Technical Discussion

The bigger news with Rage is that this is id’s launch title to demonstrate what their id Tech 5 engine can do. It’s also the first major engine in a long while to use OpenGL as the core rendering API, which makes it doubly interesting for us to investigate as a benchmark. And here’s where things get really weird, as id and John Carmack have basically turned the whole gaming performance question on its head. Instead of fixed quality and variable performance, Rage shoots for fixed performance and variable quality. This is perhaps the biggest issue people are going to have with the game, especially if they’re hoping to be blown away by id’s latest graphical tour de force.

Running on my gaming system (if you missed it earlier, it’s an i7-965X @ 3.6GHz, 12GB RAM, GTX 580 graphics), I get a near-constant 60FPS, even at 2560x1600 with 8xAA. But there’s the rub: I don’t ever get more than 60FPS, and certain areas look pretty blurry no matter what I do. The original version of the game offered almost no options other than resolution and antialiasing, while the latest patch has opened things up a bit by adding texture cache and anisotropic filtering settings—these can be set to either Small/Low (default pre-patch) or Large/High. If you were hoping for a major change in image quality, however, post-patch there’s still plenty going on that limits the overall quality. For one, even with 21GB of disk space, id’s megatexturing may provide near-unique textures for the game world but many of the textures are still low resolution. Antialiasing is also a bit odd, as it appears have very little effect on performance (up to a certain point); the most demanding games choke at 2560x1600 4xAA, even with a GTX 580, but Rage chugs along happily with 8xAA. (16xAA on the other hand cuts frame rates almost in half.)

The net result is that both before and after the latest patch, people have been searching for ways to make Rage look better/sharper, with marginal success. I grabbed one of the custom configurations listed on the Steam forums to see if that helped at all. There appears to be a slight tweak in anisotropic filtering, but that’s about it. [Edit: removed link as the custom config appears mostly worthless—see updates.] I put together a gallery of several game locations using my native 2560x1600 resolution with 8xAA, at the default Small/Low settings (for texturing/filtering), at Large/High, and using the custom configuration (Large/High with additional tweaks). These are high quality JPEG files that are each ~1.5MB, but I have the original 5MB PNG files available if anyone wants them.

You can see that post-patch, the difference between the custom configuration and the in-game Large/High settings is negligible at best, while the pre-patch (default) Small/Low settings have some obvious blurriness in some locations. Dead City in particular looked horribly blurred before the patch; I started playing Rage last week, and I didn’t notice much in the way of texture blurriness until I hit Dead City, at which point I started looking for tweaks to improve quality. It looks better now, but there are still a lot of textures that feel like they need to be higher resolution/quality.

Something else worth discussing while we’re on the subject is Rage’s texture compression format. S3TC (also called DXTC) is the standard compressed texture format, first introduced in the late 90s.  S3TC/DXTC achieves a constant 4:1 or 6:1 compression ratio of textures. John Carmack has stated that all of the uncompressed textures in Rage occupy around 1TB of space, so obviously that’s not something they could ship/stream to customers, as even with a 6:1 compression ratio they’d still be looking at 170GB of textures. In order to get the final texture content down to a manageable 16GB or so, Rage uses the HD Photo/JPEG XR format to store their textures. The JPEG XR content then gets transcoded on-the-fly into DXTC, which is used for texturing the game world.

The transcoding process is one area where NVIDIA gets to play their CUDA card once more. When Anand benchmarked the new AMD FX-8150, he ran the CPU transcoding routine in Rage as one of numerous tests. I tried the same command post-patch, and with or without CUDA transcoding my system reported a time of 0.00 seconds (even with one thread), so that appears to be broken now as well. Anyway, I’d assume that a GTX 580 will transcode textures faster than any current CPU, but just how much faster I can’t say. AMD graphics on the other hand will currently have to rely on the CPU for transcoding.

Update: Sorry, I didn't realize that you had to have a game running rather than just using vt_benchmark at the main menu. Bear in mind that I'm using a different location than Anand used in his FX-8150 review; my save is in Dead City, which tends to be one of the more taxing areas. I'm using two different machines as a point of reference, one a quad-core (plus Hyper-Threading) 3.65GHz i7-965 and the other a quad-core i7-2630QM. I've also got results with and without CUDA, since both systems are equipped with NVIDIA GPUs. Here's the result, which admittedly isn't much:

Rage Transcoding Performance

This is using "vt_benchmark 8" and reporting the best score, but regardless of the number of threads it's pretty clear that CUDA is able to help speed up the image transcoding process. How much this actually affects gameplay isn't so clear, as new textures are likely transcoded in small bursts once the initial level load is complete. It's also worth pointing out that the GPU transcoding looks like it would be of more benefit with slower CPUs, as my desktop realized a 41% improvement while the lower clocked notebook (even with a slower GPU) realized a 52% improvement. I also tested the GTX 580 and GTX 560M with and without CUDA transcoding and didn’t notice a difference in perforamnce, but I don’t have any empirical data. That brings us to the final topic.

Rage Against the (Benchmark) Machine Performance Investigation and Wrap-Up


View All Comments

  • mayankleoboy1 - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    thanks for the benchmark. its surprising that no other tech site has yet released a RAGE benchmark, despite it being a major release. Reply
  • Malih - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    Possibly some of them choose to wait a little longer until the issues are fixed with newer driver and game updates. Reply
  • B3an - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    If both of you actually read the article you'll see theres NO benchmarks here, due to current buggy drivers and the 60FPS cap. This is why no one has benchmarked the game yet.

    The game runs at a constant 60FPS on almost any remotely decent hardware. Considering how good the game looks, and with early drivers too, thats very impressive. Whats even more impressive is that the console versions looks almost exactly as good as the PC version and always run at 60FPS too. For consoles it's the best looking game around, easily. But John Carmack worked on the engine so i'm not that surprised, literally no one can match him.

    I also love how the textures never repeat. Every single area is unique.
  • abzillah - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    I beat the game and boarderlands is definitely a better game by a long shot. The game is very linear, their is basically not story, the character has no option but to following along. There are no video settings; the resolution cannot be changed, the quality of the video cannot be changed. Things get very repetitive. Playing the game on veteran, was easy to beat the enemy; no challenge at all. If anyone has not bought the game yet, wait for the price to drop, because this game is not worth more than $10. Reply
  • CLicKa - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - link

    I agree. The game just seems to visit and revisit the same "hey that was a good job their buddy, you sure are a badass...but I got some more Shhhhh** for you to do." The dialogue is pretty mundane.

    I will say the artwork and time put into the environment, soundtrack etc is quite impressive and pulls you in which helps out the weak story and repetitiveness of the gameplay. I guess at the end of the day all shooters like this have a linear and less than interesting storyboard.

    As far as running the game I am running a GTX 590 Classified and it is just beautiful. Runs like butter...I've had no driver issues thus. I'm using a Nvidia beta driver 285.38 that seems to be trouble free. I haven't noticed some of the aforementioned bugs or otherwise in-game.

    Like "abzillah" said I do think "Borderlands" blows this effort away and had a truly unique skin and gameplay that set it apart from the competition.

    Rage is worth getting but falls short of the hype. Then again, most games do.
  • Snowstorms - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    I don't see the point outside of the scope of this game.

    Rage uses very unconventional render passes, I think they're the only engine that uses megatextures.The reason they have all these issues is because they have not followed standard rendering procedures.
  • kn00tcn - Wednesday, November 02, 2011 - link

    megatextures were used in ETQW & they turned out fine there

    apparently brink & wolfenstein dont, & maybe not prey 2 either

    one of the things i saw with people that had unplayable performance was that the game thought they had a 3mhz single core cpu, so the auto scaler of the game was calculating the wrong way... i say they should just have an option to ignore everything & run fixed settings (can be a console command, doesnt need to be in the menu)
  • Iketh - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    LOL what benchmark are you speaking of? Why on earth would you comment on an article you didn't read???? Drag yourself into the street and shoot yourself, thx. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    Cool off, he probably didn't read the article before commenting. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Monday, October 17, 2011 - link

    I'm pretty sure that's the issue he's having with the poster... He commented without even reading the article. Negativity without any cause is just moronic. Reply

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