Falling Behind the Curve

As you may have noticed in the sidebar and/or prior post, I have picked up Dragon Age: Inquisition. I have not played it as much as I should have been however, because it is the first PC game in which I’ve ran into a hardware wall.

I am still strategically turning settings down, but I’m talking about Medium settings and getting maybe 40 FPS on a good day. Yesterday, my gaming session was cut short by the game randomly diving down to a literal 4 FPS level every 30 seconds. I “solved” that issue by spending a long time on Youtube weeding through arcane practices, many of which sounded suspiciously similar to “blow on the dice to make them roll high” from D&D players. One of the suggestions was to turn off FRAPS and other FPS counters; I was, of course, unable to ascertain whether it actually worked or if things ran better because I was unable to actually tell how bad it was running.

In any of these sort of situations, I come back to my experience with Skyrim. Basically, if your game doesn’t look as good as Skyrim on my machine, that’s your fault. Perhaps it’s not entirely fair to have that as a benchmark – I do notice a lot more NPCs milling about in Inquisition – but I still end up questioning whether my rig is truly outdated or if the designers got lazy with the PC optimization.

Regardless, my Inquisition FPS woes motivated me to start looking at weak points in my gaming rig:

  • i5-2500K Processor (4x 3.30GHz/6MB L3 Cache)
  • 8 GB [4 GB X2] DDR3-1600
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti – 1GB – EVGA Superclocked – Core: 900MHz

Now, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about getting GTX 970 cards recently, so I figured that my ole 560ti might finally have been gotten to its obsolescence phase. On the other hand, I am not about to spend $300+ on a new graphics card either. What I want slash need is a way of determining the price points of various GTX cards in terms that I can understand.

For example, while I like this chart, it doesn’t really tell me much:

Again with the numbers.

Again with the numbers.

Actually, the chart did tell me quite a bit, as I was very seriously considering the GTX 750ti because bigger numbers equals better, right? I would have been quite pissed at that $100+ purchase for the tiniest of gains, let me tell you. But off-hand, I have no idea what 20,000 more… units translates into FPS terms. Eyeballing PCPartPicker.com shows that a 760 costs $170, the 770 is $260, and the 780 sits at $283. Which is a little weird considering the performance increase on the chart, and the fact that the rest of the 780s on the list are north of $400, above even the the 970s.

What ended up further confusing me is the fact that YouTube videos like this one exist. For the click averse, the title is “Battlefield Hardline ULTRA SETTINGS – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560TI 1GB DDR5 @ AMD A-10 6800k 4.30Ghz.” And it looks like it runs okay, although there is no framerate counter in the corner. So… what gives? I’m pretty sure I wasn’t playing BF4 on Ultra on my rig. I think the person might have been playing at a lower resolution than 1920×1080, but would that make that big of a difference? I’m pretty used to 1080p at this point though, and am not sure I want to give it up even if it magically fixed all my problems.

From my research on the processor side of things, I have heard that the i5-2500K is still pretty pimp as far as things go. I did verify the speed at 3.3ghz, which means it has not been overclocked. I basically know nothing about overclocking other than what I have read on the internet, so I’m not sure whether that is an avenue worth exploring versus the risk of my machine bursting into flame. Then again, it is liquid cooled, so… yeah.

What this post boils down to is this: I’m open to any suggestions. It could be Inquisition settings, GTX card comparisons (I’m sticking with Nvidia), overclocking guides if that would actually help, and so on. As it stands, it’s still early enough in Inquisition that I likely won’t miss much by turning down settings before I get too invested in my characters actually looking good, but I’d prefer that they do. I mean, come on, Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider and Titanfall looked fucking fantastic. Why can’t Inquisition? Bah.

[Fake Edit]: I did end up finding this site that compared Inquisition FPS on Ultra settings across multiple cards. The short version is that the 760 gets 30, 770 has 39, and the 780 hits 45. The 750ti is the closest equivalent to my own card, and it eked out 22 FPS. Which, let me tell you, is not indicative of in-game FPS at all at Ultra settings. Still, at least I have some sense of scale now. Will I spend hundreds of dollars on a new card to get 8 more frames per second? Well, I don’t actually need Ultra settings, so hopefully that 8 multiplies out a bit on, you know, High settings or whatever.

Posted on December 29, 2014, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Hey Azuriel,

    I splashed out two weeks ago and purchased a new gaming rig which has the GTX 970 4GB Video card. I was playing ArcheAge on low graphics settings, but now they sit comfortably at ultra-high. My rig is pretty close to this one:


    (Mine was the last of its type so it isn’t on there).

    Personally, however, I wouldn’t worry too much if it’s just the new Dragon Age. I have a friend who is a producer at Riot and he was scathing the other night about how badly Dragon Age has been designed. If your rig is handling all your other games then I wouldn’t be rushing out to change anything fast, especially for that game.

    Myself, I work on the 4 year rule for gaming rigs – buy the best I can afford and hope that I get 4 years out of it before technology makes it obsolete.



    • The more I read, the more I’m inclined to try some small overclocking before throwing down money on a new video card. Worst case scenario, I burn something out and end up upgrading anyway. I’ll continue with the research in any case.

      As for DA:I, yeah, I’ve heard about the lack of optimization. Everything else runs to my satisfaction (I don’t need Ultra on most things), although I’d like to pick up Far Cry 4 at some point, so… it might be getting close to that time.


  2. I have a similar setup but overclocked and it runs smooth on high. I’d recommend an EVO cooler and overclock and see where that gets you first. I used a program that came with my motherboard to handle the overclock and it was pretty much one button press to setup.


    • Did you just go CPU overclock, or did you overclock the GPU as well?


      • Just the cpu but I do have a slightly better video card I think, it’s a GTX 660. I used Asus’ Ai Suite that came with the mobo to OC to 4.3 if I’m not mistaken. I could do it with stock cooling even but certain game would overheat the cpu so I went ahead and grabbed an EVO cooler and it runs nice and cool all the time now.


      • My CPU actually came water-cooled, but I bought it via iBuyPower.com so it was “custom built” a bit. After bumping the CPU from 3.3Ghz to 4.0Ghz, the temps seemed to top out at ~60, so I might tweak it a bit higher to maybe 4.1 or 4.2.

        I don’t want to have to mess with voltages or extensive stress-testing though (who has 10 hours to not use their computer?), so perhaps I’ll leave it where it’s at.


  3. I’m not sure how comparable my system is but I definitely had to experiment a lot when I started playing. The first big rift fight with the pride demon – I thought they were doing it slow-mo on purpose…

    Anyway, I’m on a laptop:
    – Intel Core i7-4700HQ CPU @ 2.4GHz
    – 16GB RAM
    – Nvidia GeForce GTX 770M

    I ended up putting Mesh, Texture, and Effects Quality on High, Ambient Occlusion on SSAO, Post-Process AA on Low, Multisample AA Off, and everything else on Medium. It looks great (though only a 17″ laptop screen) and runs very smoothly except on the Storm Coast. Doesn’t like the rainy weather there, but still runs reasonably well.

    Dropping Mesh Quality made a huge difference to performance (especially in scenes with lots of NPCs) but had the side effect of making hair look like plastic. They may have since fixed this in the big post-release patch, but it runs well enough for me now that I haven’t tweaked again.

    I haven’t noticed the lack of AA (the other effects seem to compensate) and dropping it improved performance a lot.

    My cutscenes, character, and armour detail all look gorgeous. (I am curious how much better things might look on higher settings!)

    Did you look into the PC command line fix that removes the 30FPS cap on cutscenes?


    • I looked into the cutscene cap, but did not really read anything about it helping outside the cutscenes themselves. I was generally fine with the cutscenes staying at 30 FPS as they seemed to stay that consistent level instead of oscillating back and forth.

      I’ve gotten a few moments of 60 FPS after the overclock and a few other tweaks, and I think I’ll follow your example and bump things down to Medium to get it consistently. I would rather be at a steady 60 than have higher graphical fidelity, if I have to choose.


  4. I was running a X3360 (Core2Q Q9650 equivalent) with 8GB DDR2 with a GTX 560 1GB (not even Ti).Upgraded to a 4790K with 20GB DDR3-(just vanilla 1333)to alleviate any CPU bottleneck and get a platform for a later GPU upgrade.

    Settings made the biggest difference. Aside from running at max resolution with MSAA x4 I didn’t notice a significant visual difference when actually playing the game so long as mesh was on at least high.

    I tried everything from 1024×768 to 1920×1080, variations on ultra/high/medium/off. The winner was 1280×720 (looks great on a TV), high mesh, effects at Ultra (pixelation on lower settings looks poor IMO), SSAO, tessellation off (hardly noticeable, there are animated GIFs showing it all), post process (off looks blurry to me and doesn’t fix the jagged edges on stairs/planks), MSAA off or at 2x if you can’t stand jagged stairs/planks,etc, otherwise it won’t be noticeable, everything else at medium.

    user.cfg file with the following lines:
    RenderDevice.RenderAheadLimit 2
    WorldRender.MotionBlurEnable 0
    WorldRender.SpotLightShadowmapEnable 0

    Runs very smooth. In game benchmark runs about 60fps avg, 45 min, with many parts between 70-100fps.

    I played with a gamepad, beware of the mouse smoothing if you’re using keyboard/mouse, if it’s set to high it can cause issues.

    I’m still considering an upgrade if I play anything else in the future such as the Witcher 3, but the appeal is mostly to have access to higher resolutions or MSAA more than anything else.


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