World of Warcraft Video Options

There is a surprising number of options for adjusting image quality in World of Warcraft:

There are a handful of "shader effects" that will run on both DX8 and DX9 hardware (and are basically indiscernible between the two classes of hardware), most of which provide minor changes in image quality.  There is one exception, the Full-Screen Glow Effect shader, which we found to be a bit over the top.  This shader, in particular, makes WoW look a lot like a Playstation 2 game as you can see from the screenshots below.

Mouse over the image below to see Full-Screen Glow enabled.

We opted not to test with the Full-Screen Glow Effect enabled. 

Graphics performance in WoW is primarily limited by three settings: Resolution, Terrain Distance and Anisotropic Filtering.  Not too surprising is the fact that these three settings are also responsible for the greatest impacts on overall image quality. 

Any gamer is familiar with how resolution impacts image quality, so we won't go into much discussion there.  Terrain distance can have a pretty big impact. Here, we have three different settings for terrain distance: the slider at the lowest setting, the 50% setting and the highest setting:

Lowest Terrain Distance


50% Terrain Distance


Maximum Terrain Distance

The difference between the 50% and highest settings are much less pronounced; thus, if you're unhappy with performance, this is one sacrifice that you can make that's pretty reasonable. 

By now, you should be familiar with what anisotropic filtering does (if not, take a look at any major GPU launch and our review of it for a quick primer) and its usefulness in WoW is extremely well pronounced in areas where there's water.

Mouse over the image below to see the Anisotropic Filtering slider set to its maximum value.

The newer cards take a much lower performance hit from maxing out the anisotropic filtering slider and they end up looking better too. 

We wanted to be able to directly compare all GPUs, so we maxed out all of the sliders and options (with the exception of the Glow effect and V-Sync).  The screenshot above of the Video Options screen is actually the settings that we used for benchmark (varying only resolution). 

Index ATI vs. NVIDIA Image Quality
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  • trs80m1 - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Great article, though I was disappointed to see that the ATI 9600XT (my card, of course) got left off. Hope you get a chance to add that, since I'd like to keep that card when I build a new A64 system soon.

    Two other requests: City of Heroes performance review, and how does the Internet connection affect framerate? i.e. Cable vs DSL vs Dial-up

    Thanks again!
    Reply
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    I dont think WoW even supports AA, at least on my card (read above). I force enable it outside and it works up to the character selection screen, but in game it goes away (back to jaggies). What gives? Reply
  • Glayde - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Hey I want to say thanks for doing comparisons on a game I play, it's hard to compare other benchmarks to actual results i'd get in game.

    One thing I'd like to ask about though, none of your tests were with AA enabeled? (since AA isn't changed in-game in WoW, you need to do it out of game).

    Reply
  • cHodAXUK - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Nice article, how about a look at EQ2 and DAoC Catacombs as well? The later has just had a major DX9 engine upgrade and all the old art/textures/models have been overhauled. Reply
  • Gholam - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Heh, approaching Orgrimmar auction house/bank area in prime time really puts the stress on any system :) I have a Winchester running at 2.6GHz and a 6800GT PCIe at 420/1200, and it's still a little choppy there, especially on initial approach, although I suspect that is due to bunches of textures being loaded. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    For this particular test LOD didn't dramatically influence performance, but you all right, if it does annoy you turning the option off definitely helps.

    sbuckler

    That comment was made for lower clocked Northwoods, I've made the appropriate clarification in the review.

    Illissius

    The big difference ends up being in overall smoothness of gameplay, which is determined by minimum frame rates as well as averages. Unfortunately due to the nature of the test being non deterministic not all of the minimum frame rates make total sense, thus we left those statistics out.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • WooDaddy - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    My favorite part about the review is on the last page:
    "And as always we found that the Extreme Edition is a waste of money"

    I think anyone who is BUILDING a computer who uses a Intel processor for GAMING is nucking futz! I mean how many AT reviews do you have to read until you get it in your think skull that Intel is absolutely not the best way to go for gaming!?!</rant off>

    Sorry about that... Seriously, though. Good review. Time to upgrade the Ti4200 128Mb. I've been waiting for a review like this.
    Reply
  • Illissius - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    The 6600GT is only 15% slower than the 6800GT? That seems rather very odd... Reply
  • OrSin - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Alittle off subject can we get beachmarks with some RTS games too. Thier was time when they were all 2d games, but now alot of them are 3d now. Kohan 2, and Axis and Allies both use the Grybo engine. This engine is used in quite a few RTS games. Most games have in game films so you can re-run the film to test thier game play.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • EODetroit - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Interesting, I might have to try that some time, thanks for the quick reply on resolutions... might let me see a wider FoV, useful for PvP. Reply

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