Continuing to enjoy LotRO this weekend. We managed to get our little group together and run through our epic prologue quests. One of our group has been hedging on doing a video card upgrade until he builds a new machine, so he’s been running something a bit behind the curve which was totally adequate for WoW.
Chatting in LotRO, however, some of us would remark at just how amazing some things in game would appear. Wilhelm2451 has been doing what I’ve been doing: running around and looking at the jaw dropping vistas. Our other fellow remarked that it some areas just didn’t look that good under his set-up. Its nice when you don’t have to throw down for a new video card just to enjoy the game, but if you can only run at the lower settings, is it still worthwhile?
Hardware and Performance
This smelled like a perfect opportunity to run around and look at different areas under different settings for comparison’s sake. For reference, I’m currently running an Athlon 64 X2 4800 with 2GB of ram, 7950GT PCIe with 512MB with a cable modem connection. I run WoW maxed out in windowed mode and cant seem to break it (up to 130fps with vsynch off). I generally run EQ2 in balanced (30-40fps average). I run in 1280×1024, in windowed mode.
For comparison purposes, I took screen shots at three different video settings: Ultra High Quality, Medium and Very Low to cover the gamut. I generally run in Very High Quality. FRAPS tells me that in the wilderness, I can get framerates around 40-60, but not much more than that. In crowded areas, that drops into the teens. On Very High Quality, I’m generally north of 60 FPS most of the time, with some noticeable degradation in crowded areas but not an issue at all. On Medium, frame rates were well north of 60 FPS, more like the low hundreds. On very low, framerates were astronomical for my set up. I agree with Wilhelm that the compressed screenshots do lose something compared to the raw, so keep that in mind when looking at these. A good way to look at these is to save a series down to your desktop and then slideshow /filmstrip back and forth through them. Windows’ Picture and Fax Viewer does a decent job. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re wondering whether your card will cut it, maybe this will help you benchmark.
This is just outside of Celondim near the Elf starting area. Left to right, UHQ, Medium, Very Low. You can see how dramatically the draw distance is affected. Likewise, you don’t get to enjoy LotRO’s vaunted water at Medium either. A decent amount of detail is preserved on the buildings and on character textures, but the landscape textures and the number of objects in the landscape take a pretty big hit with a drop in quality.
Looking back along the River Luin toward Celondim and the Gray Havens beyond.
In Haudh Lin, near the Hunter’s Lodge. Note the FRAPS framerate in the lower right. There were a few players questing nearby.
This is at the Hunter’s Lodge in line for the Langlas Ride. This gives a pretty good look at the different detail levels for the armor at the different settings.
This is in Gondamon which was a bit crowed as the framerate should indicate. An opportunity to appreciate Dwarven architecture and to pose for my forthcoming statue to be installed there.
Just north of Bree along the Greenway with my Captain who just got his cool Captain’s Halberd (woot! I hope all the class quests have equally cool rewards).
Deadman’s Perch in the Barrow Downs looking back at Bree.
South Barrow Downs with a bit of fog.
Southwest of Bree, looking Southeast. With these long vistas, you can really see where the quality hit comes in.
I’m sure I could have fun with the game on Very Low Quality settings, but for me at least, a big part of my enjoyment comes from feeling immersed in Middle Earth. On the lowest quality settings, I think immersion takes a pretty big hit. For myself, I think Medium is not bad, but nothing to write home about. On Medium, it does feel a bit dated which is what our fellow was mentioning, but if thats all my video card would take, it would still be worthwhile for me. Fortunately, I’m not in that boat. While I’d love to run at Ultra High Quality, I need some smoothness and fluidity to avoid that immersion breaking feeling as well, so I’ll be dialing back to Very High Quality until I do another upgrade in a while.
I suspect that Medium is probably at the forward edge of the WoW hordes (no pun) making LotRO’s framerate and detail level at Medium decent for the rank and file, and maybe the most they could expect. For the rest of us fanatics, plenty of reward awaits those that can make the leap to the top end of the range.
I’m not on the leading edge of the current wave, but even I could run at UHQ if I wanted to. This is something that is still out of the question for EQ2 three years after launch. God knows what Vanguard was thinking. Its seems to me that Turbine might have actually struck the right balance here. Will it stack up in two years? Probably not, but if you can’t grab people now, it wont really matter.