DXnfiniteFX's UT 2003 Tweak Guide
We all agree--UT2003 rocks, but it'll rock your system even harder. I have been trying to tweak the heck out of it to get it to run better while sacrificing a minimal amount of image quality. Here are some general settings that you may or may not need that will effect performance. Obviously, everyone's system is different and many variables can effect performance. I will first explain what the setting does and the type of performance hit it can potentially create. My recommendation will follow. Again, the minimal FPS is your own preference, so follow the guidelines to tweak to what you believe to be the best of both worlds.
I HOPE TO IMPROVE THIS GUIDE WITH FEEDBACK. PLEASE ASSIST IF YOU CAN.
Before any tweaking happens, make sure all your drivers are the most current and up to date. This is very important and vital. First, install the latest version of DirectX. Then, install the latest video card drivers and sound card drivers. Another worthy update are chipset drivers. Also, install the latest updates for your OS. Last but not least, install the latest patch for UT2003. As of now, there isn't one, but rumors are there will be one eventually and hopefully it will feature performance optimizations.
Now the tweaking can begin in earnest. First, locate your D3D settings in the ut2003.ini file in your system directory. Here are the settings that you can tweak:
I find that this gives me a good amount of image quality with some performance tweaks added in from what is by default. Again, these are general guidelines and you can tilt your tweaking toward either image quality, performance, or a good mix of both. Allow me to go into further detail regarding these settings:
DetailTextures--Does not offer much more FPS when disabled. Besides, it makes the game look more detailed. Certainly can't hurt to leave it on. I recommend to leave it on.
HighDetailActors--This is the "high world detail" setting. Depending on the map, it can create a significant performance decrease. When playing with bots, this will really kill your FPS. Note that when disabled extra special effects will not be rendered. For example, the shock rifle fires a bland line instead of the curvy energy bolt. Recommend leaving it off.
SuperHighDetailActors--This is the "highest world detail" setting. I find the only difference from "high" is that it renders extra map objects such as more trees. Recommend leaving it off.
UsePrecaching--Loads all textures to memory before starting map. Recommend set to on.
UseTrilinear--Increases image quality of textures with minimal performance hit. Recommend it on.
AdapterNumber--This is for machines with more than one graphics card. Don't know how this setting is changed, but it likely doesn't matter since you probably don't have more than one graphics card anyway.
ReduceMouseLag--Setting this to off will increase your FPS, but some find it causes too much mouse lag. I myself do not notice too large of a difference as far as mouse movement goes. Whether or not it is worth the extra FPS is purely up to you. Set to your preference.
UseTripleBuffering--Increases performance. Creates an extra buffering zone beyond doube buffering to render frames ahead of what you are seeing. Leave it on.
UseHardwareTL--Uses hardware T&L. Obviously, it is faster and prettier than software. Leave it on.
UseHardwareVS--Controls vertex shading. The water might use this feature, but not sure if anything else does. Leaving it on is probably best for both image quality and performance.
UseCubemaps--I know this is used to render some objects such as water. You might get additional FPS with it off. I recommend leaving it on.
DesiredRefreshRate--Refresh rate. Set to the highest refresh your monitor supports on the resolution you want to play on.
UseCompressedLightmaps--Compresses lightmaps. A demanding game like this with huge textures should be compressed. Leave it on for best performance.
UseStencil--Stencil may be stencil shadowing. However, I do not know how this setting is used and in what way. I do not know if it makes the game look better or worse, nor do I know what performance impact it has. Leave it the way it is for now.
Use16bit--Uses 16 bit color. If you got a newer card, leave it off for 32 bit color and more precise rendering. They can process the extra color with little performance impact. Older cards strongly recommended to set it on.
Use16bitTextures--Uses 16 bit textures. Use the same logic above. One thing worth of nothing is that switching it off to use 32 bit textures consumes twice as much VRAM.
MaxPixelShaderVersion--Has to do with pixel shaders. Leave it the way it is.
UseVSync--Syncs image with your monitor refresh rate. Can reduce "tearing," but might lower FPS. Some find it increases average FPS. If you want higher FPS and don't mind tearing, set it off. If you do mind tearing, set it on.
LevelOfAnisotropy--Anisotropic filtering. This can cause a performance hit. Set to "0" will increase FPS with minimal image quality loss. You won't tell the difference unless you look really hard. Recommend it set to "0."
DetailTexMipBias--Controls the LOD bias of textures. Set to your preference. The lower, the better the image. However, there is a small performance hit.
DefaultTexMipBias--Controls the LOD bias of detail textures. Set to your preferences. The lower, the better the image. However, there is a small performance hit.
UseNPatches--ATI users might want to leave this enabled. Smooths out edges with (from what I heard) minimal performance loss. If indeed it doesn't create a large performance hit, ATI users should set it on.
TesselationFactor--Has something to do with the number of subdivisions that make up curves. Increasing will make curves look better but increase polygon count, and decrease performance. Gamers familiar with the Quake engine know this as "curved surfaces." UT2003 already makes use of enough polygon count, and it is smart not to increase this setting. I haven't experimented with decreasing the setting, however. More than likely it will improve FPS, but how much I don't know, probably not drastically.
CheckForOverflow--No idea. Leave it as is for now.
DecompressTextures--Setting it on will not compress textures. With the incredible texture usage of UT2003, it is recommendded you leave it on if your video card supports this.
UseXBoxFSAA--Quite obviously, disable it. It doesn't do anything.
D3D is supposedly the API that UT2003 and its engine is optimized for. However, if you wish to try OpenGL to see if it helps out FPS (and for some, it does) do the following:
1) Go to your ut2003.ini in the ut2003\system folder.
2) Change RenderDevice=D3DDrv.D3DRenderDevice to RenderDevice=OpenGLDrv.OpenGLRenderDevice
As of the current build of UT2003, the some claim that OpenGL offers higher performance than D3D. Users made statements saying that the OpenGL API is less CPU dependent. In a game using the UT2003 engine, it is wise to save every bit of CPU power you can. Although Epic has made the claim that D3D also offers better image quality, users claim no reduction in image quality was noticable. I have tried OpenGL and I actually think it actually increases image quality and sharpens textures. However, I have also noticed some negative aspects. OpenGL has some very serious issues with grass. Walk near some and you'll know what I mean. I seriously believe this is also the same issue plaguing MOHAA when trees are around. There are also some sudden and drastic FPS drops. The renderer currently appears buggy. Hopefully in a future patch, both APIs would be optimized and not just D3D. The possible tweaking options for OpenGL are the same as the ones on D3D. The section for OpenGL is right below that of D3D. Follow the general guidelines above.
Now I will go into in-game settings:
Texture Detail--As far as I know, textures are simply stored in VRAM. As long as you have enough, it shouldn't degrade performance much, if at all. My testing supports my theory. Users with 64MB cards may want to set to either normal or high. Users with 128MB cards should set it to highest for best image quality.
Chararacter Detail--Same logic as above.
World Detail--Already covered in the "Actor Detail" section of the .ini file.
Physics--This is one of the strangest settings one can set in the game. When set to a higher setting, there is no warning about adverse performance hits. When testing this, I have found little to no difference in FPS. The only difference I am aware of is the shimmering in the water when set to normal or up. I don't seem to notice a difference in actual death animations. Have tested this numerous times in various bombing run maps and have enjoyed doing so
As far as I know, the only benefit one gets for setting it higher than "low" is for the shimmering in the water. I recommend that you leave it on low just to save those CPU cycles.
Character Shadows--Draws shadows. For some, it kills performance. You're probably not gonna care much about the shadows either. Leave it off.
Detail Textures--Already covered in the .ini section.
Projectors--Don't possess much knowledge about what it does. I do know that character shadows are considered a projector. I also know the bulldog's headlights are projectors. But I don't know if this is used to any extent on the maps or characters, as I do not notice any difference nor do I know what impact it has on FPS. Although character shadows is considered a projector, I do not know if other projectors have the same impact on FPS. Leave it as is for now.
Decals--Draws scarring effects. Doesn't seem to make much performance difference, according to my tests. Set to your preference.
Decal Amount--When set to a higher setting, there is no warning about a performance decrease. According to my testing, there is little to no performance hit. Set to your preferences.
Foliage--Surprisingly, grass can take a good FPS hit. As of the current build of UT2003, OpenGL will cause massive drops in FPS when you stare at some. When I mean stare, I mean, filling the screen with foliage. Although you wouldn't normall do that, there is something definitely wrong with it. D3D users don't experience this issue. You may not miss the grass very much and I believe it is worth disabling. I recommend it off.
Trilinear Filtering--This is a filter that improves texture quality beyond bilinear filtering. If you got a semi-recent video card, enable it as it does not cause a performance hit. Users with older cards may want to leave it off.
Now on to the tweaks possible with the sound settings. Here is what the section looks like in the .ini file.
UseEAX--This uses the EAX capabilities on many newer sound cards. You can expect better effects + better sound positioning with this set on. However, expect a relatively large performance hit with it enabled. Whether or not it is worth the loss in FPS is hard to tell. Set to your preference.
Use3DSound--This uses positional audio to 5.1 speakers. Again, it will create a performance hit, but less than that of EAX. Set to your preference.
UseDefaultDriver--Uses the default driver in the system directory of UT2003. Setting it to false will use the driver located in the Windows directory. This has caused sound issues for me, but some claim it reduces the performance hit of hardware and EAX audio. Others claim it doesn't do much for performance hits. I would recommend you use the default driver.
CompatibilityMode--Uses a safe mode for the sound drivers. This will reduce sound quality and performance. Unless you have problems with sound, keep it off.
UsePrecache--Caches the sound before the match begins. Will increase performance in game. Keep it on.
ReverseStereo--This reverses the sound channels. For example, it reverses the sound usually broadcasted on the right channel to the left channel and vice versa. Set to your speaker set up.
Channels--Sets the amount of sound that can be broadcasted at one time. More channels will cause a performance hit while less channels will reduce sound quality. I recommend to leave it.
MusicVolume--Music volume. Set to your preference.
AmbientVolume--Ambience volume. Set to your preference.
SoundVolume--Effects volume. Set to your preference.
TimeBetweenHWUpdates--Not sure. I would guess this is the amount of time before sound is actually played. No idea what setting is best. Keep it that way for now.
DisablePitch--Disables pitch. I don't know what pitch is, but more than likely it is a sound effect or something. In addition, setting it off may save some performance, but probably not much. Not sure what setting is best. For now, leave it that way.
LowQualitySound--Uses bad sound quality to reduce CPU load. However, I doubt that it will increase FPS very much. I would say it isn't worth the bad sound. However, you should set this to your own system.
One final tweak that for some users create a noticable performance increase is to disable the page file and run the OpenGL renderer. This combo has worked very effectively for some users even with an older configuration. Do so if you are running Windows 2000/XP. But do not, repeat do not disable it if you are running Windows 9x.
I hope I have been able to help out. Thanks for the input. If I get additional feedback, I will add it in. However, the guide seems to be hampered by text amount limitations. Any solution, moderators?