Oblivion:Tweaking

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This page is intended to show ways of configuring hardware and software in a computer for optimal performance when playing Oblivion. Most of the tips here also apply to other PC games, so special configurations listed here should be beneficial to other 3D games as well, with the exception of Oblivion's INI file tweaks.

Contents

[edit] Game Settings

These settings in-game will help your performance:

Display Resolution -- 1024x768 is recommended as a starter resolution. It's not low enough to look grainy, and not quite high enough to significantly affect performance. This one is a personal preference thing; some people prefer raw FPS (lower resolutions), some like fantastic picture quality (higher resolutions). Note that using a resolution different than your monitors recommended resolution may create vertical or horizontal stretching in the game. This only occurs when using a resolution with a different Aspect Ratio than your default resolution.
  • If the user wishes to use very high resolutions (such as 1920x1080 a.k.a 1080p and higher) having multiple video cards in either a "Crossfire" (AMD aka ATI video cards) or "SLI" (NVIDIA video cards) configuration will likely be required for optimal performance. These configurations basically consist of multiple video cards connected to each other within the computer. Graphics processing is divided between the video cards, hence the performance benefit in situations where high amounts of data has to be processed (i.e when using a large video resolution or lots of 3D meshes are present in a scene). Generally setting up a multiple video card setup is fairly easy, though at least some experience upgrading computers will be needed. Before purchasing an extra video card, research specific setup details and requirements, as generally video cards must be within the same "series" or even be identical in order to be configured to work together.
Grass Draw Distance -- Grass has a very high impact on FPS, especially on systems with small amounts of RAM and/or Video Card RAM. Setting the grass draw distance slider all the way low may reduce stuttering. Setting the grass distance to zero also makes herbs much easier to find in the wild, and also allows prowling animals to be spotted farther away.

[edit] INI Settings

See section about the Oblivion.ini file.

[edit] Windows Settings

Doing the following in Windows may help performance:

Drivers -- Upgrading drivers for all of the components in your computer, especially the Video Card, can make a big difference. Generally they should be upgraded to their latest version, though occasionally a version is released that causes issues with some games. If you experience sudden performance loss after a driver upgrade, try using the last version that worked for you.
DirectX -- Regardless of your computer's hardware, you should always have the latest version of DirectX. Make sure that you have at least DirectX 9.0c (Windows Vista/7 users computers will report DirectX 10/11, Windows 7 ships with DirectX 9, 10 and 11 runtimes.).
Running Applications -- Before starting Oblivion, assure that applications such as internet browsers, video converting applications, media players, etc are closed. Applications, even if they aren't actively doing anything still consume memory.
Increasing Virtual Memory Size -- Virtual Memory, in the case of Windows, a "Page File", is a temporary storage medium used when the systems RAM is completely in use. Data stored in Virtual Memory waits until enough sectors of RAM are available, then is transfered to the free sectors. (To read more on Virtual Memory, see Wikipedia's Article).
In Windows, the Page File's size should optimally be 1.5 times the maximum capacity of the RAM in the system. In the case of a system with 2GB of RAM, the Page File should be set to a maximum size of 3GB. Setting it to more will generally have little benefit and will just use unnecessary amounts of drive space.
Changing the Page File's Size in Windows XP
Changing the Page File's Size in Windows Vista/7
Windows Services -- Users with limited RAM can turn off unneeded services running on their computer. Services are basically applications that are started with Windows and operate in the background (they do not have a visual interface). Some services are critical to the Windows OS's function, turning them off could cause instability or prevent Windows from starting. Research services using a search engine before you turn them off and disable them, if the consensus is that they are unneeded, try turning them off and. For a guide explaining how to enable/disable services read Windows Services Guide
  • Unless a service is utilizing an excessive amount of memory or CPU usage (you can view resource consumption of services in "Task Manager"), it is recommended that you do not change the services status, as services normally consume very little resources, and most are critical to Windows or the use of their respective application. For PC's with more than 2GB of RAM and a CPU with at least one core over 2GHZ, disabling or enabling services will have little impact on performance, particularly in games.
Reducing Startup Programs -- Startup programs are similar to Services, with the exception that Startup programs are simply applications that Windows automatically starts upon user login, whereas Services are applications that run in the background. In order to manage applications that startup automatically, go to Start>Run and type in msconfig. Change to the startup tab and uncheck anything you don't need. You'll probably want to keep antivirus and spyware programs, but not Adobe Acrobat and QuickTime preloaders. If in doubt, look for the required marker. Only one or two things should have this, the rest are entirely expendable.
Windows Vista/7 -- Right-click on your Oblivion desktop icon, find the 'Compatibility' tab (Under Properties), and then make sure that "disable desktop composition" is ticked. Click OK to save this setting. This tweak will automatically turn off Vista's graphics-card intensive 'Aero Glass' desktop look, whenever you launch Oblivion.
Using Both HDR and Anti-Aliasing -- HDR and Anti-Aliasing can be used simultaneously through turning on HDR in Oblivions settings, and forcing Anti-Aliasing in the video cards Control Panel (Catalyst Control Center for ATI cards, Forceware Control Panel for NVIDIA cards.)

[edit] Overclocking

Overclocking your system is a way to possibly increase performance in Oblivion. Overclocking is achieved simply through the manipulation of hardware settings so that the component the user desires to overclock is forced to run at a faster speed than its standard ratings. Essentially, overclocking can give a cheaper component the computational power or closer to the computational power of a more expensive model. A good increase in performance can be achieved with some CPU's/Video Cards, and as long as the voltage for those components is not changed, overclocking them generally will not create any permanent damage. It should be noted that running a component at a higher speed than its rated for can sometimes create a significant temperature increase, although the component will usually shutdown before it can be damaged, you will have to manually reset its speeds to their defaults before system stability can be reachieved.

WARNING: Overclocking can damage the component, especially if done incorrectly. Simply increasing the operating frequency of a CPU or GPU will unlikely permanently damage the component, as all mainstream CPU's and GPU's will automatically shutdown when their internal temperature surpasses a certain limit. Increasing the voltage of a component on the other hand can instantly destroy or seriously damage it if a voltage too much higher than the design limit of the component is used. Generally, only experienced individuals should consider overclocking, due to it complexity to achieve and maintain.

Graphics card -- Modern graphics card's GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and Video Memory clock can be increased through a specific section in the respective cards control panels. There are also 3rd party utilities to overclock the video card, these may include extra features, and can sometimes bypass the driver overclocking limit sometimes set by ATI/NVIDIA to reduce the overclocking potential of the video card (For marketing purposes).
CPU -- Overclocking the CPU differs between CPU's, AMD CPU's have a different architecture than Intel CPU's, meaning that there is different methods to overclock each of those processors. Names and methods for overclocking settings will also differ between motherboards, so it is best to use a search engine (i.e Google) to find a guide for your motherboard and CPU. The two main ways to overclock are:
  • Changing BIOS Settings - Experienced overclockers consider this the best way to overclock, as overclocks done in the BIOS are transparent to the Operating System and are therefore invulnerable to various issues that can be caused by bugs in tools used to overclock in the Operating System.
  • Using an Application within Windows - There are many applications available for free on the internet to overclock your CPU from within your operating system. The main reasons to use these is that they are generally more beginner friendly and that they remove the possibility of having to physically reset the BIOS if an overclock fails, as a bad overclock may prevent the computer from starting. If a bad overclock does occur, all one must do is simply stop the application used from starting automatically (usually by entering Windows in Safe-Mode) or simply to configure the application to not automatically overclock the computer at startup beforehand.
RAM -- The RAM's speed is closely tied to the CPU's speed, with most CPU's/motherboard's, increasing the CPU's speed will increase the RAM's speed. Generally speaking, overclocking the RAM will not usually produce much of a performance increase, as unlike CPU's, most RAM modules will fail to operate at speeds higher than their design ratings. Increasing the RAM's voltage is also much more likely to damage the RAM (than the chance of a CPU being damaged by a voltage increase), since RAM modules are highly sensitive to electricity. Unless you have past experience overclocking, it is highly recommended to leave the RAM at its default speeds.
Harddrive -- While "overclocking" hard drive is not really feasible, you can make sure you use the correct controller drivers so that fastest modes of the drive are enabled and speed up the load times by defragmenting the drive the game loads from.
Recovering From a Bad Overclock -- If an overclock causes your system to actually lose performance, overheat, or crash, you can reset the components to their "stock" (default) speeds. Unless you increased the amount of voltage for the components, they should be stable as soon as they cool down after resetting their speeds.
CPUs -- Simply enter the BIOS and select an option similar to "Reset to Factory Defaults". This will undo any changes you have made and will auto-detect your components default speeds.
If the computer fails to start, you can reset the BIOS through the hardware, which involves changing a jumper's position, booting, then resetting the jumper.
For a detailed guide on how to do a hardware BIOS reset, read this WikiHow tutorial: How to Reset the BIOS
Video Cards -- Restart the computer, and press the F8 key on your keyboard a few times as Windows is booting. A screen entitled "Windows Advanced Options" should appear, select Safe-Mode, Windows should begin starting. Log in and enter your video cards control panel. Either disable the overclocking related module, or reset the video card to its default speeds. If your control panel does not start in safe-mode, or you are unable to reset the video cards speeds, download and reinstall your video cards drivers.

[edit] Common Problems

[edit] Texture Shimmering

Nvidia Graphics Cards
On Nvidia cards shimmering is most noticeable when anisotropic filtering is enabled and Image Quality is set to Performance, High Performance, or Quality mode. Textures appear to shimmer and "crawl" as you move about the game world. This is fixed by clamping Negative LOD Bias while playing Oblivion, "High Quality" mode enables negative LOD clamping by default.

[edit] Stuttering

Game stuttering (random pauses of some milliseconds up to some seconds) can have several different reasons. The first-most task is to identify what is your problem.

Game Mistakes Newer Hardware's Capabilities

When Oblivion is first run, it attempts to autodetect the maximum Shader Model and Shader Package the video card is capable of using. Unfortunately, some newer cards (both ATI and NVIDIA) are sometimes misdetected and Oblivion configures itself to use a Shader Package lower than the video cards maximum supported. While this may not always cause issues, some cards will experience a drastic difference in performance between newer and older shader packages. Using the highest shader model supported by your video card is generally recommended, as newer Shader Models often include improved shader algorithms as well as visual enhancements.

To force Oblivion to use the highest possible shader package (Oblivion only supports up to Shader Model 3.0, by default 2.0 is used), first enter the "Oblivion" directory located in the "My Games" folder (which is in turn located in the My Documents directory). There should be a file named "RendererInfo.txt". Locate the bottom entry in that text file and take note of the number listed (it should be between 1 and 19), then enter the "Data" folder located in Oblivion's directory in "Program Files", there should be a folder named "Shaders". Assuming your video card has support for Shader 3.0 or higher, make a copy of the file named "shaderpackage019.sdp". Now make a backup copy of the file "shaderpackage0[number you found in the RenderInfo file here].sdp (i.e shaderpackage007.sdp). Once you have made a backup copy of the shader delete the original file. Now rename the copy you made of "shaderpackage019.sdp" to the name of the shader that you made a backup of.

You should now have 2 copies of "shaderpackage019.sdp", except one should now have the name of the shader package that contained the number written in the "RenderInfo.txt" file. Now, whenever the game attempts to use the incorrect shader package, it will instead be using the highest one.

  • Note that this may cause some issues such as crashing, if this is experienced, simply recopy the backup of the shader package you made.

Alternatively, you can simply edit the RenderInfo file to use the correct shader package. Once you saved the text file change it to read only. This way the file won't revert to it's original state each time you run Oblivion.

Driver Issues

Stuttering can and will likely occur if you install the wrong drivers for your card. At best, the drivers will only utilize part of your cards power, at worst you'll experience serious crashing and graphics corruption. Always download the drivers that are specifically for your card (or sometimes a series of cards, i.e ATI 4000 series drivers).

Always update the drivers for all of your system components, unless the community had discovered a bug that affects your use of the card. In that case, use the last drivers that worked correctly (using AMD graphics cards as an example, if the 10.11 driver creates issues with your use of the card, try the 10.10 drivers.). Driver updates often contain bug fixes and new features, especially if your video card is new on the market.

New Hardware

Brand new components, especially video cards often have quite a few issues or lack optimization in their first release drivers, especially if a company rushed the card out to compete with a rival companies new hardware. New video cards, often despite high-end specification, may not experience the performance you'd expect from them, especially in older games. Before giving up on the hardware, wait for the next few driver releases, as they may contain a large amount of fixes and optimizations.

Texture memory

Stuttering is often caused by loading more textures into memory than your video card and system RAM can store. The system then needs to "page" (force data that's to be copied to memory to wait for available space) textures in and out of memory very rapidly causing stuttering during gameplay. If you're experiencing stuttering during outdoor sequences here is a quick way to check for this problem.

Open the console by pressing ` (or tilde symbol) on your keyboard, now enter the following
setdebugtext 13 (press enter)
tdt (press enter)


Close the console (press the ` key again) and look in the upper left corner of your screen, you should see debug text.
TextureMem is the line we're interested in, check the end of the line for the statement T = nnn mb, if nnn is greater than the video ram on your graphics card then you've identified the cause of your stuttering. Try removing any high-res texture packs that you've installed (LOD textures, LOD normals, etc..) or using lower-resolution versions of the same (ie: use 2048x2048 textures instead of 4096x4096). If that doesn't solve the problem try setting your graphical detail one level lower, ie: use medium instead of high detail. The goal is to keep the total textures loaded in memory beneath the ram-size of your graphics adapter, otherwise you will experience stuttering as the system pages textures in and out of memory.
Increasing uGridsToLoad parameter in the INI file (see Oblivion.ini for more parameters) can cause more textures to be loaded, as more of the game area is loaded, so it is wise to leave this at the default, as several graphical and gameplay glitches will arise if it is raised or lowered.
Audio

Try disabling audio and see whether it helps. This is especially true when your game stutters in combat or when many sound sources are around. Onboard sound chips (sound cards built into the motherboard) use the CPU for sound processing, even decent CPU's may experience a severe drop in performance if game sound is processed through the CPU. Purchasing a sound card that performs sound processing with its own independent processor will alleviate this issue. A good example of a sound card with these capabilities is the Creative Audigy or X-Fi series. An excellent sound card can be purchased for between $50 to $100, so it is a worthwhile purchase for users using onboard sound.

Stuttering related to audio issues can also be caused by buggy sound card drivers. Try updating your sound card/motherboard chipset drivers to their latest version if they aren't already.

Disable sound by changing the Oblivion.ini option (in Documents and Files/MyGames/Oblivion):


bMusicEnabled=0

bSoundEnabled=0


The Quiet Feet mod often solves the problem of frequent stuttering caused by enemy footsteps.

If the problem has not been resolved and you are already using the latest sound driver for your (onboard) sound card, buying a better sound card is advisable.

[edit] See Also


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