In-depth methods of benchmarking Doom 3 Continued
- Image Quality Settings Explained
When it comes to actually benchmarking Doom 3 with your timedemo, you need to make a few decisions regarding image quality. In the system options section in the game you have the option of automatically detecting optimal video quality based on a scan of your system.
Doom 3 lets you choose four preset video quality settings: Low Quality, Medium Quality, High Quality and Ultra Quality. Low Quality is for older systems with 64MB graphics cards. Medium Quality is for slightly newer systems with 128MB graphics cards. High Quality is our weapon of choice at the moment which is designed for current generation graphics cards (X800 and 6800 series) with 256MB of memory, 8X anisotropic filtering is also enabled by default. High Quality is the big fish designed for future graphics cards to be released over the following months with 512MB of memory onboard and compresses none of the textures providing the ultimate Doom 3 experience.
To give you an idea, our AMD Athlon 64 3400+ on reference nForce3 250GB motherboard with 1GB of DDR-400 memory with relaxed timings and either GeForce 6800 Ultra or Radeon X800XT PE with Windows XP SP1 and DX9c suggested we should use High Quality at 1024 x 768. ID has obviously been cautious (probably over-cautious) in their recommendations as the system above very easily handles the suggested video settings and in fact we could run at 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 8x AF enabled which scored us an average just over 50 FPS which is playable indeed - the recommended video settings scored us around 130 FPS on average. We could even use Ultra Quality video settings but you do notice more game pauses than usual every now and again as massive 500MB + uncompressed textures are drawn.
From the findings above, we can tell that when you are trying to stress out Doom 3 with those who have a modern system, you will need to ramp up the image quality settings as high as possible - more so than what the built-in detection device suggests. We suggest at least a resolution of 1024 x 768 with 4X AA and 8X AF enabled in High Quality mode. Play around with the settings and work out what is best for your system. You can adjust the AA settings in the advanced options section of the system options between 2X, 4X, 8X and 16X or you can force on AA in the driver control panel of your video card in Windows.
- IMPORTANT: For a full run down on Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) please read our "The Simple Antialiasing and Anisotropic Guide", here.
If you really want to stress out your system you would choose 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 8X AF (or higher) with Ultra Quality. Apart from putting massive strain on all current systems, this should prove as a good method of stress testing your system and particularly your graphics card and stability when overclocking since Doom 3 is so advanced and uses many parts of your graphics cards which games in the past haven't needed to.
Idealism would tell us the best thing is to be able to stress your system to the point that you stay under the 60 FPS lock all the time but this will become harder and harder as new and faster system components are released over the following months which let you pass that mark even with very high image quality settings enabled. Let's hope ID gives in soon and tells us how to unlock the 60 FPS lock ;)
- Game Pausing with Massive Texturing
Another facet of Doom 3 with current day hardware (any) is the massive texturing the game includes. If you are running High Quality or Ultra Quality video settings (more so the latter) you will notice the game will pause now and again for almost one second. This is due to the game having to draw massive amounts of textures, some above 500MB. You will notice this when you're about to enter an area with complex textures or a bunch of zombies or even the moment before a cut scene (which are drawn in real time in Doom 3).
During the first timedemo run of Doom 3 when textures are not in memory (e.g., when you first load up the game from your OS) it is always a good deal slower then the second and third (and so on) timedemo runs when the large textures are already in memory. The reason behind this is quite simple - even if the game pauses to load a texture, the timedemo continues counting and during the pause registers as 0 frames per second and consequently reduces your score, sometimes with a big hit. Our suggestion is to always run three times and then average out for the most accurate and realistic results.
One question which has already popped up around forums is if the timedemo runs are consistent - forgetting runs #1 and #2, we've always been within one FPS on the third and forth runs which is great since we can put more faith in the benchmarks. More good news is textures clear out of memory each time you close Doom 3 so you won't have to worry about those monster-like textures sticking in the memory and slowing down your usual OS activities.
It would be safe to assume that once 512MB graphics cards start hitting the market (we've been told toward the end of this year and Q1 2005) from ATI and nVidia and so on the pausing which occurs now and again during game play should be gone or at least very minimal.
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