These are the rules I live by when optimizing PC game perfor…

I’ve written optimized settings for dozens of PC games, and painstakingly modified them to recommend the best performance for your money. That experience can vary greatly – some of the most demanding PC games will bring your graphics card to its knees no matter how many settings you tweak, and titles like the annual Call of Duty releases are so fiddled with settings that It’s hard to know where to start.

And although each title is a little different, there are a few key rules I always keep in mind when optimizing PC performance that can make games look and perform their best. Follow these, and hopefully, they’ll help you become a wizard in the graphics settings menu, optimizing your performance and image quality in a matter of minutes instead of digging through lists of half-baked settings.

resolution rules everything

Cyberpunk 2077 running on a Samsung Odyssey Neo G8 monitor.
Jacob Roach/

There aren’t any changes you can make to the graphics settings that override resolution. For better or worse, it is the overlord of your performance. This is why upscaling features like Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) – which renders games at a lower resolution than your display – show such a big performance improvement. The fewer pixels your GPU has to render, the more frames it can crank out. And on the other hand, the more pixels your GPU has to render, the fewer frames it can handle.

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The resolution reveals a lot about the game and how it interacts with your PC. When your PC renders a game, the goal is to get your CPU out of your GPU’s way. You essentially want your game to be constrained by your GPU, meaning all of your GPU’s horse power is being used as it is the main component driving your frame rate.

This plays a massive role in your determination. As mentioned, your graphics card is put under greater stress when it has to render more pixels. That’s why reducing the resolution in a game can expose a CPU bottleneck – with fewer pixels to render, your CPU can block your GPU from pushing more frames.

Understanding resolution and how it affects your performance allows you to see how a game is stressing your components. If turning down the resolution doesn’t result in a large performance increase, the game may be too heavy on your CPU. there is also a possibility Increasing Your determination can improve performance. Especially with high-end GPUs like the RTX 4080, you can improve your performance by increasing the render resolution on low-resolution monitors. You can also detect these bottlenecks through monitoring tools like RTSS RivaTuner, but understanding how resolution affects your performance is essential to understanding how a game behaves under actual use.

Monitor Your Frame Rate (And Then Ignore It)

The first thing I do when I start making changes to my graphics settings is pull up the frame rate counter. I play around for a bit, adjust some settings, play some more, and then go back to adjusting. It’s an iterative process that takes about 20 or 30 minutes to get the game looking and playing the way I want, but it’s important not to get bogged down in the settings menus. You’re here to enjoy playing games that perform and look their best, so once you’ve decided on something that looks and plays the way you want, turn down the frame rate. Do it (or ignore it).

This seems obvious, but it’s easy to lock in hours by making changes to your settings without fixing anything. You’re probably not missing out on extra performance, and the more time you spend looking at small areas of a scene, the less time you spend enjoying the game you’re playing. It’s important to monitor your frame rate from the beginning and see how changes to settings affect performance – which, like resolution, can tell a lot about how a game works – but you can adjust the frame rate later. Would like to skip the rate counter. Even if demanding scenes take a toll on performance, if you’re still getting the experience you want from the game, your settings are working fine.

That’s why I’ve created a list of recommended settings for the latest games, having studied and tested each setting myself so you have a good starting point for performance in games. call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 And Baldur’s Gate 3. You don’t have to go through the same process just to play a game. Make a few changes at the beginning, but let the game progress after that point.

Get started with upscaling

Ultra Performance Comparison between FSR and DLSS in Uncharted Legacy of Thieves on PC.
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Most modern games include some form of upscaling and usually multiple versions. You’re likely to find Nvidia’s DLSS and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) in a game, and I recommend that you start your game with one of these features turned on. This doesn’t mean you should abandon them, but it can set a good baseline for performance and image quality that you can easily improve later. I would consider DLSS the default if you have an RTX GPU that supports it, but AMD’s FSR2 isn’t a bad option.

I usually start with Quality mode and play the game for a bit to see where the performance ends up. As with the previous tip, if you’re having a good time playing the game, you don’t need to mess with progress. Starting with upscaling gives an idea of ​​what the tool is doing to the game, for better and for worse. After playing for 15 or 20 minutes, turn off the upscaler and see how the game is running. There are cases like resident Evil 4, Where you’ll see a slight decrease in performance make up for a big improvement in image quality. It would be better to skip upscaling. Then there are others, like starfield, Where the visual improvements are not worth the performance loss. It would be better to keep the upscaling going.

However, I wouldn’t start by turning scaling off and then turning it back on. It’s easy to see a slight degradation in image quality and turn off the upscaler, regardless of whether it improves performance. By starting with upscaling, you can compromise it and see if the image quality trade-off is really worth it for the performance gains you’re seeing.

make light

A table full of plates in Alan Wake 2.
Jacob Roach/

We’ve covered some high-level ideas on how to access your graphics settings, but let’s get specific. When you first start changing your graphics settings, look at the lighting. Lighting, shadows, ambient occlusion, and global illumination all put a lot of load on the hardware, so you’ll want to point your cursor in their direction when making cuts. As a result, these settings have the greatest impact on image quality, so finding a balance is important.

This does not apply to Everyone game, but if you’re struggling to understand the graphics menus this is a good place to start. This is especially true if a game supports ray tracing or full-on path tracing. It’s tempting to flick on ray tracing if you have some high-end hardware, but if you’re not getting the performance or image quality you want, turn it off.

volumetrics

Just like lighting, there are volumetrics too. The air is not clear, and the volumetrics are meant to simulate the effect of light moving through the space. You’ll see volumetric lighting – commonly known as “God rays” – and volumetric fog is commonly seen, both of which can reduce your frame rate. In some games, these volumetrics can provide a huge visual benefit, but they should be one of the first settings you access when optimizing performance.

I suggest making big cuts in heavy fog and clouds if available. Volumetric lighting has a huge impact on visual quality. Fog and clouds won’t be as obvious as lighting in most games, allowing you to save a lot of performance for a minor visual sacrifice. Some titles even allow you to turn off volumetrics entirely, replacing fog and clouds with decals. This can give a huge boost to performance.

Don’t ignore the post process

You’ll usually find a list of post process settings at the bottom of the graphics menu – things like chromatic aberration, depth of field, motion blur, and film grain. The conventional wisdom is that you can largely ignore these effects except by turning off motion blur. However, this has changed over the years, and the after effects of the procedure can impact performance for minor visual benefits. There’s also an argument that they make the game worse.

Although these are called post processes, many of these effects are still part of the rendering chain. Things like motion blur and depth of field aren’t just overlays like camera dirt; They are part of the rendered frame, and whatever is rendered has some impact on performance (no matter how small). These are effects that, in some cases, can improve performance and image quality, so you’ll want to cut them out if you can. The only downside to this may be that the post-effects process can hide imperfections in the game, so turning them off may reveal lower-resolution textures that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

anti-aliasing paradox

CS:GO is showing a lack of anti-aliasing.
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Anti-aliasing is complicated. It’s supposed to make your game look better by filling in the missing details between pixels. Pixels are squares, and objects do not fit neatly into squares. Anti-aliasing steps are taken to smooth out rough edges – known as “jaggies” – to improve image quality. However, it doesn’t always work that way. Depending on the type of anti-aliasing you are using and the resolution of your monitor, this may make your game look worse.

Anti-aliasing was originally intended to improve image quality on low-resolution displays. Lower resolution results in larger pixels, and this makes jaggies more noticeable. However, today, when 27-inch 4K monitors are common, those flaws are harder to spot. Anti-aliasing is still necessary at lower resolutions, but smoothing out jagged pixels can actually make games softer at higher resolutions, as well as introduce artifacts with techniques like temporal anti-aliasing (TAA).

This doesn’t mean you should turn off anti-aliasing completely, but you shouldn’t default to leaving it on either. In the best case, you can use Nvidia’s Deep Learning anti-aliasing, or high-quality modes of FSR or DLSS to apply anti-aliasing. Some games, like alan wake 2, Rely solely on these upscaling tools for anti-aliasing.

use your eyes

Ultimately, the best thing to do when changing graphics settings is to use your eyes. Articles or videos may say that one setting destroys image quality, or that another has no effect. But if you like what you see, both for performance and image quality, then go for it. It’s important to remember that the lists of optimized settings are just a starting point, and if you find something that works for you, those are the best settings to run.

This still requires a critical eye. Although it’s best to take your mind off the graphics settings at some point, you should spend some time looking closely at your performance and image quality when you start the game to see if everything is working as you want. . And after you’ve adjusted your settings, pay attention to what effect it has on the final image. This practice can make adjusting settings in other games much easier as you learn what works and what doesn’t.






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