Civilization: Beyond Earth Testing Notes

Along with discussions of the performance, there are also a few bugs and other quirks in many games that could use fixing. In the case of Civilization: Beyond Earth, my testing has uncovered a few issues. First and foremost, the problem with the MSI GS60 running at higher than 1080p definitely needs a fix (most likely from NVIDIA's or Intel's drivers, though possibly it's something specific to the laptop that MSI would need to fix, or perhaps it's something with the game itself).

Another issue I encountered (which might be hardware specific) is that the game always drops to a 24Hz refresh rate on my Acer XB280HK LCD; the monitor supports 3840x2160 at 60Hz, and if I change the refresh rate after the game has started everything is fine. When I exit and restart, unfortunately, the game is back to 24Hz even though the settings claim it's at 59Hz.

Of course I'd also love to see the support for Mantle SFR "just work" without requiring any manual tweaking of configuration files. Fixing Mantle support for users with more than two GPUs is a known issue, though it only likely affects a handful of users. Another known issue is that if Windows is set to anything other than 100% scaling, the game basically breaks right now – your mouse cursor doesn't map properly to the screen coordinates so you can't click on buttons or units. And let me just say that a 28" display running at 3840x2160 does not result in particularly legible text (in Windows) for my tired old eyes at 100% scaling.

While I'm here talking about fixes, it would also be great if Firaxis improved the usefulness of the benchmark results. Right now, all it generates is a CSV file with one long line of comma separated values containing the frame rendering times (in milliseconds). That's certainly better than nothing, but I had to create a macro to convert the row into a column, calculate the total time and number of frames (and thereby the average FPS), as well as determining the instantaneous frame times. In some ways it's easier to just use FRAPS to log the performance during the benchmark, but of course FRAPS only works with Direct3D and OpenGL and not Mantle.

Being able to launch the benchmark from a command prompt without Steam complaining about the extra command line parameters (see above dialog) and being able to launch the Mantle version of the game from the command prompt would also be appreciated. The latter is a Firaxis issue, while Steam now appears to complain about any command line parameters on the games I've tested. Basically, if you're going to include a built-in benchmark, generating data in a more useful format and providing tools to automate testing multiple settings helps the people that will actually use the benchmark (i.e. hardware reviewers like me).

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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    It's a $330 CPU running up to what was once $1100 worth of GPU (2 x R9 290X). It's more CPU than a lot of people have, but OC i7-4770K isn't much faster than an overclocked i5-4670K that only costs $220. Most gamers have something roughly at the level of the i5-4670K is my feeling; if they don't, then they probably don't have an R9 or GTX graphics card either. :-)

    (And yes, there are always exceptions, but we're talking big picture here.)
  • Kalelovil - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    That assumes that people are building their PCs today.
    There a plenty of people still with i7-2500k/FX-8320 era CPUs and mid-high end GPUs who are interested in effects of Mantle on game performance.
  • Artuk - Friday, October 24, 2014 - link

    That would be me. I am running on an FX-4100 OC to 4Ghz. My R9 280X is my "tock". I will tick again when windows 10 comes out and get a new CPU etc.

    I think a lot of us with 1 GB video cards found ourselves upgrading with the latest set of games hungry for more texture memory even if everything else was "acceptable".

    My hope is that mantle will mitigate the sub-par processor a bit.
  • Artuk - Saturday, October 25, 2014 - link

    My informal benchmark with the FX-4100 and the R9 280X was that mantle provided a significant benefit on the part of the bench at the end where it pans out. The scrolling was smoother and I was seeing 30 fps with mantle. With DX11 the scrolling struggled and I was in the teens a few times. Generally Mantle was showing a 25% increase in the extreme cases.

    In the earlier part of the bench where it is a little more zoomed in I saw the same moderate 5fps or so difference that others are seeing.

  • limitedaccess - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Is it possible to test the performance and playability with IGPs, particularly at 1080p (but lower settings)?

    If Beyond Earth retains the touch controls from Civ 5, then it would be a rather suitable game for hybrids/convertibles (eg. Surface Pro).
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    I can add a bit of testing today on IGP and see how that goes... stay tuned.
  • garbagedisposal - Friday, October 24, 2014 - link

    Also interested in this, thanks for testing.
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Mantle needs to be tested with a slower GPU to really shine. Testing it with one of the fastest CPU's out is not really the best test for Mantle.

    Running the same test with a slower CPU (say 2-3 years old) should show a bigger jump.
  • limitedaccess - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Did you (and is it possible) to test whether or not Mantle has an impact on turn times (for AI calculations) if it does reduce CPU overhead for rendering?
  • SviGG - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Exactly what I'd like to see! Civ has always been a cpu bound game, especially toward the endgame. Try playing a large map with 8-12 civs in the modern age. You can go make a coffee between each turn, makes it nearly unplayable. With mantle's biggest benefit being cpu limited scenarios, which so far has meant pairing a highend gpu with a low end cpu, I'd like to see what kind of impact it has on turn times. I've been waiting to see those kinds of test since they announced Beyond earth would be supporting mantle. I'd be interesting to see what it can do with some high end cpu's when the game can actually push them.

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