Display Settings Guide
written by ShamaKavella
Greetings Adventurers! The world of Norath (EverQuest 2) is more beautiful then ever before, but many of you are having a hard time finding the right balance between playable and pretty graphic settings. Hopefully this guide will help. It is designed for people with current and second generation graphics cards. Players using third or fourth generation cards will probably not benefit as much because you are forced to run the game at the lowest settings possible.
The first thing to realize is that the world of Norath is dynamic and you will never achieve an equal frame rate for every zone. It depends heavily on how many players are on your screen, zone population and network latency, whether you are in combat, outdoors, or near water. Everything in the environment comes into play and will affect your frame rates. Some parts of the game are more CPU dependant as well, so having the latest greatest video card with an old CPU will lead to rough performance.
Second, you must make sure you have the most current drivers for your graphics card, sound card, and mother board chipset, as well as the latest BIOS for your computer. This is extremely imporant because huge differences can be seen when running EverQuest 2 with newer and more updated drivers. Direct links to download the most up to date drivers for all popular hardware are located at the bottom of the guide.
Third, optimizing your Windows installation and your computer as a whole is a topic for an entirely different guide. I have added some links at the bottom for finding information that can help you improve your system speed overall. There are so many combinations of PC hardware and software that is impossible to provide a simple guide that will let you optimize your settings. Visiting some tech related forums like ABX Zone can help you in configuring other aspects of your system.
Also, for advanced tweaking I recommend downloading FRAPS. It will display your current frame rates and help you tweak your settings better. You can also record videos of your gameplay and make movies!
Finally, all my personal testing has been done with a Radeon X800 XT card on a 3.0ghz Pentium 4 machine with 2 gigabytes of Corsair DDR 400 RAM. In my video control panel I had Anti-Aliasing off, Anisotropic Filtering set to 8x, and V-sync enabled. Those with faster computers and cards may be able to push things higher, while those on the lower end will need to scale back more.
BIG NOTE: The important thing to realize is that you simply can not click every box and move every slider to the right just because you have a high end system and that's what you do in every other game. The Everquest 2 graphics engine was made to be scalable over the next few years, to get better with age so to speak. It is NOT designed to run at a steady 60 fps on even the most bleeding edge hardware you can buy today.
MEDIUM NOTE: If you make changes to the graphics settings and feel they are not giving the performance boost you want, try re-starting your computer. I only have experienced this on my own system, but performance can get worse over time. At which point, changing settings to "Very High Performance" will have no effect. Just re-start and your performance should return!
Little note: if after all this is over, your brand new video card is still not working very well, you may have to set your AGP slot to the right speed. Some users have reported huge increases in performance after doing this. Use CPU-Z to check your AGP configuration.
Adjusting The Options:
First you need to be in a place where you can compare and contrast your frame rates. I choose the Willow Woods because so many other player models were being rendered and it's close to the Forest Ruins where you can find some nice scenary without too many characters around. This guide is basically a listing of all the parameters combined with my own advice and input from other very helpful players.
Good luck with finding your virtual reality nirvana. EQ2 has some of the finest visuals to offer in the entire realm of interactive entertainment. So without further delay, go ahead and open the game options and click on Display.
For those of you who don't want to tweak each little setting, this is the only place you need to be. From the performance window you can control all the other graphics settings by choosing preset Performance Profiles. The rule of thumb here is simple: A faster computer should select a balanced or high quality profile while a slower computer should pick a higher performance profile.
For the sake of this guide I will be taking you through an additive process. Rather then starting with the maximum settings and working our way down, we will starting with minimal settings and work our way up. This makes it easier to isolate specific settings which may bog down your computer, and other ones which you can turn on and turn up without a problem!
1. Set your screen resolution first. Modern cards can handle 1600x1200. One year old cards can do 1280x1024. You should also check the Synchronize Refresh box unless you have older hardware. All other cards should be set to 1024x768.
2. Under Performance Profile, select "Very High Performance". You should now have a very smooth game, with decent graphics. Don't worry, we are gonna build the graphics quality back up and find the sweet spot. Older graphics card users may want to stick with this, or even choose "Extreme Performance".
IMPORTANT: By choosing Very High Performance, the system has automaticly turned off many of the enhanced graphic modes of EQ2, including the pretty water visuals, advanced lighting, high detail textures, and more. It is recommended that you go through each group of settings and adjust them to your liking and to your systems performance. If you simply want to trick out your ultra fast Alienware rig, I suggest selecting Balanced or High Quality as your performance profile and using a subtractive tweaking method. The guide will still help you figure out what the big performance hogs are.
3. Graphics Resolution should be set to Max. Lowering this will make your graphics look more pixelated and blurry. It will reduce the load on your video card and may help improve frame rates on older machines.
4. Lighting Resolution should be set to Max. Lower this for older machines.
5. Rendering distance should be set between 250-500.
6. Complex Shader Distance is the single most important setting you can tweak. It affects the distance at which the engine will stop rendering advanced pixel effects. Almost every single advanced setting I will explain down below is affected by this single parameter. I do not recommend setting this beyond 50. Turning this off (setting it to -1) can give you an increase of 10 to 20 frames per second on average because you have essentially disabled almost all of the advanced graphic settings. A safe setting is 25 or 30.
TIP: Setting this to -1 during a raid, or when entering a busy city will greatly improve frame rates. -1 turns off all complex shaders and thus is also the setting that should be used on older machines. While it can be a slight hassle to constantly change your graphics settings, in EQ2 it can be worth it for both the performance and visual benefits.
TIP: Turning off Anisotropic filtering and Anti-Aliasing off in your video card control panel will provide a massive performance increase. Some players will prefer the smooth textures and lines that leaving these options enabled can provide, while others will want the performance. I have decided that leaving Complex Shaders on is a higher priority then having AA or AS turned on. You will need to experiment to find the best balance.
1. Black letterbox border size. On newer graphics cards, this will not improve your frame rates at all. It creates a cinematic quality to the game which you may or may not like. It may provide a small increase in performance on older machines.
It is important to note that Everquest 2 uses a huge amount of textures. These textures are constantly being swapped into and out of your video RAM. Thus, the higher quality the textures, the more swapping that needs to be done. Plus, the more characters that appear on your screen, the greater the variety in textures and thus more video RAM is used up. Therefore, players may experience the game slowing down when using higher texture settings.
1. Setting the texture resolution to maximum is not recommended for anything less then a non-existant 512mb video card. However, a 256mb video card should handle it without much of a performance dent. High is still a very good setting and recommended for 128mb cards. Lower settings should be used for slower cards.
2. Character Texture Resolution can also set be to maximum if you have a brand new video card. When going on a raid or fighting with a group, you will definitley want to set this lower.
3. Character LOD Texture Resolution is hard to notice anyways, since it changes the textures on characters off in the distance. I choose medium, but noticed hardly any performance hit on high or maximum.
TIP: Playing from a third person perspective allows you to see your own character, but it also forces the graphics engine to render all that extra data. Simply by entering the first person perspective you can gain 4-6 frames per second!
First of all, this is a performance intensive effect and will easily eat up 10-15 frames per second. If your game is running like butter, you should turn this on and see if you like the effect, otherwise it will slow things down and it may become unplayable.
Enable Bloom Effect appears to be slightly bugged at the moment. I say this because if you enable only this check box you get no bloom effect but the frame rate slows down. Turning on Atmospheric bloom creates the bloom effect only if you also have Enable Bloom Effect checked. The bloom effect may or not be to your liking. It creates a glow around all light sources and in the sky. It looks best during the day, but at night you can see strange pixelated clouds of light hovering around tall buildings and your character - it sort of looks like a grainy old movie, so some people may enjoy this effect while others will not.
Heat shimmer is a very nice effect and you only see it near fire or hot objects. The performance impact is minimal on high and medium end machines. Low end machines may want to leave it off.
TIP: If you are trying to run the game with Anti-Aliasing on do not turn bloom effects on. All current games that use bloom use the same video buffers that would be used for Anti-Aliasing. Thus, you can only have one or the other, but not both.
The water effects in Everquest 2 are incredibly beautiful! Since the performance impact of these effects are only noticed when you are near water, you may decide to turn them higher then your system can handle just to enjoy the scenic wonder.
1. Underwater Distortion looks neat and doesn't have much performance impact on high-end machines. If you experience lag underwater with this turned on, then turn it off.
2. Water Interaction is a neat effect. It creates actual 3D ripples in the water when you and other players walk through it. It has a medium performance impact, and some people may not like the look of triangulated ripples of water.
3. Splash Particles are worth turning on. Only reason to turn them off is if you are optimizing a low-end setup.
4. Animate Procedural Textures causes the water texture to cycle through a looping animation of moving water. This gives the water an even more realistic look. It has a small performance impact and should be left on for higher end systems.
5. Ocean settings can have a major impact on performance, but only when sailing at sea. Medium is a safe setting for even the most current graphics cards. High can be used as well, but maximum will certainly make your frame rates suffer and perhaps make the game unplayable.
6. Environment Cube Map Updates affect the rate at which objects appear reflected in the water. You may notice that sometimes the reflections in the water jerk. This is because they are only updated periodicly, which is the recommended setting. Setting this to maximum has a major performance impact and is not recommended for even the highest end cards.
7. Reflections can be set to either Cube Map or Mirror + Cube Map. A Cube Map is a texture which is used to fake a reflection. It produces a fairly realistic effect without hurting performance. High end machines may want to try out Mirror + Cube Map. The performance impact is high, but the beauty of the effect is as well. Use your own personal judgement, as this only affects scenes with water in them anyways.
8. Reflections inside a House can be set to Best. Inside your house you will almost always get high frame rates because there are far fewer polygons and textures to render.
Particle effects are generally only seen in battles, which is a time when you really need the game to perform smoothly. Therefore, I don't recommend setting these too high even on high end machines.
1. Particle Quality can be set to Average and it still looks very nice.
2. Max Spell Results per Character should be at 1
3. Show Particles in Reflections should be off
4. Show Particles in Reflections Inside Houses can be left on
5. Particle Level of Detail bias is best somewhere in the middle. For a large raid you may went to set it to Low Res.
TIP: This setting is also linked to Cloth Simulation in the Animation settings. The further right you push the slider, the greater distance you will be able to see the Cloth Simulation effect.
6. Maximum Particle Size is also best somewhere in the middle. Setting lower may gain a small performance increase on lower end machines.
7. Spell Particles Close To Me should also be in the middle.
1. Light Quality affects how various light sources in the world light things up. On minimal, lights put off a very flat and generic light and surfaces don't react to the light very realisticly, if they react at all. Set this to High or Very High. The overall performance impact isn't huge.
2. Max Player Torchs can be anywhere from 2-5. Keep it at 2 when raiding.
3. Max Torch Intensity should be left at 0
4. Max lights can be set between 3-6. You can experiment with higher settings, but your frame rates may drop to unplayable levels depending on what is going on in your environment.
5. Specular lighting is a fancy effect. It makes armor look very shiny, but it also eats up your GPU processing power. I recommend leaving this off for everything except screen shots. You may turn it on and notice absolutely no performance impact, but you might round a corner and see a bunch of high detail warriors standing around and your game will become nearly unplayable.
6. Additional Specular While Raining will make the wet ground shine. Again, leave this off unless taking screenshots.
7. Max Spec Lights 1-10, it wont have any effect with Specular turned off. Go ahead and put it on 10 if you are just taking screenshots.
8. Max Bumpy Point Distance can have a big affect on performance. Leave it between 1 and 20 depending on your system. Set it to -1 on a low end system. Visually there is little difference between the low settings and the high settings.
9. Minimum Ambient Light has little to no affect on performance. Adjust to your liking. Slightly past the middle is a good balanced setting.
Shadows are extremely GPU intensive and not even the highest end machines can give you a pleasantly playable experience with shadows always on. They do look beautiful, but I recommend leaving shadows off completely. Unless of course you want to take screenshots, in which case set the quality to maximum and click all the boxes.
It is possible to play with shadows on if you lower detail settings everywhere else. The trade off isn't worth it though. Shadows are like the cherry on top when it comes to making the world of Norath completely believable. Hopefully in another year or two there will be graphics cards that can handle running the game with shadows on.
Some graphics cards are currently having problems with shadows, so if you experiment and notice glitches, I recommend updating your video drivers right away (see links at the bottom).
1. Level of Detail Bias affects the distance at which objects will appear in the world, it also affects the detail objects in the background have. The lower the settings, the more "pop-up" you are going to have. Higher settings render more objects and therefore hurt performance. As this setting depends heavily on your environment, to get the smoothest gaming experience set it between 1.5 and 1.0.
2. Maximum triangle density has very little noticeable visual effect. Keep this all the way to the left on Low Res for a tiny performance boost.
3. High Detail Characters is a very important setting. The high detail toons look gorgeous but eat up your frame rate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A safe setting is somewhere between 2 and 6. Beyond that and you may hit major lag zones when lots of NPC or players are around. This setting is also related to the character texture detail setting. If you have texture detail on maximum and many High Detail Characters, your game is going to run very choppy, and will stutter every time a new HDC walks onto the screen.
TIP: Set this to zero when raiding. It will signifigantly improve your performance during combat.
4. Low Detail Characters can be set anywhere from 10 to 100. I have yet to encounter more then 20 players and NPC on screen at once, so I leave it set to 20. If you put it to 100, don't be suprised if your machine lags the first time you enter a huge raid or attend a large player event.
1. Minimum animation rate should be set to High or very near it. You gain some performance setting it lower, but the animations start to look very bad.
2. Fast animation distance affects the animation rate of objects in the distance. Set this to low for a performance gain while out hunting. If you don't want to see stop-motion animatronics floating accross the hills and valleys of Norath, put this to high. The performance impact varies depending on the scene.
3. Animation weighting quality appears to affect the Cloth Simulation setting. Set this somewhere above the middle and cloth simulation should look very nice.
4. Cloth Simulation is a nice effect which makes skirts flow and clothes look more realistic.
TIP: Flowing clothes are considered particles by the rendering engine which means this effect is affected by the Particle Level of Detail Bias setting. If the Detail Bias is set too low, you will never notice cloth simulation. If set too high, it may hurt performance.
1. Check Flora if you want blades of grass, bushes, and flowers to appear in the environment. The performance impact of Flora is highly dependant on the following settings.
2. Flora Displacement creates the illusion that you are actually walking through the blades of grass. It appears to be highly CPU intensive and for performance reasons it is best left off. You may want to turn it on when you are exploring an under populated area and you want to create as much immersion as possible.
3. Flora Radius affects how far away the flora is rendered. You can gain or lose 5 or 10 frames per second with this setting in combination with Flora Density.
4. Flora Density affects how many flora are rendered in the Flora Radius. Safe settings for both of these would be in the middle. Higher end machines can try setting them to the max, but you will still encounter performance hits in certain areas.
These settings are for basic gamma, contrast, and brightness settings. Adjust to your liking.
Phew! There's a lot of graphics settings in this game, and now you should have a better grasp on how to deal with them. There are still a few more things to mention though. First is Anti-Aliasing. There is currently a sticky post in this forum that explains how to turn it on. After extensive testing, it doesn't appear to work consistently. At some point SOE may add it to the graphics option menu. Presently, in my humble opinion, I think setting the game to higher resolutions, higher textures, and with bloom lighting looks better then Anti-Aliasing. Also, in your graphics card control panel, you may want to turn on Antistropic Filtering to give the textures in the game an even cleaner look.
This is not a complete guide in optimizing your system, it's focus is on the internal settings of EQ2. If you still feel your performance is lacking there are several things you can do: Defragment your harddrive, upgrade your memory, remove spyware and adware, turn off all background programs such as AIM, and keep your WIndows drivers up to date. Also, if you happen to have more then 1.5gigs of RAM, try turning your page file off (Virtual Memory).
I will keep this guide updated with any changes made to the Display options, as well as any new tips that can help make playing Everquest 2 a beautiful, immersive, and fun experience for all!
The original version of this guide can be found at http://eqiiforums.station.sony.com/eq2/board/message?board.id=tech_support&message.id=3265
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EverQuest II Game Page.