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The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Tweak Guide - Graphics Card Optimisation

In our first, of what will become a continuous stream of comprehensive gaming based tweaking guides, our newest writer, Koroush "PersianImmortal" Ghazi, has completed a very in-depth guide on obtaining the best performance from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Since Morrowind is such a demanding game on most systems, this guide goes into detail about improving not only game settings but general system settings so everyone is able to play this game at a decent framerate and in a stable environment on computers with varying specifications. Grab a coffee, sit back and learn with Koroush!

| Guides | Posted: Jan 1, 1970 12:00 am

3. Graphics Card Optimisation

 

The following is a guide to optimising an Nvidia graphics card (especially GeForce cards). Sadly I don't know the best settings for other cards.

 

Go to Control Panel>Display>Settings>Advanced>[Name of Card]>Additional Properties screens. There are 5 main screens by default:

 

3D Anti Aliasing

 

OpenGL

 

Direct3D

 

Overlay Controls

 

Desktop Utilities

 

If you've enabled the "coolbits" tweak in your registry, then you'll also see the Clock Frequencies tab. If you haven't enabled coolbits, then follow our Beginners Guide to Overclocking nVidia Video Cards to see how and why you should do it. It's not a "hack", it's just hidden functionality on your GeForce card which Nvidia doesn't usually show because it doesn't want kids messing around with it accidentally. You can also use RivaTuner to change the clock speeds and other settings far beyond those mentioned here.

 

- Clock Frequencies

 

I won't cover the Clock Frequencies tab because it's covered in the above "coolbits" guide. Just remember with Morrowind the higher you overclock your card the better your framerates, but you will also experience more stuttering, lockups and crashes to desktop. See 6 below for more on overclocking problems.

 

- Overlay Controls (won't be covered as they're fairly self-explanatory).

 

- Desktop Utilities (won't be covered except to say untick both boxes - neither are necessary).

 

- 3D Anti Aliasing

 

Full Screen Anti Aliasing (FSAA) is a way in which the drivers attempt to "smooth" the jagged edges of the 3D items rendered on your screen, especially at lower resolutions. Graphics looks better but at the cost of lower performance. Set this to "Allow applications to control the Anti-aliasing mode". If you want to be 100% certain Anti Aliasing is not running in any games (for maximum performance) select the second option and set it to off.

 

- OpenGL

 

Of no relevance to Morrowind whatsoever (as Morrowind runs only under Direct3D), I'll include the optimal settings for this API here just for reference. These settings should be optimal for most people, and I won't go into lengthy explanations here.

 

Performance and Compatibility Options Of the five boxes, only have the first two ticked.

 

Default color depth should be set at "Use Desktop color Depth" initially. Best if color depth of desktop matches that in game.

 

Buffer Flipping Mode Auto Select

 

Vertical Sync (Definition covered below) Off by default or Always off for best performance...depends on taste and monitor.

 

Anisotropic filtering disabled for best performance, successively higher settings will increase image quality and reduce performance by varying amounts based on graphics card and detonator version.

 

Amount of Memory in PCI mode leave at default. Has no impact unless you have a PCI graphics card. Most people have AGP cards nowadays.

 

- Direct3D

 

This is the graphics mode in which Morrowind runs, and you'll get noticeable differences in Morrowind when changing these settings:

 

Enable Fog Table Emulation: Definitely tick this box.

 

Display Logo when Running 3D Apps Untick this box - Totally unnecessary.

 

Mipmapping The settings range from Best Image to Best Performance, and do exactly what they say. Best Image - the top selection in the box - is the ideal setting. Any lower and graphics quality falls, but fps rises. The choice is yours but I prefer Best Image.

 

PCI Texture Memory Size leave at default. Has no impact unless you have a PCI card. Most people have AGP cards nowadays.

 

More Direct3D button under this button are several choices (especially if you've installed the coolbits entry):

 

- Texel Alignment leave this at default (3)

 

- Vertical Sync (VSync) is basically where your graphics card waits for your monitor before it refreshes the screen. That means your frames per second (how fast the screen refreshes) will be capped at how fast your monitor can refresh at the chosen resolution. For example, some monitors can refresh 85 times per second at 1280x1024. This is shown as 85Hz @ 1280x1024 in your monitor specs. That means with VSync on, your fps will be limited to 85 at most. Now, turning VSync off will allow your fps to increase over this limit

 

(e.g. indoors in Morrowind, I'll get 120fps at times, but my monitor can only refresh 75 times per second at 1600x1200) but the downside is - depending on the monitor - you may see the image "tear" in parts as you look around quickly. This won't damage your monitor, but it can be annoying to some. Turning VSync off also has the advantage that it actually allows your overall fps to increase a little bit, even if they're not in excess of the monitor's refresh rate. So in Balmora you may go from 18 to 21fps. Try turning it to "Always Off" and see what you think.

 

- Render Ahead Leave at default 3, unless you have real problems with mouse/joystick lag in which case lower it. Remember though that Morrowind already has mouse lag normally due to the slow cursor, especially at high resolutions, and in places where your fps is low, and this setting doesn't change that.

 

If you can't see the Vertical Sync or Render Ahead option, you need to enable coolbits (see above) or use a tweaking utility like RivaTuner.

 

- GeForce FAQ

 

If you want to troubleshoot problems with a GeForce graphics card, you can't go past this definitive GeForce FAQ. It will answer all your GeForce-related questions in an easy-to-find way.

 

- Refresh Rate Fix

 

Under Win2K/XP, there's a problem in which the refresh rate (see VSync above) is stuck at 60Hz (60fps) at all resolutions, despite the fact that most monitors can exceed this, particularly at resolutions of 1280x1024 and below. This can cause eyestrain not to mention it's simply annoying if you have good hardware capable of much more. The solution can be found in a variety of fixes, but the most reliable one I've found, which works with all the latest detonator versions on Nvidia cards is RivaTuner. Download and install this utility, and once run, select the Customise button under the Driver Settings area on the Main screen. Then simply click the 60Hz button which appears, and then click the first tick mark at the bottom (for all resolutions), click the multicolour button with the lock (for all colour depths), select the double forward arrow button to choose the maximum refresh rate supported by your monitor for all these resolutions and colour depths. Select Install to run the fix and reboot as requested.

 

A universal fix which works with all graphics cards and detonators can be also found here.

 

 

- Colour Depth

 

Since Morrowind runs at 32bit colour depth automatically, I would strongly recommend that you set your desktop colour depth to 32bit as well by going to Control Panel>Display>Settings and making sure under Quality, it's on Highest (32 bit). In the past many games, such as Unreal Tournament, Return to Castle Wolfenstein etc. have had known issues when the desktop colour depth differs from the game colour depth. Setting it to 32bit on desktop may well reduce or eliminate crashes to desktop (CTD).

 

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