Friday 9 April, 2010 08:23
The original STARCRAFT was locked to a resolution of 640x480 with a 256-colour palette and, if memory serves me correctly, the sole graphical option was a toggle for something called “colour cycling”. In contrast, STARCRAFT II presents you with a dizzying array of options, controlling everything from voice chat functionality to the complexity of the physics for your units’ death animation. The minimum resolution is 1024x768, and you can effectively run the game at any 4x3, 5x4, 16x9 or 16x10 resolution upwards of that. You can either tweak each graphical setting (shaders, terrain, etc.) individually or use one of four broad presets (Low, Medium, High and Ultra). I run it at my monitor’s native 1920x1200, with anti-aliasing disabled and anisotropic filtering set to automatic, and generally speaking found that I got pretty pleasing performance with the settings at High (my one additional tweak was to enable reflections, which by default are disabled at High). Just to remind you of my current system specs:
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400, at 3.61 GHz
- RAM: 4 GB PC2-6400 DDR2-RAM, at 800 MHz
- Video card: ATI Radeon 3870 512 MB, at 860 MHz (GPU)/990 MHz (VRAM)
For me, “pleasing performance” is basically something in the region of 40-60 fps. Any higher doesn’t count, as my monitor’s refresh rate is 60 Hz and I have v-sync enabled to avoid tearing, while any lower feels a bit too choppy for my tastes. Your mileage may vary, but STARCRAFT II is such a fast-paced game that a smooth frame rate is, in my opinion, absolutely vital. (Thank Beelzebub that Blizzard didn’t cap the frame rate to 30 fps like EA did with COMMAND & CONQUER 3 and RED ALERT 3.) On my system, things became a bit too choppy at Ultra, although to put things in perspective, I’ve seen my brother play plenty of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games that run considerably slower than STARCRAFT II with everything maxed out. If you can tolerate the current generation of consoles and their tendency to lock most games to 30 fps (I can’t), you may be okay with the sort of performance I was seeing at Ultra. I should point out, though, that even the Medium settings look damn good, with the higher settings generally just adding a bit more gloss and shine.
Of course, given how long I’ve waited to play this game, I want nothing but the best for it. My goal, with the new system I’m putting together, is to be able to play the game with everything maxed out and a decent amount of anti-aliasing at a near-constant 60 fps. I have a feeling that this is going to be my go-to game for years to come (or at least until DIABLO III comes out), so it makes sense for me to build a system on which I can enjoy it to its fullest potential. Of course, I suspect that an overclocked Core i7 930/overclocked Radeon 5850 combination will give me performance to spare, meaning I can also enjoy considerably more demanding titles like never before. It’s first and foremost about STARCRAFT II, though, and provided I can achieve my goal of full details and a consistently high frame rate on that title, then I’ll be satisfied.
I’ve included screen captures of each of the various settings menus below.