Tuesday, 30 December 2008

How To Increase Gaming Frame Rates

It’s impossible to write an article that exactly defines how to enhance and tweak your computer to ensure that it plays all games to it’s maximum possible capability.  There are several steps you can take inside the operating system to ensure Windows is hampering your gameplay as little as possible, however to really make a difference you need to play around with the in game graphics options, striking the right balance between great looks and great gameplay.

The following is a list of settings that greatly impact frame rate and visual effects, with explanations on how you can alter the settings to the greatest effect.


Jagged edges on character models or buildings is not an uncommon sight in games, but the stair-like lines don’t look natural.  This is where antialiasing comes in to smooth out these edges, however this requires a great deal of power, and can bring even an Nvidia GTX280 to it’s knees in games like GTA:IV.

Antialiasing increases in game image quality a great deal, however, moving beyond 4xAA causes a much bigger hit on performance.  Setting AA at 8x or 16x should be reserved for those with a very powerful graphics card.

Anisotropic Filtering

Details on angled surfaces are preserved by anisotropic filtering as well as being used to clean up mip-maps.  When rendering objects in the distance games swap in low quality textures called mip-maps, which are then swapped out for high quality textures for items closer to the player.  The picture is cleaned up with anisotropic filtering by bridging the area where these two sets of textures meet.  Pretty much any graphics card sold today is capable of handling this setting with no problems whatsoever.

Turn on 4xAS and you will notice a massive difference in the image quality, and this is likely the best setting for older graphics cards in the performance-to-quality ratio.  However, running anything like an 8800GT in games such as Half-Life 2 for example, you can afford to max out this setting for a massive quality gain.


Hiking up the resolution in a game will make the game look much better, but perform worse because increasing the resolution increases the detail on screen through the use of additional pixels, which in turn creates a greater workload for your graphics card.

Lowering the resolution will drastically help to reclaim a few lost frames, but the sacrifice is a lower image quality.  The difference in image quality though is massive, playing a game at 800x600 makes a game look like a bad Playstation One attempt at a 3D shooter, whereas the same gaming played at 1680x1050 will look stunning and highly detailed.

Draw Distance

Draw distance defines how far into the distance you are able to view.  However, the greater the distance the card has to render, the more work the graphics card needs to do. This setting is mostly given in 3rd person games such as Fallout 3 and GTA:IV.

Although you don't necessarily need to be able to view far off into the distance, given that your primary concern in gaming is that of which is in your immediate vicinity, maxing out the draw distance really enhances the beauty of many games such as Oblivion.  However, the draw distance creates a large impact on a lot of cards at the lower end such as the Nvidia 7600GT and ATi Radeon X1300.  If you have a mid to low range card, you can turn this setting down to around 50% – giving you ok performance and draw distance.


Have you ever attempted to play Doom 3 without shadows being turned on?  The game is boring, with little or no atmosphere at all.  Shadows are cast in game by good lighting, however shadows cost processing time and can cause a great deal of work for your graphics card.

There are some games that you just cannot experience properly without shadows turned on, such as the aforementioned Doom 3.  However, shadow settings can be turn on or off, and some games will even offer soft (or ‘blob’) shadows, which help to keep the game looking pretty while lowering the impact on your GPU.


Textures in a game create the detail you see.  Without textures a road in GTA:IV would look like little more than a black line with light lines down the centre, however, textures give it the tarmac look, with gritty lumps and bumps and cracks.  The higher the texture resolution is set the greater detail that can be seen.

Textures are a funny thing, look in benchmark results and you won’t really see how a higher detail texture setting impacts performance because the textures are pre-loaded, which means that the game pauses more often to load the texture, or for longer.  If you have a 128MB card you should be okay running low detail textures, at 256MB of vRAM you should mange low to medium while 512MB or more should permit you to happily run with high texture settings.


Hopefully you have found this guide helpful in selecting the right settings for your game titles.  At the end of the day though, the right settings are not just chosen by what your computer is capable of, but also by what you are satisfied with.

If, like me, you want the absolute best of both worlds, performance and quality then you will have to have deep pockets and regularly invest in new hardware for each major game release you buy!

Keep playing around until you are happy with the settings, right them down, along with an overview of your computer’s specification at the time and keep them just in case you have to reinstall the game for some reason in the future, because there is little more frustrating in the world of PC gaming than having to readjust and tweak your settings again and again when you’ve already found the right balance in the past!

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