How to benchmark Doom 3 with timedemos
Now you have an understanding of frame rates and the importance behind them, we are ready to learn how to benchmark Doom 3 on your system with the built-in timedemo feature.
- All about timedemos
A timedemo is a way of comparing frame rates from point A to point B in any given game which includes a timedemo feature. Some games come with pre-recorded timedemos from the game developer which you can use (Doom 3 comes with a timedemo called demo1.demo which is quite good) or you can record your own to compare performance from one system to another.
The method of creating your own timedemo rather than using a popular publicly available one can be considered a more reliable method as in the past some companies have been known to optimize their drivers for certain timedemos which some consider cheating.
The timedemos job is to measure the amount of time it takes to render a certain amount of frames - usually at least 3000 frames in total to give a fair idea of system performance - preferably more though. The quicker the timedemo completes, the quicker the system, as it was able to render the most amounts of frames per second. As a rule of thumb, the frames per second in a timedemo are averaged out over the entire demo to give an overall idea of performance.
When creating a timedemo, the idea is to create a demo which covers all aspects of game play - running around, jumping, crouching, ducking, shooting bad guys and so on - simulate what you would do, as if you were actually playing the game. This is the best way to create a realistic timedemo which will provide accurate results - for example, it would be no good walking around in a circle inactive as a game like Doom 3 is not usually like this in reality when you are playing through the levels. You usually engage in zombie shooting which is quite intensive and puts stress on the entire system, mostly the CPU, memory and graphics card.
- Creating a timedemo
Creating a timedemo is quite easy in Doom 3 and is basically the same as creating one in Quake 3 and some other games by ID Software - even the console looks just about the same. Before we get to the timedemo recording, we need to modify the DoomConfig.cfg file to make for easier usage a little down the track.
First of all you will need to open the DoomConfig.cfg file in notepad or something similar, the file is located in your /base/ root folder - for example: C:\Doom 3\base\DoomConfig.cfg
Once you have the DoomConfig.cfg file open, you will need to add the following two commands:
bind "," "recorddemo"
bind "." "stoprecording"
These commands tell Doom 3 to begin recording a timedemo when "," key is pushed and to stop recording when the "." key is pushed - Trust me, this method is much easier than pulling down and console and typing in the commands each time. As far as I know, there is no limit to the size of the timedemo you create but be aware a 3 minute timedemo creates a 150MB or thereabout file in your Doom 3 demos folder. Make sure you have enough hard drive space if you want to create super long timedemos.
If for whatever reason you want to type in the commands manually, you'll need to pull down the console to do so by pressing CTRL + ALT + ~. If this is too much work for you, you can avoid this by adding the following command to the DoomConfig.cfg file:
seta com_allowConsole 1
This command tells Doom 3 to allow you to access the console by just pressing ~ instead of the rest of the keys like by default.
- IMPORTANT: You'll find a complete set of Doom 3 console commands and cheats in our Gaming forum, here.
Now we are ready to create the actual timedemo. Load up Doom 3 and fire up a single player level - any will do. When you feel you are at a good point to begin recording your timedemo, press the "," key once only - the timedemo is now recording. Move around actively and shot bad guys and after period of about 2 or 3 minutes (or more if you like) and then press the "." key to stop the timedemo from recording. Now to check that the demo actually was recorded, pull down the console and you should see a message saying "stopped recoding demos/demo001.demo" - your timedemo is now complete and ready to be used, as you can see in the screenshot below:
Okay, now we are ready to execute the timedemo and measure your system performance. For the most accurate results, I suggest you close Doom 3 after each timedemo test as it clears the system memory from previous textures and so forth. Once you have a fresh load of Doom 3 ready, pull down the console at the start screen (you don't have to be in the game) and type "timedemo demo002" or whatever your demo is called, as you can see in the screenshot below:
Once you press enter the timedemo will load, depending on the system of your system and most importantly hard disk drive, it will vary on the time it takes to begin running. Once the timedemo is finished you will be given the average FPS score along with some other details, as you can see in the screenshot below:
As you can see from the screenshot above, our custom timedemo rendered a total of 5456 frames in 44.2 seconds which gave us an average FPS score of 123.6 frames per second. If you want to see the frame rate as the timedemo runs, enable the Doom 3 FPS counter by pulling down the console and typing "com_showfps 1" - If you want to disable the FPS counter in the future, just type in "com_showfps 0" (without the speech marks each time).
It is very important to keep in mind that when you are running a timedemo your system is actually doing a little less work than it would if you were actually playing the game. When you record a timedemo it also records the work the CPU and graphics card would normally do in actual game play - such as AI. This means when you run a timedemo your system (read: CPU) is not being as stressed as much as it would but luckily this doesn't affect the scores too much - it's just good to keep in mind. We also noted that when you run timedemos, the animated screens in the game are not present (as you can see in the screenshot below).
That covers the basics of benchmarking Doom 3, the following pages will discuss the in-depth issues of benchmarking Doom 3 such as with FRAPS, different image quality setting effects, capped internal tick and more.
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