Friday Factoid: Graphics Performance Killers

Posted: April 18, 2008 by zobek in Friday Factoid

Graphics lag.

We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. Even the most powerful gaming system can be brought to its knees occasionally, leaving us with herky-jerky graphics that stutter or even lock up.

There can be any number of reason why this occurs, but fortunately, there’s some generic (and even game-specific) methods to cut down your chances of lag occurring.

Hit the jump for some ways you can get smoother performance in your games without having to invest in heavier hardware.

Screen Resolution

Perhaps the easiest thing to change if you’re experiencing slower performance than you’d like is your screen resolution setting. When you lower your resolution, the graphics card has fewer pixels to calculate each cycle, meaning it can do more in the same amount of time.

True, you might not find the smaller size to your liking, and if you’re running an LCD panel lower than its native size you have scaling to contend with, but overall this is often the most effective way to get better performance.

Performance Profiles

Sure, we all love the shiny. Who doesn’t? But all that extra processing for reflections and shadows can take a high toll. In most games, these types of effects are just eye candy, and something most players can live without. Changing your graphics profile in-game to a less-detailed setting can make all the difference in the world.

Flora/Shadows

As mentioned above, things like plants and character shadows aren’t really necessary for the game to run, and most players find they can do without them. If your game has “fluff” effects you don’t care about, less is usually more.

Particle Effects

In EverQuest II, this is probably one of the biggest performance hits. Every single spell cast by a player has it’s own effects, and all those sparkly bits can cause your system to choke. As the number of players present increases, so does the number of spell effects. In tense fights where timing is everything, some players turn these off entirely.

Wait for the Developers

Okay, this one isn’t really something you have control over, but sometimes an zone or level is just laggy as all get out, and the only thing you can do is wait for a patch to be made that changes how the zone is designed or how the engine works.

Case in point, the April 17th patch notes for EQ2 included the following:

Added a new option, “Reuse vertex buffers”, in the “Display” tab under “Performance”, this may help alleviate some of the stutter or stall issues seen on certain video cards. When set, the graphics engine will cache and reuse vertex buffers.

Multitasking

Lots of games feature the capability to run windowed versus full-screen these days, but does that mean you should do it? Not necessarily. Playing windowed can lead to MGS, or Multitasking Gamer Syndrome. 🙂 Running other apps while gaming can waste system resources.

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Comments
  1. Illuminator says:

    With this matter it is important to educate the player on which EQ2 graphics features are done purely in software (anticipating a CPU clock speed increase that instead plateaued at 3GHz) and which utilize the graphics hardware you spend extra on.

    For example, changing texture quality and switching from windowed/full screen mode have zero impact on my frame rate. Those are managed in hardware. But anything related to particle effects like spell explosions, flora (they are designed to animate when you walk over them), or cloth animation will plunge my frame rate an order of magnitude. Same with shadows. Because those are done “manually” in software.

  2. zobek says:

    Oh, certainly, Illuminator – and it’s true that EQ2 is pretty heavily bound to the CPU.

    That’s particularly why I mentioned running full-screen instead of windowed mode… not because the switch itself affects your framerate, but because if you run full-screen you’ll be less likely to browse the web, have IM going, etc. at the same time. Running full-screen cuts down on the temptation to multi-task, which keeps CPU cycles free.

  3. Ariel Vardi says:

    Hey,
    I just saw this site and I decided a week ago to start playing this game. I joined the game 2 years ago but quit after a month because my PC wasn’t strong enough but I loved the game! Now that my PC is strong enough I decided to give it another go and buy the new All In On pack.
    My only hesitation is about me being alone playing. Is there enough people playing? Will I be joined into a guild quickly? I’m afradi to be stuck playing alone an mmo because this came out 3.5 years ago so that’s my only concern. Would you be able to answer me these questions? oh and also which server is the most populated one and best?

    Thanks alot,
    Ariel

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