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Quake 3 Tune-Up Guide: Part II

By: Mike Chambers - June 3, 2000


Introduction

A little over four months have passed since I published our original Quake 3 Arena Tune-Up Guide. During this time a couple of things have happened. First, I was fortunate to get an Intel Pentium 3-550E running on an old, but rock-solid, Abit BH6 revision 1 motherboard. The official word from Abit was that the BH6 doesn't support Coppermine processors. With a bit of research at the Abit newsgroup, I found out that everybody and their mother was getting this combination to work.

With the BH6's Softmenu, I was able to overclock the motherboard to a bus speed of 124MHz thus effectively overclocking the processor to 683MHz. For a little over $200, I took a 20 month old Pentium 2-450MHz based system and turned it into a mainstream system by today's standards.

Second, I had an opportunity to visit with NVIDIA, along with a contingency of other web masters, back in April. It was a day filled with presentations on the GeForce2 GTS along with a variety of extra cirricular activities.

nVIDIOTS visiting NVIDIA

Image courtesy of Planet GeForce - no duh!

Upon entering the conference room at NVIDIA's headquarters in Santa Clara, I promptly took a seat at the table and noticed a backpack on the floor. I proceeded to open the backpack and was staring at a reference GeForce2 GTS board.

Instantly, a thought crossed my mind: "hmm..., is there any way I can skip these presentations, hop on the next flight back home, and get this card installed in my system?"

Oh Mike, you're an ungrateful little...{fill in the blank} :)


Interpreting The Results

In the original Quake 3 Tune-up Guide we determined the graphics settings that can adversely affect performance in Quake 3. This guide takes those settings and puts them to the test on a GeForce 2 GTS. As before, an initial set of benchmark results are determined. Again, I chose to start with the standard Quake 3 high quality settings and increased both the texture detail and geometry to their maximum menu settings. I refer to as the initial, or maximum quality setting. Keep in mind that these benchmark results are based on 32-bit color and 32-bit textures unless otherwise stated.

For example, an initial benchmark result at 800x600 is 104.7 frames per second. Next, a specific option in Quake 3 was activated, such as disabling dynamic lights, and another benchmark was run (113.7fps). Then I reverted back to the intial setting, activated another option, such as marks on walls off, and ran another benchmark (116.5fps). This method allows us to determine the increase in performance an option provides.


Benchmark Setup

The following is a list of the settings that are discussed in this guide. Other settings, which are not listed, are based on the default high quality setting in Quake 3:

Initial Settings - Max Quality - (32-Bit Color):

  • Marks On Walls - On
  • Dynamic Lights - On


  • Lighting - Lightmap
  • Geometric Detail - High (default is Medium)
  • Texture Detail - 4 (default is 3)
  • Texture Quality - 32-bit
  • Texture Filter - Trilinear


  • Gibs On - (cg_gibs 1)
  • Shadows On - (cg_shadows 1)
  • 3D Icons On - (cg_draw3dicons 1)
  • Texture Compression On - (r_ext_compress_textures 1)

System Specifications:

  • Pentium 3-550E @683MHz
  • Abit BH6 Mainboard
  • 128MB PC100 RAM
  • Quake 3 Arena - Version 1.17
  • Vsync and Sound Disabled
  • NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS
  • 225MHz Core/360MHz Memory Speeds
  • NVIDIA Version 4.12.01.0522 Drivers


Benchmark Results

First let's cover marks on walls and dynamic lights which appear in the game options menu. Benchmark results were obtained with each option disabled. Then a final benchmark, with both options disabled, was run and is referred to as the Tuned FPS.

Game Options

  640
x
480
800
x
600
1024
x
768
1280
x
1024
1600
x
1200
Initial Settings 115.2 104.7 79.3 43.2 29.0
           
Marks On Walls Off 134.8 116.5 82.0 44.4 29.8
Dynamic Lights Off 121.7 113.7 88.6 49.2 33.2
           
Tuned FPS 140.7 128.2 92.9 50.9 34.3

% Increase In FPS From Initial Settings

Disabling dynamic lights gives you a big bang for your buck when tuning Quake 3. Notice that the increase in performance scales up with higher resolutions - from an increase of 5.6% at 640x480 to 14.5% at 1600x1200.

On the other hand, disabling marks on walls is effective at lower resolutions and only offers a 2-3% increase in performance at 1024x768 and up. Keeping in mind that the inital settings are based on maximum quality settings, an increase from 79 to almost 93 frames per second at 1024x768 is a great start.

Dynamic Lights On Dynamic Lights Off
Click to Enlarge - 138K Click to Enlarge - 120K


Next we cover a few other options including gibs, shadows, and 3d icons all of which can be enabled or disabled from the console.

Other Options

  640
x
480
800
x
600
1024
x
768
1280
x
1024
1600
x
1200
Initial Settings 115.2 104.7 79.3 43.2 29.0
           
Gibs Off 120.1 112.1 86.4 47.5 32.1
Shadows Off 121.3 109.5 79.8 43.3 29.1
3D Icons Off 120.6 108.6 79.7 43.3 29.1
           
Tuned FPS 135.6 122.8 87.4 47.8 32.2

% Increase In FPS From Initial Settings

A second option that provides a huge increase in performance is disabling gibs. While disabling gibs limits the amount of carnage associated with fragging, I normally opt for the extra frames. Disabling shadows and 3d icons doesn't buy you much at high resolutions, but when the two options are combined at 640x480 and 800x600, you get a pretty decent payback.

Gibs On Gibs Off
Click to Enlarge - 135K Click to Enlarge


Now for the really fun part. Let's combine all the features that have been disabled thus far and also include benchmark results from 16-bit color (in this case, 32-bit textures were still used).

Game and Other Options

  640
x
480
800
x
600
1024
x
768
1280
x
1024
1600
x
1200
Initial Settings 115.2 104.7 79.3 43.2 29.0
           
Tuned FPS
32-Bit Color
161.2 150.1 101.4 56.9 38.6
           
Tuned FPS
16-Bit Color
163.7 159.4 146.6 102.3 68.8

Not too bad here as 1024x768 in 32-bit color and 1280x1024 in 16-bit color are both clearing over 100 frames per second. I think that's playable :)


What's Next

With a few optimizations, we've managed to improve performance rather nicely while maintaining a near maximum level of graphics quality. Realizing that memory bandwidth becomes an issue at high resolutions and 32-bit color on the GeForce, the gain realized at 1024x768 in 32-bit color is encouraging. At over 100 frames per second, there's plenty of headroom to spare when the action gets furious in multi-player games.

The next part of this guide will concentrate on performance tuning at resolutions greater than 1024x768. In particular the system settings in Quake 3, which include texture quality, detail, and filtering, will be tested.

The final installment of this guide will look at full screen antialiasing (FSAA) performance.


Last Updated on June 3, 2000

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