Sunday, 14 January 2018 11:10

Everything You Need to Know About PC Graphics Settings

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Everything You Need to Know About PC Graphics Settings

 

Whenever a new game comes out the publisher is always sure to show off amazing screenshots that look like they were ripped from a dreamscape instead of an actual PC.  Have you ever wondered what goes into creating some of those beautiful graphics we take for granted and what all those terms about graphical fidelity mean?  Every serious PC gamer wants to have the bleeding-edge of graphical fidelity but so few of us actually know what any of that means.

Typically it translates into expensive equipment and computer gear beyond the reach of most people, but have you wondered what all of that technical jargon actually means?  Sure, you’ve tweaked settings before, but did you actually know what you were changing up when you did that?  In this article we are going to give you a rundown of the various terms used to describe PC graphics.

 Knowing what you’re reading about can help you make informed decisions when it comes time to build or purchase your next PC gaming rig. While each maker uses different methods to achieve the end goal, they all use roughly the same standards and lingo. Knowing what AMD and Nvidia are talking about when they brag about their hardware might help save you a few pounds. After all, if you’re mainly an indie gamer who likes 8-bit retro style games, you might not need the biggest, baddest graphics card available. But if you’re a wannabe competitive Overwatch player, you need to know what you’re looking for in the marketplace.

 

Frames per Second

 

Frames per second (abbreviated fps) is the number of still frames that are displayed on a monitor within the span of a second. The higher the frames per second number is the smoother your graphics are.

 

Frames per second is mostly determined by your PC’s computing power and the demands that game’s graphical engine places on that hardware. While you cannot directly adjust frames per second, you can tweak other settings to make the game run better.

 

Most displays only refresh at a rate that would make 60 fps the ideal standard but some high-end displays, like 120Hz and 144Hz, are capable of showing 120 fps and 144 fps.

 

Focusing on frames per second really depends on what kinds of games you will play on your gaming rig. If you’re playing a turn-based game like Civilization VI, perhaps maxing out your graphics for the loss of a few frames per second is worth it.

 

If you’re playing a highly competitive first-person shooter like Overwatch, you really don’t want to sacrifice those frames per second as the action is fast and intense.

Image result for frames per second

 

Vertical Sync (VSync) and Refresh Rate

 

Vertical sync is a fancy way of saying that your game’s frame rate is fixed to your monitor’s refresh rate which gets rid of screen tearing - when the game’s image appears out of alignment on your display.

 

The refresh rate is the interval at which your display will put out still frames or how often it updates the image on the screen. For example, a 60 MHz monitor can only display 60 frames per second.

 

Vertical sync holds frame data which can result in input lag or the phenomenon in which you press a button and the action is performed by your character seconds later. Another way to see this delay is by scanning your mouse cursor across your display. If it lags behind your movement then you are experiencing input lag.

 

Nvidia and AMD created G-Sync and Freesync to adapt the monitor’s refresh rate to the frames per second capabilities of your monitor as needed.

 

Resolution

 

A lot of people make a big deal about screen resolution, but do you know what that means?

 

Resolution is the number of pixels displayed on your screen. The higher the number of pixels, the greater the resolution of the image - or the more detailed it is.

 

High-resolution displays will offer gamers crisp, clear images while lower-resolution displays will offer a more cloudy, vaseline-glazed appearance. It all boils down to the level of detail gamers want to see.

 

Currently, it is difficult for many systems to reliably run 4K (3840x2160) resolution games, the current top end number. To illustrate, for a system to run at a 4K resolution it has to run four times as many pixels on screen as it does for 1080p (1920x1080).

 

A lot of popular home consoles display at 720p (1280x720), one of the many reasons why PC gamers often feel a superior gaming rig beats a home console any day of the week when it comes to graphics.

 

How clear the image appears is often tied to your monitor’s size and the number of pixels. Typically as pixels go up and monitor size goes down, the image’s clarity becomes greater.

 

Field of View

 

The field of view (FOV) is the angle at which your player character views the in-game world. The higher the field of view, the greater a player’s peripheral vision. With a high FOV, the center of the screen will appear further away to the player and, at extremes, too high a FOV will result in a fisheye lens effect.

 

In competitive shooters like Overwatch and CS:GO, a high FOV is an advantage because you can see more of the surrounding environment.

 

Anti-Aliasing

 

Anti-aliasing looks to eliminate the jagged edges you see on the lines of the polygons that make up the graphics in your games. If you remember the Nintendo 64’s graphics, the jagged, stair-like edges on the objects in some games is called aliasing. Anti-aliasing tries to minimize this by blending the colors of the pixels around the object to smooth over the edges.

 

This can be an important graphical setting for gamers.

 

Here are four primary anti-aliasing methods used by programmers and how they impact your system.

 

MSAA - The most common method, multi-sample anti-aliasing, is where the computer uses color samples around a polygon and projects an average of these colors. The higher the number of samples used (2x, 4x, 8x), the more calculations your GPU has to perform.

 

FXAA - Fast approximate anti-aliasing applies the smoothing effect to the entire image without distinguishing polygons. This does not tax the GPU as much but can result in a blurrier image.

 

TXAA/MLAA - Temporal anti-aliasing (Nvidia)/morphological anti-aliasing (AMD) both refer to the same thing - the reason the names are different is because each is a proprietary development of Nvidia and AMD respectively.

 

Like MSAA in function, TXAA/MLAA uses data from the previous frame to generate color samples in the current frame, a hyper efficient process.

 

SSAA - Not for the low-end systems out there, supersampling anti-aliasing really pushes your hardware. This method forces the game to generate a higher-resolution image that it then downsizes to fit your display. This artificially inflates the pixel density and results in a clearer looking image.

 

If a game has different settings for anti-aliasing you will want to look for the on that gives you the best quality image at the greatest performance level you desire.

 Image result for Anti-Aliasing

Anisotropic Filtering

 

Anisotropic filtering (texture filtering) transforms surface textures viewed at an angle more clarity.

 

In plain English, it is why the area closest to you looks the most detailed in a game. The details surrounding a player are fully fleshed out while those further away are perhaps more blurry. As you move towards them, they become clearer. If the change in surface quality makes leaps as your character moves, you might need to adjust your graphical setting.

 

Ambient Occlusion

 

Basically means that places where light shouldn’t reach are darker. This is why games have detailed shadows and more realistic looking environments. It does not render shadows in real time, but merely calculates where shadow should be given the placement of objects and light sources within an environment.

 

The two main types of ambient occlusion are SSAO and HBAO - screen space ambient occlusion and horizon-based ambient occlusion - and these refer to various levels of fidelity a system is capable of doing.

 

Bloom

 

This refers to the amount of light that light sources put out in the game world.

 

Motion Blur

 

This refers to the blurring of the physical environment around the player character as he moves in the game world.

 

Tessellation

 

Adds extra depth to the layers and surfaces of a game’s world.

 Image result for Tessellation in games

Depth of field

 

Objects in the background are blurred out while those closer to the player are in focus, like with a camera.

 

Texture Quality

 

Surfaces will increase in clarity the higher this number is.

 

Shadow Quality

 

The higher the setting, the finer the effect of shadow in the game will be.

 

Shadow Distance

 

Some games allow the player to adjust the distance at which shadows are rendered in the game. Manually switching this setting can make the game less taxing for your system.

 

 

Last modified on Sunday, 14 January 2018 11:34