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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  • SDA - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Nice, thorough article. I was surprised at how competitive the 6600GT was with higher-end cards in WoW... looks like it'd match or outperform the X800 Pro across the board. Thanks to the CPU scaling section, I can come to a fairly safe conclusion that this isn't because of other system bottlenecks.

    I tend to agree with #2/7 on LOD. If LOD isn't invisible or damned near it, I disable it immediately. It hurts my brain to see a blob morph into a tree.

    Question on widescreen: how does WoW generate the widescreen picture? That is, is it horizontally stretched or vertically clipped relative to the 4:3 image, or is it actually the same with more added on on the sides?
  • sbuckler - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Why is my northwood cpu too slow? - you never tested with one so how do you know? Going by previous comparisons it's probably faster then a similarly clocked 5 or 6 series pentium. Reply
  • EODetroit - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Oh yeah, #2 is right, to be harder on the video cards, turn "Level of Detail" off. Its a feature that replaces far away textures with low detail ones, and subs in the high detail textures on the fly as you get closer. Keeping high detail textures on regardless would have been a more interesting test.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link


    1280 x 768 is the resolution I used, it's a widescreen resolution that some folks have been using because of its 15:9 aspect ratio.

    Take care,
  • EODetroit - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Nice article, its practically the first of its kind, since almost no one looks at MMORPGs even though they can get really low framerates at times. I heard EQ2 is the most graphically intensive game on the market, bar none, you might look into testing it too.

    WoW is now my game of choice, replacing Enemy Territories (I'm a FPS guy at heart, but WoW is fun and I'm hooked). I'm hoping that when Battlegrounds comes out, it'll be like ET on crack, except taking months to max your character instead of minutes.

    One thing... on Page 4, you list the one of the resolutions you tested as "1280x768". Is that accurate or was it really 1280x960 or 1280x1024, which seems more likely.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link


    Ask and ye shall receive, the first page has been updated :)

    Take care,
  • segagenesis - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Minor points... I would add that using LOD causes a noticeable level detail change ass you walk along, you can see the obvious detail changes. I keep it *off* even if it reduces performance because otherwise mountains/trees/stuff look like they are morphing as you get closer to them :P

    Also, in large areas like the barrens setting the terrain distance to 100% makes a difference compared to Teldrassil as you showed. I still get 30 fps which is fair enough for a 9800 pro at max detail.
  • Woodchuck2000 - Wednesday, March 23, 2005 - link

    Any chance of picture rollovers? I'm finding hard to spot some that many DX8/9 differences scrolling up and down! Reply
  • vetonveton - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    I have pen intel{R} pentium{R} 4 CPU 3.00Ghz 2.99Ghz..... RAM: 1 GB.... grafic:96 MB!! Can i play WOW on this??? please guys,I need a quick answer! Reply

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