The Driver Enabled AA Question

Currently driver AA settings are very complex, especially for NVIDIA hardware. In-game settings are more compatible with each game on an individual basis, and future games will be able to support AA with floating point textures and enable CSAA in-game on NVIDIA hardware. So wouldn't the world be a better place if we could just throw out driver AA settings and rely on games?

Such a theory might work well for future games, but the reality is that driver AA settings are a necessity for enabling the functionality on older games or current games that neglected to include AA support in favor of floating point surfaces. In order to allow gamers to continue to benefit from these features while avoiding compatibility issues inherent in current an future games, NVIDIA is considering altering the presentation of AA in its driver.

We would like to make it clear that NVIDIA hasn't taken any steps in any particular direction at this point. In fact, any feedback we can get from our readers on these options would be of particular interest to their driver team. If any of these ideas stands out as a winner, please let us know on this article's comments.

One direction NVIDIA may go is to remove the override AA options from the general settings while keeping the enhance options on the main screen. This will allow gamers to enable CSAA in games that don't support the option in-game yet while encouraging the use of in-game settings for MSAA. For applications that don't have in-game settings, NVIDIA would still allow override AA to be set in the game profiles. This would allow older applications the ability to benefit from AA, and NVIDIA could disable the option in profiles for games that are fundamentally incompatible with MSAA.

We aren't sold on the idea of profiles, but it was also suggested that a coolbits like feature could be used to expose override AA modes. This would allow gamers who really know what they want to still have access to the feature in a traditional way after setting a specific registry key.

Another less complicated approach being considered is the addition of a warning box that pops up when AA settings are changed. This would be an informational approach to explain the possible complications of enabling override AA on an application that doesn't support it. This would have added benefit if NVIDIA included a list of games known not to support MSAA in this warning box (as these games should already be noted in their release notes).

The bottom line is that NVIDIA wants to provide the "... best default settings for the broadest set of users for the most likely scenarios." We certainly know what we as reviewers would like to see, but we would love to hear from our readers on the subject.

The Increasing Complexity of AA Final Words
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  • drayzen - Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - link

    Reading the article it occurred to me that basically what Nvidia are trying to achieve is to simplify the process for the und user.

    I thought that you could have an ordered list of driver features that would be progressively turned off based upon a target FPS rating. As for most people, when all is said and done they want a reasonable FPS with as much eye candy as is possible.

    It would basically function as a dynamic fallback system. Similar to the way that modern CPU's adjust their settings based upon load only here we are talking about rendering features rather than speed.

    It would be possible to have a basic and advanced version.

    The Basic version might look like:
    1> MipMap Detail Level
    2> Anisotropic Filtering
    3> Anti-Aliasing *Possibly with: (Method 'a'/'b')
    4> Vertical Sync

    While an Advanced version would be like:
    1> MipMap Low
    2> MipMap Medium
    3> Anisotropic Filtering 2X
    4> MipMap High
    5> Anisotropic Filtering 4X
    6> Anti-Aliasing 2X Method 'a'
    7> Anisotropic Filtering 8X
    6> Anti-Aliasing 2X Method 'b'
    8> .....

    - For both Basic and Advanced the user is able to change the order of the items in the list to keep the features they deem most iportant.
    - In the Basic version the driver would automatically fallback through the levels of a feature. e.g. for Anti-Aliasing: 4x('a') -> 4x('b') -> 2x('a') -> 2x('b')
    - In the Advanced settings the user is specifying the order of each individual setting so no fallback is required.

    The ability to log events would enable users to analyse their results and better tailor their settings.

    As far as notifications go, I guess you could have a tick box on each row as to whether a notification will appear for a status change on that feature.

    I'm not sure how well this would work as a system with current API's, maybe with DX10 where there are no more API's (correct?) it would be better, as some of the changes are not high speed dynamic changes and seem to require a restart of the video system.
    With some changes to programming I'm sure it could be achieved.
    Reply
  • instant - Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - link

    Coolbits + the normal display properties is all you need.

    Hopefully Nvidia will let those of us who hate their new display properties manager use the old one...

    Reply
  • Gherault - Monday, March 26, 2007 - link

    Why not initialize a profile dialog box when a program tries to go to use DirectX/OpenGL? You could use checkboxes for every time, first time, etc. located in driver settings- probably first time as a default. I hate opening the Nvidia profiles, but it if automatically popped up, and integrated the warning boxes/list of programs known not to function with MSAA (better if integrated directly into a profile) then I would love it. Manually wading through the profiles as-is stinks, therefore I do not use them AT ALL. If you wanted to experiment with performance by tweaking profiles you could set the checkbox to open the profile every time a program tried to go to use DirectX/OpenGL and play with the settings each time, until you found what you wanted, then "lock" the profile with a checkbox or whatnot that would cause it not to re-open automatically. Also... please don't force me to use the bloated interface that came about in the 90/100 series of drivers. I like the old control panel, and being able to see my GPU temp without having to load Ntune (which is incompatible with my PC- causes bluescreens constantly). Reply
  • DasFox - Monday, March 26, 2007 - link

    I don't see why this seems so complicated.

    I personally leave all Nvidia driver settings on default, and I use nHancer to enable game profiles, and when AnandTech said;

    "Profiles don't seem like the right fit"

    I guess they haven't used nHancer, because life in gaming with it, can't get any easier.

    Reply
  • mindless1 - Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - link

    I think I speak for a lot of users in that I am not wanting the popup box solution mentioned in the article, many people are so incredibly tired of popup messages. This is not a fault of nVidia, there are other companies that have worn out the popup box already. Reply
  • neofit26 - Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - link

    I am usually changing the AA setting from the driver's panel, since very few games have them in the interface. Now with nHancer it's even easier. I wish NVidia copied that interface into their drivers.

    And, unlike a previous poster said, nowadays more and more games do not allow AA to be used and even forced in the driver's panel. I am talking about Gothic 3, Vanguard, Silent Hunter 4 and Stalker apparently. And they don't give anything in exchange. Why would I choose a "David Thompson erotic photography" blurry bloom-like effect in a combat game, instead of non-jaggy lines?

    Anyway, for me the choice is simple: if forums say that the game has no AA and it cannot be forced through the driver panel - I don't buy it.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Sunday, March 18, 2007 - link

    Obviously one of the concerns here is maintaining good support for older games: "...driver AA settings are a necessity for enabling the functionality on older games or current games..."

    Currently the 4:3 scaling option for widescreen monitors is broken for the Geforce 8 on WinXP. In the Nvidia control panel the option is called "Change flat panel scaling", and it simply doesn't work. Here's a forum post of others with the problem: http://forums.nvidia.com/lofiversion/index.php?t23...">http://forums.nvidia.com/lofiversion/index.php?t23...

    What is more important for image quality in games: AA settings, or not stretching 4:3 images to 16:10? Clearly the latter. Fix the basics first.

    Additionally, the Nvidia's nTune program is also broken, since it forgets your settings every time you reboot.
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, March 19, 2007 - link

    The latest 100+ series beta drivers fix 1:1 scaling along with a host of other problems in XP. They're beta, but a helluva lot better than the 2 month+ old 97.92 WHQL. Pretty sure 100.65 WHQL fixed 1:1 in Vista, but not totally sure since I haven't made the move yet. Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Monday, March 19, 2007 - link

    Oh, one other thing. You said 100-series drivers fixed 1:1 scaling in XP. Do they have 100-series for XP? http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_downloads_rel70b...">http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_downloads_rel70b... Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Monday, March 19, 2007 - link

    Oh really, 100.65 fixes the scaling? Poster "thredge" on my link said "Was hoping the 100.65 newest driver I just got would solve it, but was again dissapointed." I haven't tried it since I assumed he was right. Reply

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