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The Simple Antialiasing and Anisotropic Guide - KOTOR

"The Simple Antialiasing and Anisotropic Guide". What is Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filtering? What does it do for me and my games? Read on!

By: | Guides | Posted: Jan 11, 2004 5:00 am

Game: Knights of the Old Republic



Version: 1.01




Game Resolution Used: 1280x960 and 1600x1200


In-Game Settings: Everything set to maximum possible, including EAX3.


Official Website: BioWare KOTOR Site


TweakTown Tweak Guide: None. Want one?


In contrast with America's Army, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is a 3D third person role-playing game based in the Star Wars universe. The game uses a proprietary new engine called Odyssey, which means it is reasonably unique, although other BioWare games may well come to be based on versions of it.


I used a moderately high resolution of 1280x960 here both to show the performance hit more clearly than the America's Army example, and to demonstrate the benefits (or perhaps the lack thereof) of using successively higher levels of AA/AF at higher resolutions.


Scroll down and examine the various screenshots below to see the performance and image quality impacts. Remember, even though the small JPG shots below may not look vastly different, examining the fullsize JPGs and PNG images will show marked differences.



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[Click on image for fullsize JPG or click here for fullsize PNG]



[Click on image for fullsize JPG or click here for fullsize PNG]



[Click on image for fullsize JPG or click here for fullsize PNG]



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Some things to note from the above screenshots:


- At this higher resolution of 1280x960 the impact of 2xAA is still very noticeable both on image quality and performance. In terms of image quality, for obvious changes look at the fuel line near the character's feet, the roofline underneath the sun and the legs of the nearby Customs Officer. The use of 2xAA at this resolution helps clear up most of the jaggies very well. However it also drops performance by almost 20%. At 4xAA the jaggedness is all but completely gone, but again at the cost of performance. By the time 6xAA is used distant objects appear overly smooth and blurry - Perhaps the use of AF will help "crispen" up the image. Of course by the time 6xAA is being used, fps is already dangerously low.


- The use of Anisotropic most prominently shows up in a progressively sharper ground. The cracks in the mud become clearer, at first just up to the fuel line with 2xAF, then just beyond it with 4xAF until by 16xAF the ground texture details are quite clear up to the wall. Also slightly noticeable is the improvement in the details of the railings under the character's feet, although it takes 16xAF to really make a difference to them. Then again the performance difference between 0xAF and 16xAF is around 25%.


Since the benefits of 2xAA and 4xAF seemed quite clear, I tried this combination together to see the performance and visual quality impact. The screenshot below shows that this combination is both a very noticeable improvement over the initial (0xAA 0xAF) image above, and the performance impact is still not overly dramatic (from 31 to 24fps):



[Click on image for fullsize JPG or click here for fullsize PNG]


Given the already high resolution of 1280x960, it seems unnecessary to use a higher combination, but I tried 4xAA and 8xAF out of curiosity and the performance hit was dramatic - with an almost 60% drop, from 31 to 14fps. At this framerate any extra details onscreen would drop fps down to single digits making the game unplayable.


In light of our previous experiment in America's Army I next focused on raising the resolution to see the benefits of higher resolution vs. high AA/AF. Given the game was already running at 1280x960, a rise to 1600x1200 was not a dramatic resolution jump but provided interesting results:



[Click on image for fullsize JPG or click here for fullsize PNG]


If you compare this image to the one posted just above it (1280x960 at 2xAA 4xAF) you will see the performance is similar, but I believe the image quality of the 1280x960 shot is far better than the 1600x1200. For starters the use of even 2xAA at a lower resolution seems to outweigh a simple bump in resolution to 1600x1200. More importantly, the use of 4xAF gives a minimal performance hit, but makes the textures far cleaner to the eye. I personally would prefer the 1280x960 with 2xAA 4xAF over the 1600x1200 with 0xAA 0xAF.


Below is a tabular comparison of the performance of Knights of the Old Republic at 1280x960 at various levels of AA/AF. I didn't provide 1600x1200 comparisons because the pattern of performance hits is already quite clear in the existing data, and quite frankly at 1600x1200 and 6xAA for example, KOTOR is dipping into single digits and unplayable. Once again, remember that the fps provided below are indicative of performance only, and quite obviously the more details, effects and action there is on screen, the lower the fps will go, especially with higher AA/AF settings.



In the next section we go over our findings about AA/AF, provide some more suggestions on its usage and wrap up with concluding thoughts about the whole exercise.

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