours which is great.  So below is the Intel card, the “power-saving card”

image

and now the ATI card.

image

So you can see there is a vast difference between the cards on the laptop, the ATI and Intel cards and also the desktop and the laptop.  Memory wise, both have 8GB, the desktop has DDR2 800 and the laptop has DDR3 800.  I know the speed is similar but the bandwidth of the bus for each is different, from memory it is twice the bus width.

So there is it.  With the specs laid down on the table, I will be able to start focusing on the final part, well after I show the base ATI settings.

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SWTOR and Graphics – Part 4

Now we have covered a lot thus far.  I have delved into the nVidia 3D settings into some depth in Part 1.  I have then gone through some basic DirectX information about installing DirectX 9 onto the system in Part 2.  I went through and spoke about services and what can or can’t, or common services than can be stopped in Part 3Part 3.5 just gave some DOS command files to stop services, and I posted the ones I use.  And now we come to Part 4, were I will go into the settings within the game itself.

Now prior to this, all of the other information in the other parts could be used for any game. But now, some of the settings are interchangeable with games but some of these options are specific to Star Wars: The Old Republic.  With that, here is a screen shot.

https://n4ppag.sn2.livefilestore.com/y1poJQrIkLkMlmNyQSCytGxFKbSYLOf8lUwVNXu6e8dbc_cr6Grp6uEHRDVFIvE717O5c39EzuMW-ZEU0IE3fRC6SVUSxJApZ6X/Screenshot_2012-08-09_23_16_27_965768.jpg?psid=1

And another

https://nyppag.sn2.livefilestore.com/y1pwFzbdG8JMk4YjRpkttdE8cd-kwRygNEbNsov86w2HTOA3lvYkavo1rLkQgXH2mcmHwb_-iY9ipTrYzBUonOX6q7nKcxD7NeF/Screenshot_2012-08-09_23_16_37_797004.jpg?psid=1

So, they might not be visible on the blog, but click on them to see the full size.

Like the 3D settings I will go through each of these and explain the options.  One of the thing that this highlights is a lot of settings are duplicated.  The 3D control panel options sometimes offer, override or enhance application settings.  But we will not go for much in this, and just relying on switching the elements on or off in their various places.

General

Vertical Sync – This is keeping the frame rate in line with the refresh rate of the monitor.  This stops tearing, which I have talked about in Part 1.

Full Screen Exclusive Mode – This sets how the application will be provided to you by windows.  Full Screen, Full Screen (Windowed), Windowed.  Full Screen is the exclusive mode.  If you Alt+Tab to your Windows, then when you switch back to SWTOR it will refresh all graphics and show you the logo screen.  Full Screen (Windowed) will show the game in full screen but if you Alt+Tab to Windows and back the screen won’t refresh as it is drawing in the background. This is very useful if you switch between your desktop and the game often, as you don’t need to worry about it redrawing when you go back to the game.  Windowed is simple, it shows the game within a Windows frame.  You can Maximise it, minimise it, move it to another monitor or close it like any other Windows application.

Graphics Quality Preset – This has some different options that sets the fields below it to default values.  There is Very High, High, Medium, Low, Very Low and Customer.

Resolution – This changes the number of horizontal and vertical pixels displayed.  This should be set to your monitor maximum unless you are unable to get good frame rate.

Advanced Settings

These setting are where it makes the most difference in FPS, and like in Part 1, I will provide the base setting for each, since in the next part we will be exploring the tweaking side of these settings.

Bloom – This is a shader effect.  Turning this on will also switch the shader complexity option to High automatically.  Bloom essentially makes light more realistic as it provides a “blooming” effect around the light.  This will be switch off by default.

Conversation Depth of Field – This setting changes nothing else and is only used when in conversation.  It enables a depth of field perception, giving what is seen a more in camera look.  Background object not in focus will be fuzzy but the focus can change and does.  It looks good, but depending on the rig it can chew up the resources a little.  But since it affects only conversations it isn’t a huge issue.  This will be switched off by default.

Texture Quality – This is a simple setting but can have a drastic effect on how good a game looks and how good a game performance.  Smaller textures are fast to load but the better quality textures are often larger in size, take more memory and therefore more resources, they take more time to load and render.  It is a straight forward option this one.  This will be set to Low by default.

Shader Complexity – This determines the complexity, and therefore quality of the pixel shaders used.  The higher the complexity the better the look on all post processing effects.  The available options for this is Very Low, Low or High.  This will be set to Very Low by default.

Anti-Aliasing – I went into detail in Part 1 for this and I will not rehash this.  The available settings for this is Low, High or Off This will be set to Off by default.

Character Level of Detail – This directly translates to the number of polygons in the character on screen.  The more polygons that are on screen the more time it needs to render it.  The available settings for this is Low or High.  This will be set to Low by default.

Texture Anisotropy – I went into a decent amount of detail within Part 1 for this.  The available settings for this is Low, Medium or High,   This will be set to Low by default.

Shadow Quality – This is the quality of shadows used in the game.  Shadows are another major element that can really make a game look great or perform terribly, dependant on the specifications.  The settings of this is Off, Low or High.  This will be set to Off by default.

Character Texture Atlasing – This is a new feature available in video cards where a 3D object is made up of many different textures, most of these textures need to be loaded separately, with the loading of each texture comes overhead.  By create a texture atlas it is essentially one load and information is then kept on the x and y position of each portion of the texture and where it goes on the model.  This is in addition to the Texture Quality, but this only affects the character models.  The settings of this is, Low or High.  This will be set to Low by default.

Grass Quality – This slider has the effect of the amount of grass seen by the character.  The more grass there is to draw the better the ground looks but it is also a drag on performance as these are animated spites and require resources to load and render.  This slider goes from 0 to 100.  This will be set to 0 by default.

Tree Quality – This is slightly different to the Grass Quality slider as it relates to the foliage on the trees and more importantly the quality of it the further in the distance they are.  This slider goes from 0 to 100.  This will be set to 0 by default.

Visible Character Limit – I need to confirm this but I believe it relates to the number of player characters visible on screen.  This was added to enable an increase in the number of frames you get on fleets when the servers are busy.  Since the increased number of characters on screen during these busy times makes the game slow, to the point of being unbearable.  Changing this will change the frame rate within these heavily populated areas.  The settings for this is, Low, Medium, High and Very High.  This will be set to Low by default.

This brings us to the end of the descriptions of these setting and the descriptions of them.  I have said what each one should be, and we will go through some more information about changing these settings and how it looks in game, coupled with the 3D control panel settings we will aim to get the best frame rate possible and also the best looking game.

I will be doing a Part 4.5 in which I will go over the ATI settings on my Laptop.  Now this is not going to provide all of the features of the desktop versions at all but since I am going to be showing these two, it is a good way of looking at the two extremes since my desktop configuration isn’t top of the line but I think there is very little in the way of additional things I can do when I start tweaking to make the game look better or perform better.  And with the laptop it is a completely different beast, hardware wise it is a great machine.  Well, I will show you the machine specs of both and let you be the judge.

References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom_(shader_effect)
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texture_atlas