Vista Service Pack 1 and You
by: Tony "RadarX" Jones
As the anticipation grows for Microsoft Vista Service Pack 1 customers across the world cheer, worry, and weep under a desk. Didn't know SP1 was on it's way? Don't worry, most people aren't aware despite numerous comparison articles both praising and blasting Microsoft. While admittedly there are times that Vista operates in a manner similar to a steaming pile of poo, this update promises to fix not only a number of bugs but improve performance.
If you are looking for complex benchmark testing and a specific breakdown of everything the patch will fix, this probably isn't the article for you. This will look at what SP1 will bring to the average gamer and if you are still using XP don't make fun of the rest of us. What does SP1 mean to you as an MMO game player? Considering most of the patches are to security and basic performance, not much. There are however a few interesting changes you can expect to potentially enhance your gameplay. But will they be worth the hours (no exaggeration) of installation and numerous reboots you'll have to do?
There are already a few hotfixes for Vista that fix a number of issues including:
* The screen may go blank when you try to upgrade the video driver.
* The computer stops responding, and you receive a "Display driver stopped responding and has recovered" error message.
* The computer stops responding or restarts unexpectedly when you play video games or perform desktop operations.
* Visual appearance issues occur when you play graphics-intensive games.
* When you copy or move a large file, the "estimated time remaining" takes a long time to be calculated and displayed.
* A Virtual Address Space fix that is too detailed and lengthy to list but if you are interested head over to the Knowledge Base and find article 940105.
It's pretty easy to see that not only are these annoying bugs, but sometimes game killers and the cause of "steaming pile of poo" comments. While these may only be limited to a small percentage of gamers, an OS should never have faults affecting multiple software products. I will openly admit that I only skimmed the complete patch notes but did read thoroughly the Notable Changes list Microsoft released. Here is what I found out.
In addition to fixing the above issues SP1 promises to enhance performance, but how? First by decreasing the time it takes to copy files. While this might seem to be kind of a stupid problem to have, apparently Vistas copying speed is at least 25% slower than optimum. If you are wondering how this effects you, try installing Civilization IV before and after the SP. If you play a lot of games like I do, this will significantly reduce your "let's watch strange YouTube videos while this installs" times.
The other huge change you'll see is in relation to DirectX 10 not properly using an SLI setup in Vista. If you are unfamiliar with SLI it's essentially splitting the graphics job between two cards. What's happening is Vista is more or less just ignoring the second graphics card entirely in many cases. As you can imagine that annoys those with $5000 machines and a disposition to Windows.
While I could've have done some testing, the folks over at Extrememech already did some extensive benchmarking in relation to copying speed, frames per second, etc... You are welcome to read through the tech speak and look at the pretty graphs, but we'll go ahead and summarize their findings.
* There was a significant increase in file copy speed as stated in the notes
* Most tested games saw a slight increase in Frames Per Second
* One particular game (Crysis) saw a decrease in FPS at the highest resolution
See? We just saved you 10 minutes of reading. We all know that most MMO games aren't as graphics extensive as FPS and RTS games (Vanguard was an exception) but there are many who run SLI and are concerned about playing the game at 1920X1200 resolution. While I'm not one of those people I thought it only fair to bite the bullet and patch SP1 with Tabula Rasa. I'm happy to report that with my modest machine running an Nvidia GeForce 8800GT I saw absolutely no improvement in my speed or FPS. I moved through Valverde Marshes on high settings getting an average of 35 FPS in both cases.
Is this update for you? Looking beyond the obvious fact Vista isn't going to leave you alone until you finally patch there are a few things to consider. The security patches alone will stabilize your system against some bad code and the file copying enhancement might save you quite a bit of time if you install a lot of software.
We hope that if nothing else this has peaked your curiousity about what Vista will bring. What do you think of SP1, and how do you think it'll affect Tabula Rasa? Email me and let me know! Also be sure to stop by our forums for more Tabula Rasa news.