Tweaking the graphics settings on your graphics card can do a lot to improve play during gaming. We've put together some guidelines for obtaining good image quality, as well as for finding the right blend of quality and performance, when tweaking the settings.
How to use the in-game controls
Now that we've looked at a few rules of thumb, let's explore in-game settings and the graphics control panels.
Most modern PC games come with a wealth of graphics options. I've used the recent S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat as an example, because it has assorted settings that take advantage of the latest DirectX 11 graphics cards.
Of course, if you don't have DirectX 11-capable graphics hardware, you can't enable some of these features, like tessellation, a technique that creates more-detailed geometry from a base set of geometry defined within the game.
Each additional setting you dial up or turn on can adversely affect performance.
You need to determine which settings will give you the most image-quality bang for the buck, and then decide which of those to enable.
The key is to remember that you're always in motion in a 3D game; you're rarely standing around and enjoying the environment.
Games that give you a wide assortment of adjustments for detail levels are terrific, and allow you to experiment to your heart's content.
Since the graphics control panels from AMD and nVidia don't really let you change shadow or ambient occlusion (SSAO) settings, you have to use in-game settings if you want to balance image quality and performance.
Unfortunately, not every game gives you that much control over graphics settings.
Many titles based on the Unreal Technology engine (BioShock 2 and Borderlands, for example) don't allow you to set anti-aliasing, one of the most basic image-quality improvements.
You can edit configuration files manually, but that might result in what programmers euphemistically call ‘unpredictable results' - namely game crashes, weird image-quality flaws, and more.
NEXT PAGE: nVidia control panels