Diablo 3 Beta Graphics Guide

Introduction

Blizzard has a solid track record of making their games accessible. In contrast to many other PC-focused developers, they’ve always understood the value of broadening their potential audience, always making sure that Blizzard games will run not just on a brand-new, mega-powerful machine, but also on the PC Mom bought off the shelf at Best Buy to put in the family room.

This tendency appears again in Diablo 3, a game that is sure to play nice with any number of different computers and different configurations. Still, now that the game’s beta is accessible, it’s worth taking a look at the different graphical tweaks and settings that will come into play when aspiring dungeon crawlers try to get the most out of their game.

Before we begin, here are the specifications of the PC used to perform these tests:

OPERATING SYSTEM:
Windows 2.6.1.7601 (Service Pack 1)
CPU TYPE:
Intel® Core™ i7 CPU 960 @ 3.20GHz
CPU SPEED:
3.2 GHz
SYSTEM MEMORY:
5.99 GB
VIDEO CARD MODEL:
ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series
VIDEO CARD MEMORY:
3.73 GB
PRIMARY DISPLAY RESOLUTION:
1920×1200

Settings

Got it? Good. Now onto the settings. Because Blizzard doesn’t employ all the bleeding-edge bells and whistles (again, the accessibility thing), the graphics settings in Diablo 3 are actually relatively simple, especially compared to The Witcher 2, say. These are the settings you can change:

  • Screen Resolution
  • Texture Quality (Medium, High)
  • Shadow Quality (Off, Low, Medium, High)
  • Physics Quality (Low, High)
  • Full-screen Anti-Aliasing (Not available in Beta)
  • V-Sync (On/Off)
  • Triple Buffering (On/Off)
  • Clutter Density (Slider 0-100)
  • Clutter Distance (Slider 0-100)

Let’s take these in reverse order. Clutter Density and Clutter Distance are two settings that might be familiar to World of Warcraft players. They affect small, detailed textures, like you might see on the ground after a battle: corpses, blood, and the like. According to reliable sources, turning these down can improve framerate, but since my PC was handling Diablo 3 fine with them turned all the way up, it was hard to record hard evidence of improvement. Even attempts to take screenshots that compared different levels of clutter density proved fruitless.

Triple Buffering and Physics Quality are designed to improve frame-rate. Given Blizzard’s tendencies, I would expect them to have significant effects on performance if they become necessary — their inclusion gives owners of outdated or laptop PC’s a leg up. That being said, if you turn Physics Quality to Low, you’ll miss out on a lot of Diablo 3′s cool physics effects, like corpses flying into the walls and bouncing off when you give them a particularly good smack with a battle-axe.

Next: Screenshot comparisons of different Shadow Qualities, Texture Qualities, and Resolutions!

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9 Comments on Diablo 3 Beta Graphics Guide

really

On September 24, 2011 at 9:13 am

rofl

sneakybeaver

On September 24, 2011 at 9:34 am

trololol

meh

On September 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

Blizz has come out and said there will be many more setting on release of the game then are in the beta.

Sc2 looked like ass when it was in beta too.

Jakovas

On September 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

“Triple Buffering, Anti-aliasing, and Physics Quality are all designed to improve frame-rate.”

Seriously, do not write anything more about games until you actually understand the pro’s & con’s of in game quality settings.

cb

On September 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm

“Havok-powered physics”

they ditched Havok quite some time ago and rolled their own, might want to change that :D

vorlon

On September 25, 2011 at 1:47 am

maybe test it on a lower spec machine, one that actually might struggle with the sytem req’s? then you’d see what the sliders are for

utopiav1

On September 25, 2011 at 5:44 am

@Jackovas – Seconded! In fact, I’ll give it a go:

1. Screen Res – Easiest setting to change, also one of the more noticeable on performance, but also screen quality. Turning this low can cause jagged edges across the entire display. If you have a mid-to-low cpu, the res can be a drag, as it requires more time to be calculated before the final render can be drawn on screen.

2. Texture Quality – Less of an issue these days, most modern pcs can handle the highest texture setting, as it is just a larger texture bitmap stored in the buffer. Might be worth turning down if you are low on RAM or your graphics card is very very old. Or a media chipset ;)

3. Shadow Quality – Always a drag on the cpu, but most modern gpu’s try to shift the workload onto themselves instead. Turn this down if you notice low FPS on scenes with a lot of volumetric lights & actors (characters, trees, buildings etc).

4. Physics – Modern Nvidia cards have dedicated PhysX drivers, so the GPU will handle this, no need to turn this down. ATI users might want to turn this off altogether if you have an old card and slow cpu. Not recommended to let the cpu handle this, as it has a lot to do already!

5. FSAA – Handled by gpu. If you have an old graphics card, turn this off, as there is little difference in fps when switching between 2x, 4x, and 8x. 16x and 32x are a whole difference kettle of fish, don’t turn on without the latest and greatest graphics card, or sli/crossfire config.

6. V-sync – This will make an impact if the gpu cannot keep up with the cpu (or even vice-versa). I won’t go into specifics, but turn this off if you have either a weak processor or graphics card. Only turn on with a powerful cpu AND gpu.

7. Triple buffering – Turn this on if you have v-sync enabled, as this can improve performance. It sends the scene through the back buffer several times to stop the processing/front-buffer de-sync, but only on OpenGL (and I suspect Diablo 3, being on Mac and PC, will be OpenGL rather than Direct3D).

8. Cluster density/distance – This is, for lack of a better explanation, the amount of particle effects and complexity at which they’re brought into the scene. Turn this down if you have little RAM (not much space to store the particles drawn) and weak cpu (to calculate multiple moving particles).

Hope the above explains the settings well enough. For more information on these settings (but for other games, so YMMV) see http://www.tweakguides.com/

Ben Richardson

On September 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm

@Jakovas, utopiav1

Anti-aliasing made it into that sentence via a typo, since corrected. I’m clearly not as knowledgeable at utopiav1 (thanks for the detailed information, dude!), but I like to think I’m not THAT dense. Turning on Triple Buffering and turning down Physics Quality will improve frame-rate in a hypothetical, generalized case, no?

@cb

Thanks for catching the error regarding the Havok physics (also fixed). Obviously, I referred to an out-of-date source; Blizzard started off using Havok physics, but eventually switched to a proprietary physics engine.

If you think about it, isn’t that kind of a microcosm for the way Blizzard operates as a company? Take something that’s already established and popular (Warhammer, say, or the Alien franchise) and repackage/appropriate it in a way that takes advantage of its best features but trims off the fat, making it ineffably more fun and accessible. I would be curious to hear from someone at Havok how much of Blizzard’s “in-house” physics engine simply borrows Havok’s most effective ideas and improves on them in small, Diablo-specific ways.

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On December 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

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