StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game that debuted worldwide in July of 2010. Developed by Blizzard Entertainment, Starcraft 2 was released for the Windows and Mac OS operating systems and is the sequel to the award-winning 1998 video game StarCraft.
On August 3, 2010, Blizzard announced that StarCraft 2 sold more than one million units worldwide within one day of its release. As of December 2010, the game had sold nearly 4.5 million units making it the fastest-selling strategy game of all time. The game received an aggregated score of 93% from Metacritic.
StarCraft 2 supports DirectX 9 and it is also fully compatible with DirectX 10 as well. The Mac version uses OpenGL. The game also features the Havok physics engine, which provides realistic environmental elements.
Starcraft 2 - One vs. One Replay
The graphics settings used to benchmark Starcraft 2 consist of the information shown in the following table. The highest quality in-game graphics settings were all enabled.
In-Game Graphics and Physics Benchmark Settings
2x MSAA, 4x MSAA, 8x CSAA, 8x MSAA, 16x CSAA
Note that the in-game antialiasing option, which is present in the main menu, is not present when playing back replays. Following an inspection, I verified that antialiasing is not enabled when playing back a replay.
Also note that certain graphics options may change in the replay menu whenever a value is set during the main menu. Therefore all in-game replay graphics settings were double-checked before running a benchmark.
The in-game graphics menu for replays appears below.
In-Game Graphics Settings
The following table lists the key PC system components that were used to benchmark Starcraft 2.
Test System Components
Intel Core i7 940 Quad Core @2.93GHz
6GB Corsair Dominator DDR3 @1333MHz
Graphics Procesing Unit
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
Starcraft 2 does not feature an in-game benchmark therefore the replay feature and Fraps were used to determine these results. The replay is from a one-on-one match and the benchmark begins at the 30 minute mark when in-game action was hectic and started pushing the graphics sub-system. The replay sequence lasts for 2 minutes and benchmarking ends at the 32 minute mark. The replay can be downloaded here. Place the replay under the following directory:
/My Documents/Starcraft 2/#/#/Replays/Multiplayer where the #'s are specific to your system.
Before starting the benchmark, player "LiquidTLO" from the red team was selected and the camera perspetive was set to his point of view. The fast forward option was then used to get near the 30 minute mark before benchmarking started.
One vs. One Benchmark
Benchmarks were run three times per setting to ensure consistent results were achieved.
In addition to benchmarking without antialiasing, the NVIDIA driver control panel was also used to override in-game antialiasing. This feature is a value-add and offers a significant number of higher quality levels of antialiasing at the expense of performance.
Override Antialiasing Performance
From the 30 minute mark forward, this one vs.one replay is particularly demanding with an abundance of in-game objects and special effects taking place. As high quality levels of antialiasing are used, performance drops rapidly.
Below is a table that contains frame times from the 4x multisampling antialiasing results. Frame times can be used to determine the "smoothness" of the gameplay. Let's suppose our target frame rate is 40 frames per second. The frame times to support this target can be computed as:
1,000 milliseconds (ms) per second / frame rate = milliseconds per frame.
For example, there are 1,000ms in a second and the target frame rate is 40 frames per second (fps).
1,000ms per second / 40 fps = 25ms per frame.
Frame Times (4,998 Frames) - 4x Multisampling AA
0.000 - 9.999ms
10.000 - 19.999ms
20.000 - 29.999ms
30.000 - 39.999ms
40.000 - 49.999ms
A majority of the frame times took place within the 20.000- 29.999ms category or a total of 87%. Ideally, more frames in this category would make 4x multisampling AA feasible, but higher deviations from the target of 40 fps may make 2x antialiasing a better choice.
Alternatively, an SLI configuration or specific in-game graphics settings can be reduced from Ultra to a lesser quality for better performance.
The replay feature in Starcraft 2 is not perfect, but remains a viable alternative to measureing performance if careful. Unlike Diablo 3, we discovered that the graphics performance in Starcraft 2 is much more demanding and requires a powerful graphics card to play at Ultra settings. The main point about using the replay feature is that it's repeatable, which is optimal for benchmarking.