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.
Whether you use in-game settings or the graphics board control panels, you'll run into problems.
Graphics drivers and 3D games are complex pieces of software, and the interactions between them are often unpredictable.
Let's take a look at several typical issues and solutions.
Lack of feature support
I've already mentioned how games using the Unreal Engine often don't support anti-aliasing.
In a few games, such as Borderlands and Mass Effect 2, you can't even override the lack of in-game anti-aliasing with the control panels.
Certain rendering techniques in games, like deferred lighting or render-to-texture, can also interfere with multisampling anti-aliasing.
Some tricks are available, such as downloading third-party utilities like RivaTuner, but many of them are old and don't work under Windows 7 64bit.
Occasionally, driver updates will permit you to force a feature such as anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering, or the game will be updated to allow that feature, but the only thing you can do is wait for the update.
In other cases, one particular feature in the game may prevent another from working.
For example, some games won't work properly with anti-aliasing and high dynamic range (HDR) lighting, even though both features may show up in the game settings.
Try them out for yourself, and if you run into extreme performance degradation or image-quality issues, just disable one of the conflicting features.
Earlier, I mentioned how Catalyst AI would result in missing textures in Borderlands. It's not uncommon for new games to have problems with existing 3D-card drivers.
All drivers make heavy use of optimisations, and sometimes that will cause a problem with a new game that may use the latest build of DirectX.
These issues may manifest as image corruption, game crashes, or very low frame rates.
In such cases, one tactic is to go to a very basic driver level and disable certain advanced features in-game. For help, check the various online forums or do a web search combining the game name and your graphics card model.
On rare occasions, you may even have to wait for driver updates before playing a particular game - thankfully, both nVidia and AMD are good about issuing driver ‘hotfixes' for popular new titles that may encounter problems.
One other tactic that may seem counterintuitive is to roll back to an earlier driver.
Sometimes compatibility issues are accidentally introduced in newer driver releases, meaning that if something breaks you'll have to uninstall the new driver and reinstall the old one (which is usually still available from the manufacturer's website).
NEXT PAGE: Game bugs