Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Technical

So today I have an interesting question. What Video Settings do you play at, and why do you play it at those settings? Whether it is out of necessity, or for fun visual eye candy, can adjusting these settings affect your gameplay?

Currently, I play on a Dell Laptop, it’s about 3 years old, and can run most games pretty well. I can only run Starcraft 2 however at the lowest settings. When I try to queue up commands by holding the shift key, my computer tends to freak out and BEEPS at me and in huge army compostion battles, I cannot micro manage my units or even use abilities. My problem is my video card. I don’t care what people say, laptops are NOT meant for gaming. Sure there are gaming laptops, but the game will not run as well on a laptop as well as it would on a desktop with similar specs. Another thing is, you can’t easily upgrade them either. Your hard drive and the Ram are what you are limited to upgrading. Things such as Hotkeys, mouse and keyboard use, as well as even heat distribution are some of the other major issues.

Ok lets say you have a decent system that can run Starcraft 2 fairly well and you don’t get beeps in certain situations like I do… Check to see how fast your frames (more commonly called FPS) are to see if there is some “lag” going on. You can do this by downloading fraps, all you need is the trial version. Fraps is a software most commonly used with games that will record your game or whatever is going on with your computer for media purposes. What I’m asking you to use it for is to check your FPS. When you turn it on a yellow number will appear at the top left corner and will show you your current FPS. What you want is around 24-30, anything lower than that, and you are experiencing a certain amount of video lag. This video lag will increase in higher demanding situations such as a huge clash between two armies, or levels with lava in them tend to be major video memory hogs. My system at lowest settings runs Starcraft 2 at 15 FPS and that is just watching my probes work. That’s not good. I haven’t actually played a league match in about a week because of this huge hardware problem I’m having. In a highly time sensitive match when I need to warp in a bunch of units I can’t be fighting my computer over when it is right to call those extra troops in. When I need them I need them now.

What I want to know is what pro gamers down to casual play at. I know day9 mentioned in one of his dailies that he tends to keep his system at the lowest settings and increases it to medium for his dailies so we have something more visually appealing to look at. Does she do this to help him play better? Only he knows. Does increasing the video quality give you access to some animation or model that doesn’t normally appear at other settings. Does this access give a player an advantage? These are questions I want to know.

I am planning on getting a system that will be capable of playing Starcraft 2 on ultra settings without any kind of lag. Currently I should be able to acquire it in about 6 weeks. I built my system based on the findings of this report from Techspot.

I am getting the Geforce GTX 460 with a quad core processor. It’s important to note Starcraft 2 currently does not offer support for the use of more than two processors. No matter how many you have, it will only utilize two at most.

Now you may have heard of some gaming systems out there that will go up to 200 fps, ZOMG, but you will need to remember something very key. Your eyes can only process 30 frames at most at a time.

I can’t wait to play on my new system. I’m going to be purchasing it from www.ibuypower.com which I recommend to anyone interested in getting a gaming system without paying hundreds of dollars in extra money just for the name brand.


  1. Great post, I didn't think of video settings affecting gameplay in Starcraft. I'm currently running it at ultra settings at 1920x120 on an ATI 5870. I'm averaging above 60fps at all times, so there's no discernible fps lag. Our eyes can perceive frame rates well above 100fps, though only around 18fps is required to produce a continuous animation. The film industry standard is 24fps, which they can get away with by blurring fast motion. Many games, however, don't have motion blur, so there's a discernible shudder at lower frame rates. 30-60fps is a the sweet spot that studios will target for their hardware requirements. 60fps is optimal; for all intents and purposes, the animation is perfect at that speed. This is also why 3D monitors and televisions have a refresh rate of 120Hz, as the glasses used alternate the lens opacity over each eye every other frame.

    The first thing I did when I got the game was toy with the settings to see how they were scaling the visual experience. While shadows and textures change substantially, there's little change in actual gameplay. Perhaps some of the better players prefer the utilitarian, i.e., dated graphics of the first game.

    If you're planning on building a comp soon, I'd recommend waiting until January or February for the new AMD video cards and Intel Sandy Bridge processors to arrive.

    Have fun playing, love the blog!

  2. Yeah my real desire is to buy the most updated hardware and what not so i will have plenty of time to upgrade it with, sadly my financial situation wont support that :( damn student loans :p Im just looking to get something i can upgrade as i go.

    Now what im not skimping on is the monitor, i plan on getting this one...http://bit.ly/9e5zC1
    I work on one at work, and what reallyconvinced me is the backlight. the majority of monitors i find are darker than they need to be, and since i do alot of stuff with adobe products it helps to see what the actual color is and the darkest dark is indeed black and not off gray :p What do you think?

  3. Like Josh, I'm running SC2 on Ultra, though at a slightly lower resolution, but I never experience any video lag. I've got a year old GeForce 9800 GT and it seems to handle everything with no issues.

    One thing I would recommend, if you have the room, is two displays. They don't even need to be the same size; I've got a 17" and a 21" LCD that I sit side by side. The ability to have the game in one screen and a web browser/IM program/video playing in the other is priceless.

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  5. Imho, Samsung's consumer monitors are generally substandard. Look at HP, Dell, NEC preferably something with an IPS panel in it. Don't worry about getting something with LED backlighting, as most consumer monitors with it use crap TN panels.

    Take a look at this article I wrote a few months ago on monitors, http://skattertech.com/2009/12/choosing-the-right-computer-monitor/.

    Most monitors are way too bright at their maximum brightness. 300 cd/m^2 is overkill unless the monitor is sitting right behind a window, which it shouldn't be for any accurate color work. I've got an HP LP2475w and have it turned down to 60% brightness, which is probably even higher than it should be for color accuracy. "Brightness" and "Contrast" settings are misleading, read this http://www.poynton.com/notes/brightness_and_contrast/.

    Dynamic contrast is total bull; most of those "50k dynamic contrast" monitors have a true contrast ratio of maybe 300:1 to 500:1 depending on how awful their backlighting is.

    I guess it all comes down to this: how much do you care? If you're doing professional work on it, I'd wager "a lot". I'd strongly recommend a monitor with a 1920x1200 IPS panel and fully adjustable stand. If you're gaming on it, then maybe cheap screen real estate is higher priority.