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royaltyinexile

Take On Video Settings!

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Ok... over the next few weeks, we're going to take on the whale. Which whale you ask..? The big one. Real Virtuality's Moby Dick. Yup, it's Video Settings & Optimisations!

About

We want players to have a good starting point if they're not happy with their default video settings. We're not interested in squeezing out an extra frame here or there, or upgrading equipment. Rather, we're interested in helping people understand how to get the best from their set up without needing to resort to ancient black magic. That, of course, comes later ;)

I'll lock this thread, so it's clean and free of blood-stained arguments about SSDs, AMDs, and Ram-disks. But feel free to discuss and post your own experiences elsewhere!

General Information AKA "BIS wai u no give me moar framez"

To start with, it's worth pointing out that there is no 'ideal' configuration. The beauty of the options are their flexibility. It's unlikely that anyone can run everything completely maxed-out; rather, it's about setting up the game the way you're most comfortable with.

Some may prefer to fly with enormous view-distance; others, with highly dense objects or the best possible quality of textures. For example, I've included my personal set up below.

In general terms...

  • it's the view-distance that'll get you. If you're having problems, try turning that down first.
  • the advanced options will (mostly) get you a few frames here and there, but your first port of call should be the visibility and object-draw distance.
  • our engine is CPU and HDD hungry, you'll want to make sure these components are working at their best first (defragment and don't encode a video in the background....)
  • you may want to make sure your drivers are up to date, even CEO's need to double check sometimes!
  • setting your Resolution to your monitor's native will give you sharper text and textures but, on monstrous screens, will ask a lot of your graphics card.
  • setting 3D Resolution >100% will improve things like cockpit textures, but you'll have to make performance trade-offs elsewhere, such as view-distance.
  • look for bottlenecks in your set-up! Evaluate whether your CPU, GPU or HDD is capping your overall performance, and work with the advanced video options to give you better quality!
  • play around with your configuration until you've found a satisfying compromise!

To be honest, part of the problem with handing to user so many options, is that he can really 'break' his experience. For example, say we let the player set 20K view distance, and hand controls over the textures and shadow draw distance and complexity (we do!). At even the recommended spec, you just can't handle setting all of these to max, and at the same time retain maximum texture quality. Indeed, our engine actively tries to detect a lack of resources, and scales back other aspects (such as picking which LOD to use), which can be often quite frustrating.

However, it's long been our policy to give the user the choice. That's certianly not to say we can't do more to optimise - that work is, of course, important and on-going - but, we feel that if we can provide the player with the tools to understand and tweak his game, he'll be able to set it up to satisfy his own subjective preferences.

RiE's Set Up

I like to fly in a certain way...

  • It all starts with the heliport. Taking off in the light helicopter, I want to see the Seattle Downtown skyline in all its glory.
    This means I'm going to need at least 6km of object-draw distance.
    I don't care too much about further than that, so my visibility can sit pleasantly at 7km.
  • Now I'm flying, I want Seattle to look as good as it can.
    The biggest thing I can do to make that happen is setting Objects Detail to very high.
    This will make sure all those frame-rate sucking trees are drawn. Mmm, leafy!
    I'm going to set my terrain detail to high too, it just looks sharper and it isn't costing me much in terms of my frames between high and medium anyway.
  • The clouds are cool, but since any setting is an improvement over Arma clouds, I'm comfortable to turn them down a little.
    I still get the feeling that they're volumetric, etc, but I'd rather use my frames elsewhere.
    The same can be said for shadows, normal will do for me, although when I'm done tweaking my setting maybe I'll come back and see how many frames it'll cost to set them higher.
  • Ok. So, looking out the window is pretty awesome now, but what about the helicopter itself?
    Well, I'm going to crank texture detail up to very high and set my 3D resolution to 114% (maybe I'll even come back and try to bump it to 150% later on).
    Now I can glance down at my gauges and see them quite easily, without the need to zoom in.
    It also means I don't have to turn AA up too high, as the added 3d resolution does some of the work for me. Also, my eyes aren't too offended by the occasional jaggy.
  • Things are going pretty well, but here's the catch. If I turn on PiP, I'm going to lose around 10 FPS.
    I want to fly at ~30 fps. It's what I'm used to, and it can deal with the occasional drop just fine.
    I love PiP, it's such a cool thing for feeling engaged with the chopper, but I've got decisions to make, so I end up disabling it; it's up to me after all!
    I'll turn it back on if a mission is using it, and I'll probably lower my view distance when I do that.
    What? Well, I must be playing on a potato. What Ancient Evil runs such high settings?
    ------------------
    System Information
    ------------------
    Operating System: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (6.1, Build 7600) (7600.win7_gdr.110622-1503)
    Processor: Intel® Core i7 CPU 950 @ 3.07GHz (8 CPUs), ~3.1GHz
    Memory: 6144MB RAM
    ---------------
    Display Devices
    ---------------
    Card name: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470
    Display Memory: 4059 MB
    Dedicated Memory: 1248 MB
    Shared Memory: 2811 MB
    Current Mode: 1920 x 1200 (32 bit) (59Hz)
    Monitor Name: Generic PnP Monitor
    Monitor Model: CG241W
    Output Type: DVI
    ------------------------
    Disk & DVD/CD-ROM Drives
    ------------------------
    Drive: C:
    Total Space: 76.2 GB
    File System: NTFS
    Model: INTEL SS DSA2M080G2GC SCSI Disk Device

Video Options Guide

Video Memory

  • This first on the list and most likely to break your visuals.
  • The option is important; we added it to fix problems with some video cards that were doing some very odd things with their memory allocation. Problem is, now we let the user do these odd things!
  • Simply having a top of the range card, doesn't mean you should set it to high or very high - unfortunately, hardware is quite varied and different results may be experienced upon different setups!
  • In fact, the general advice is that this setting is best left alone (as default), and only tweaked if you experience problems! However, some users have benefited from tweaking this setting.

Texture Detail

  • DIRECT IMPACT: Textures will look blurry on lower settings
    - But, it depends upon your 3D resolution
    - If the 3D resolution is lower, there is less point having a high texture detail.
  • Chiefly HDD dependent and Graphics card Memory
  • Affects maximum size of the texture.
    - If the Detail is low, MIPMapping is more aggressive,
    - Mipmapping is a concept where textures are rendered in smaller resolutions, to save on the space req'd in memory
    - But, it can cause objects blurring
    - So if you have small graphics memory, or experience slow loading of textures (popping) try to lower this

Resolution/ 3D Resolution

  • DIRECT IMPACT: Lowering 3D Resolution makes the scene much less sharp.
  • DIRECT IMPACT: changing the resolution will make the UI much less sharp.
  • mainly GPU dependent
  • by default 3D res should fit monitor native resolution
    - but, big screens are more demanding
    - i.e. 1920x1200 on a big screen would require a lot from Graphics
  • So, you can use lower 3D settings
    - basically, if you suffer big FPS drops, try lowering this
    - but its complicated !
  • Resolution itself has little impact on FPS
    - so you should keep this as native res to have a sharp icons

Antistropic filtering

  • DIRECT IMPACT - Ground will look blurred in the distance on lower settings, trees appear to be more blocky
  • This is GPU dependent
  • Compensates for when terrain changes in shape, or has sharper edges, which affects textures
  • Improves the render of the textures which are projected across sharper angles
  • Distant textures are better computed
  • Doesn't really eat up too much of the GPU
    - but, it shouldn't be set high unless you know you will have spare performance.

Anti-aliasing

  • DIRECT IMPACT - on lower setting the edges of objects will be 'hard'
  • Dependent upon GPU, defines the fill rate
    - These settings have a big impact upon FPS.
  • Related to the 3D resolution
    - if you have high 3D resolution, you might need to sacrifice anti-aliasing if you experience problems
    - conversely, if you prefer to see smoother edges, and seek to increase anti-aliasing, you should look to turn down 3d resolution

Terrain Detail

  • DIRECT IMPACT - decreasing will chiefly impact upon the detail of the objects in the middle distance.
  • Computing and rendering terrain is Heavily CPU Dependent
    - But Clutter is instead GPU limited.
    - Start with lower setting (although not lowest)
    - Aesthetically, it will have a big impact, making the environment much worse.
    - Lowest Setting will remove clutter, like grass and small rocks.

Shadow Detail

  • DIRECT IMPACT: lower setting will lead to harder edges of shadows, higher setting will make softer, more natural shadows
  • GPU dependent, Graphics card memory dependent.
  • If you experience low FPs, this is one of the first options to lower

VSync

  • DIRECT IMPACT: on max fps, the frame is not drawn more frequently than the screen refresh rate
  • This should be enabled where FPS is higher than screen refresh rate
    1) The GPU can idle after frame drawing done, resulting in lower power consumption, lower heat output, etc.
    2) The frame is completely rendered - frames buffers are switched when scene is completely drawn, not only half or 3/4

Cloud Detail

  • DIRECT IMPACT: Higher values mean much more texture samples are fetched from 3D texture; thus, cloud drawing takes more time, and FPS are lower.
  • Dependency: GPU - fill rate, VRAM
  • Higher settings mean higher 3D texture used, thus, lower VRAM memory for other textures

HDR Quality

  • Impact: VRAM (resources) & Antialiasing, not all formats allow the same multisampling level.
  • Dependency: GPU and supported textures formats, depends on drivers and the ability of texture filtering
  • The settings define backbuffer format used for the frame
    - Older GPUs have lower performance for "non standard" formats, with 16 bits per channel, 16bits float per channel or 32bits
    - Some GPUs support 64/128bit formats but performance is very low.

PiP Detail

  • Impact: Direct impact on FPS. Likely to use 8~15frames on average. Disabling this will stop render to texture being drawn in the scene on mirrors, LCD screens, etc.
  • Dependency: GPU and supported textures formats, depends on drivers and the ability of texture filtering
  • This technology is quite hungry, and you'll notice the difference enabling and disabling it.
    Very useful to enable in missions that use camera sources for gameplay.
    Also ambient effects like mirrors in the light helicopter.
    Can usually be enabled/disabled in the fly.

To be continued....

Minimum & Recommended Specs

With a game like Take On, where consistent smooth performance is critical to the enjoyment of the game, it's always important to bear in mind the min and rec specs.

Why? Well, the bottom line is, once you start getting below ~15fps, the simulation and the game begin to slide a little out of whack. Controls will not respond as you need. No one wants to fly that way, and it can also lead to critical (CTD) stability issues.

There a lot of dynamics to calculate in the background. There's a lot of game world to render. Not convinced? Just check out the difference in FPS between sitting in the chopper and stepping outside of it!

Take On Helicopters Minimum System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP / Vista
  • CPU: Intel Dual-Core 2.4 GHz or AMD Dual-Core Athlon 2.5 GHz or faster
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT or ATI Radeon 4850 with Shader Model 3 and 512 MB VRAM or faster
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • HDD: 17 GB free space
  • DirectX®: 9.0c
  • DVD: Dual Layer compatible

Take On Helicopters Recommended System Requirements

  • OS: Windows Vista/7
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo @ 3.0 GHz / AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+
  • RAM: 4 Gb
  • GFX: NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT / ATI Radeon HD 5850

I noticed a great link to a comparison chart for graphics cards. Thanks to Ziggy for that one.

As I mentioned, I'm not interesting in debating hardware here, but being aware of what you've got, gives you an idea of where you can start with in terms of the video options, and the enjoyment of your game.

Similarly, whatever hardware you've got, I can't emphasise enough the importance of making sure you use it correctly. If you've not got an SSD, make sure your HDD is defragged. Streaming in huge textures in real-time can be a bottle-neck to anyone's perfect setup.

Look for bottle-necks to performance everywhere, having a 'monster-rig' is one thing, but you may find that one component in your set up is throttling-back your performance elsewhere. The video settings guide gives you information about which setting is dependent upon what.

Edited by RoyaltyinExile
Added some Video Memory clarification

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