Guide to Optimizing Display Performance, Rebooted

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks, FAQs, and New Player Discussion' started by Sigrdrifa, Mar 23, 2014.

  1. Sigrdrifa Well-Known Member

    Greetings Adventurers! The world of Norrath 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. This guide should help you get a fantastic look and smooth frame rate out of the game.

    This amazingly helpful guide was originally written by Sandrah of Antonia Bayle in 2004. Her recommendations are still valid and really useful. If you are getting lag, or poor graphics quality, try adjusting your graphics settings. I have edited and updated Sandrah's Guide a little to account for changes in the last decade. Comments enclosed in [square brackets] are mine.

    The overall process here is to start out lowering settings as Sandrah recommends, then checking to see how this changes your performance and graphics quality. Every computer build is a different creature, so start from the recommended settings, then try tweaking them. Especially those who have high end very new machines may be able to get great performance with high quality graphics. However, let it be known that I haven't met anyone yet who could run EverQuest2 on max graphics settings throughout and still get decent performance.


    Dynamic Environments Cause Varying Stress on Graphic Display
    The first thing to realize is that the world of Norrath 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-dependent as well, so having the latest greatest video card with an old CPU can lead to rough performance.

    Do Computer Housekeeping and Updates
    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 important because huge differences can be seen when running newer and more updated drivers. Start off your optimizing by doing a little computer spring cleaning first!
    • Run a Malware and Trojan Cleanup Every 3-4 Months. Gaming sites, as well as those sites we KNOW you never visit--"naughty pictures" sites, warez/krakz/etc. and more--can silently infect your computer. I recommend running through the easy-to-use protocol at MajorGeek's, even if you have a good antivirus program. No one AV will catch everything. Major Geek's will point you to reputable, free tools to clean your system, potentially improving its speed enormously.
    • Download the free tool CCleaner. Set up CCleaner to run automatically at startup. You can configure it to keep any cookies you want (for example, login info), while deleting all the tracking cookies, old browser cache files, empty the Recycle bin, and more.
    • Clean up old versions of graphics drivers. Windows, while marking an old device as not present, still has various references to the old hardware in its Registry, and the driver files relating to it are still stored in the various Windows folders on your hard drive. Some older driver files can interfere with newer ones and lead to Windows crashes, game crashes, sound problems, video corruption etc. If your computer is fairly new, you can skip this (newer driver installers do a much better job of cleaning up old files).
    • Treexy Driver Fusion. This tool has a free version and will allow you to install and uninstall drivers.
    • Install the newest driver versions.

    Third, optimizing your Windows installation and your computer as a whole is a topic for an entirely different guide. 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, but this can provide a substantial upgrade in performance, so do your research!

    Also, for advanced tweaking, download 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! :D [One can also hit F11 in-game to see some of these statistics.]

    Basis for Comparison
    Sandrah's original guide and advice was based on her experience with a Radeon X800 XT card on a 3.0ghz Pentium 4 machine with 2 gigabytes of Corsair DDR 400 RAM, with 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.

    No Computer Can Do It All
    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 EverQuest2 graphics engine was made to be scalable over the first few years [back when we all thought computers would continue to exponentially increase CPU]. It is NOT designed to run at a steady 60 fps on even the most bleeding edge hardware you can buy today.

    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.

    Find Your Testing Locations
    First you need to be in a place where you can compare and contrast your frame rates. Find two spots: one with a lot of people -- the merchant area in Vesspyr Isles, or the harbor of your home city may be good choices -- and the other with rich scenery. You'll want to test settings under both conditions. Good luck with finding your virtual reality nirvana!


    Click the EQ2 Button, then select Options, Display, and Performance. You will want the ADVANCED options showing, so click that button if needed.

    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 Full Screen UI Resolution first. How many pixels your graphics card can drive is going to vary. Try the native resolution of your monitor first and see if that works well for you. If not, you can reduce this resolution as needed.

    2. Choose your Performance Profile. 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 automatically 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.
  2. Sigrdrifa Well-Known Member

    Adjusting the Settings

    1. Graphics Resolution should be set to Max. Lowering this will make your graphics look more pixellated and blurry. It will reduce the load on your video card and may help improve frame rates on older machines.

    2. Lighting Resolution should be set to Max. Lower this for older machines.

    3. Rendering Distance should be set between 250-500.

    4. 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.


    5. Widescreen Letterbox: 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.

    6. Texture Resolution: It is important to note that EverQuest2 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.

    A. Setting Texture Resolution to maximum is not recommended for anything less then a non-existant [in 2004] 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.

    B. 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 definitely want to set this lower.

    C. 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!

    7. Atmospheric Effects: 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.

    A. 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 pixellated 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.

    B. 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.


    8. Water: The water effects in EverQuest2 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. [Conversely, entering a water-intensive environment such as the old Temple of Cazic Thule in the Feerrott used to make my computer gack every time.]

    A. 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.

    B. 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.

    C. Splash Particles are worth turning on. Only reason to turn them off is if you are optimizing a low-end setup.

    D. 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.

  3. Sigrdrifa Well-Known Member

    9. Particle Effects: 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. [Quest items in the environment often have a sparkle particle effect that you will need to be able to see.]

    A. Particle Quality can be set to Average and it still looks very nice.

    B. Max Spell Results per Character should be at 1

    C. Show Particles in Reflections should be off

    D. Show Particles in Reflections Inside Houses can be left on

    E. Particle Level of Detail (Far) and Particle Level of Detail (Near) are best somewhere in the middle. For a large raid you may went to set it to the lowest settings.

    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.

    F. Maximum Particle Size is also best somewhere in the middle. Setting lower may gain a small performance increase on lower end machines.


    10. Lighting

    A. 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 realistically, if they react at all. Set this to High or Very High. The overall performance impact isn't huge.

    B. Personal Torch determines whether lighting in your vicinity uses just the ambient light, or if you have lighting as if you carry a torch. Once upon a time we DID have to physically carry torches, but that's gone away.

    C. Torch Intensity should be left at 0

    D. Secondary Torch Light gives you personal lighting as if you were carrying two torches. Basically a way of brightening up your immediate environment.

    E. Number of 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.

    E. Specular Lighting is a fancy effect. It makes armor look very shiny, but it also eats up your GPU processing power. Sandrah recommended leaving this off for everything except screen shots. She said, "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." [My personal experience as a paladin is that shiny armor is worth it, YMMV].

    F. Additional Specular While Raining will make the wet ground shine. Again, leave this off unless taking screenshots.

    G. Specular Lights has no effect if Specular Lighting is off. Go ahead and put it on 10 if you are just taking screenshots. [To give shiny armor depth and visual realism, set to 2 or 3 Specular Lights].

    I. Ambient Light has little to no affect on performance. Adjust to your liking. Slightly past the middle is a good balanced setting.


    11. Shadows: Shadows are off in Norrath. Originally, all shadows were rendered by the CPU, which severely degraded performance. More recent efforts by the SOE team has given us GPU shadow options. Shadows are like the cherry on top when it comes to making the world of Norrath completely believable.

    Experiment with the shadow settings and see how they affect your personal setup. Machines with high-end graphics cards may do very well with the GPU shadow rendering. If you are forced to use CPU shadows, then generally you will want shadows on only when taking screenshots.

    12. Model Detail

    A. 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.

    B. Triangle Density has very little noticeable visual effect. Keep this all the way to the left on Low Res for a tiny performance boost.

    C. 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 Texture Resolution setting. If you have texture detail on maximum and many High Detail Characters, your game may run very choppy, stuttering every time a new HDC walks onto the screen.

    TIP: Set this to zero when raiding. It will significantly improve your performance during combat.

    D. Low Detail Characters can be set anywhere from 10 to 100. I have yet to encounter more then 20 players and NPCs on screen at once, so I leave it set to 20. If you put it to 100, don't be surprised if your machine lags the first time you enter a huge raid or attend a large player event.


    13. Animation

    A. 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.

    B. Fast Animation Distance affects the animation rate of objects far away from you. Set this to low for a performance gain while out hunting. If you don't want to see stop-motion animatronics floating across the hills and valleys of Norrath, put this to high. The performance impact varies depending on the scene.

    C. Animation Quality appears to affect the Cloth Simulation setting. Set this somewhere above the middle and cloth simulation should look very nice.

    D. 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 (Near) setting. If particle detail is set too low, you will never notice cloth simulation. If set too high, it may hurt performance.
  4. Sigrdrifa Well-Known Member

    14. Flora

    A. Enable Flora: Check this box 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.

    B. 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.

    D. Flora Density affects how much flora is 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.

    15. Color Correction: 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. This is not a complete guide in optimizing your system, its 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 hard drive, upgrade your memory, remove spyware and adware, turn off all background programs, and keep your Windows drivers up to date. Also, if you happen to have more then 1.5 gigs of RAM, try turning your page file off (Virtual Memory). [A better solution now that multi-core systems are common is to place your page file on a different physical file than where EverQuest2 is installed].

    Sandrah of Antonia Bayle

    Sigrdrifa's Addendum

    There are a few other tricks you can use to improve your performance, especially in busy environments such as raids.
    • Look at Your Feet in First Person. In a fight with lots of monsters, try zooming into first person and look only at your feet. This sharply limits how much rendering your graphics card must suffer. It's not such a great thing if jousting is involved, alas.
    • Turn Off Unneeded Text. In the Options window, select User Interface, then Name and Chat Bubble. By turning off displayed player name information, combat hit/heal numbers and the like, you reduce the amount of stuff that is being rendered and moved around your screen, which improves performance.
    • Set Show Titles to None.
    • Set the following to Target or Mouseover
      • Show Name for Self
      • Show Health & Power for Self
      • Show Name for Other Players
      • Show Health & Power for Other Players
      • Show Health and Power for NPCs
    • Uncheck Show Overhead Combat Feedback.
    • Turn Off Combat Bubbles. In the Options window, select User Interface, then Combat Bubbles. Uncheck Show Third Party Damage.
  5. Lucus Well-Known Member

    Nice guide.

    However i will point out that if you are running EQ2 and the operating system on an SSD (Solid State Drive) you never need to de-fragment.
    Uwkete-of-Crushbone and Shmogre like this.
  6. Mozil Active Member

    Thank you for this! I was way overdue for a more involved tweaking of my game settings, and that CCleaner thingy rocks. I've always hated how deleting browser cookies takes login info with it. Now I can clean house without having to get a ton of passwords mailed to me again afterwards. :D

    I got like 5 gb of space back after I ran it and removed a bunch of worthless temp file junk. :eek:
  7. Veeman Active Member

    Awesome guild, thanks for the post.
    Uwkete-of-Crushbone likes this.
  8. Mowse Active Member

    Frostfell is driving me nuts. Too bright and I can't see waypoint trails . Which settings help?
    Uwkete-of-Crushbone likes this.
  9. Seefar Well-Known Member

    I'm no expert, but my guess would be to reduce ambient light; turn off 'personal torch' and 'secondary torch' maybe? Fiddle with the 'Lighting' settings.
    Uwkete-of-Crushbone likes this.
  10. Shmogre Well-Known Member

    Alt-l ("l" for lamp/light) will toggle your personal helps a lot in snow/ice areas.
    Uwkete-of-Crushbone likes this.
  11. Mowse Active Member

    Ty. Heading there now to check it out
    Uwkete-of-Crushbone likes this.
  12. That guy. Well-Known Member

    Who the hell even has an AGP slot in their motherboard nowdays, much less an AGP card, and even much much less a NEW AGP card?

    Also, Driver Magician is neither free ( it has a 15 day trial )nor worth the space it takes on the hardrive. I just tried it and every driver it recommends is months ( one even over a year ) old.

    It's nice to want to "make" a guide for people to use, but merely slapping a few extra letters into someone else' grossly outdated guide doesn't count.
  13. Sigrdrifa Well-Known Member

    Apparently you missed the point of the post, which was how best to change settings within EQ2's Options to get the best blend of performance and visual quality. The original author penned the first version of the guide in 2004. I left her comments about her system alone. But I did go through every setting in EQ2, test them, got screenshots, and updated where needed.

    You took a few old lines out of the first small chunk of the valuable settings information and blew off the rest. /SMH
    Uwkete-of-Crushbone likes this.
  14. forumguy3419 Member

    I would be especially careful about links to 3rd party sites & software, if you're not going to vet them might be best to just remove them for safety sake.
    Remember the majority of people apt to follow a guide like this are going to be pretty computer-clueless.

    Good luck with your project!
  15. That guy. Well-Known Member

    Which is exactly what you should have done. Gonna make a guide? MAKE a guide. If the settings and stuff are still accurate, then put them aside as useful, throw everything else away. Then, if you want to show comparisons, use YOUR PC specs to do so. You want to add links to useful software, then add links to software useful in 2015, not 2004. The only useful piece of third party software in that original guide is CCleaner because it's been continually updated and maintained for modern PC's running modern OS'.

    For example, a modern and safe driver uninstaller for Nvidia and AMD drivers would be Display Driver Uninstaller , as the author not only maintains a presence on both Nvidia and AMD forums but also regularly updates the software whenever Nvidia/AMD add any changes to their driver structures.

    As it stands now, any clueless PC user reading "your" guide is going to be downloading dodgy software that may harm their modern hardware and be taking malware removal advice from a 2004 MajorGeeks forum posting.
  16. Enoibia Well-Known Member

    You do realised that you are complaining about the relevance of the information contained in a post that was created nearly 2 years ago and just happened to be "necro'd" this past Sunday?

    If you have that much time on your hands and care about it that much, why not create you own "up-to-date" guide?!
    Sigrdrifa and Prissetta like this.
  17. That guy. Well-Known Member

    Because I'm one of those mythical people ( according to this guide anyway ) who can run 60fps with everything slid all the way to the right on extreme. So this guide, or any guide on "performance" in this game has no applicable use for me. I also build my own computers and keep up on all the latest software, drivers, etc., quite well on my own.

    In other words, I'm not the newbie schlep who can be harmed in following this "guide". So it matters not to me, but it might matter to that newbie schlep who reads this before he gets something cockeyed. Because I'm fairly sure the OP isn't gonna be sending out a check to replace anything broken by following decade old advice and software links.

    But I'll gladly take my leave now, cuz it ain't my responsibility either.
  18. Enoibia Well-Known Member

  19. Alphonsus Well-Known Member

  20. That guy. Well-Known Member

    Bah humbug.

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