Software Gaming Graphics

Gaming graphics are generated on two levels, the hardware level, and then as a refinement the software level. With the vast majority of games there are three different technologies standards that improve your graphics performance. While some gamers will choose to opt out of some of these technologies to gain a boost in frames per second, if you have the hardware horsepower at your disposal implement all of them for the most complete experience.

V-Sync

Often this the graphics technology that people choose to disable first when searching for a high FPS. V-Sync's purpose is to decrease the amount of frame tearing while playing games. Because frames on your screen are updated in individual parts in a vertical manner, the bottom half (or any fraction of) of the screen can be out of sync with the other parts. This is caused by changes to the graphic data sent to the screen while the screen is in the middle of generating a single frame. This causes lines in the top part of the screen not to line up with corresponding lines on the bottom portions giving a tearing effect to the graphic.

Essentially what V-Sync does is wait for a full frame to be generated before displaying the frame on the monitor. Using this method renders the lines on the screen without the tearing effect, however this comes at a cost in frames per second. Should you be searching for extra frames per second this is a great feature to turn off, if you have plenty of frames per second to spare enable this feature for high quality graphics. Another thing to keep in mind is the refresh rate of your monitor if your graphics hardware is generating more then 60 frames per second and your monitor is rated at 60 Hz then you will only get a visual of 60 frames per second and turning off V-Sync will net you nothing. If you are generating more frames then the refresh rate of your monitor it is advised that you turn this feature on.

One of the features of V-Sync is the option to enable triple buffering. Should you have excess VRAM for disposal on your graphics card (eg: GeForce GTX Titan is a 6GB graphics card) then triple buffering is an option for you. Typically a graphics card has two frame buffers, which allows two frames to be generated on the graphics card while the screen is displaying the first of these frames. However the flaw resides in when both frame buffers empty and there is no third buffer to render to the screen. With this feature enabled you will see an increase in frame rate minus the loss of having v-sync enabled.

Texture Filtering

There are multiple types of texture filtering technologies that your computer can use to render game graphics. Texture filtering works by increasing the amount of texture samples to create a higher quality frame. There are three different technologies that tackle this job, the first being bilinear-filtering and the second being trilinear-filtering. However the newest and most advanced technology is Anisotropic Filtering.

Anisotropic Filtering or AF for short is a technology that improves your graphics quality by reducing the blurriness of distant textures that go on a horizontal plane towards the center of the screen.

Anisotropic filtering typically has values of 0x, 2x 4x 8x and 16x for most games. I recommend that you go with the highest value for this graphics setting as this will increase the distance into the screen that will start to come blurry. The question is if you need more frames per second will reducing this value help you out? Yes, you will gain more frames per second by turning off this technologies, however the loss of FPS by turning this on is very minimal, only a few frames per second. There are other technologies such as V-Sync and Antialising which will net you more frames per second when the values are reduced or turned off entirely. Those two technologies are where you should be looking for a FPS boost rather then Anisotropic Filtering.

Antialising

One of the big problems of computer graphics is the fact that pixels on a standard computer monitor are square or rectangular in shape, when attempting to generate lines that are not on a vertical or horizontal plane these produce jagged edges in the line. Antialising corrects this issue by sampling the colour of textures around the line and then blending the colours on the line itself, in doing so this creates a smoother appearance to the line and therefore eliminating the appearance of the jagged edges.

There are two methods of antialising that can be used, the oldest being super-sampling. Super-sampling involves increasing the resolution of the image on the graphics card and then rescaling back down to the monitors resolution. This is a very costly method of reducing the jagged appearance of lines on the screen but works with nearly all games, past and present. The second method is called multi-sampling or MSAA. Graphics card developments have seen MSAA become a more efficient way of performing antialising, however this can still take a performance hit to the graphics cards, even more so the higher the resolution.

MSAA Turned Off                  Antialising Turned On


Antialising is taxing on the graphics cards so usually you will only see values of 0x, 2x, 4x and 8x. The higher the value, the more samples are taken from the surrounding textures. It is also worth noting that antialising has diminishing returns with higher values, and the higher the value the more hits to the frames per second you will see. This is an excellent setting to reduce the value of for a performance boost. As always if your card is generating more frames per second then the Hz rating of the monitor there is no reason not to seek out higher values of AA.

This covers the basics on software level gaming graphics. There are plenty more options when opening up the options menu on your game, that are generated by the game engine, but the above options are available in the vast majority of games on the market and will give you a head start on obtaining the highest quality gaming graphics for your recreational pleasure.

Enjoi!

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