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  1. #1
    Titan
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    5.0+ - Maximum Graphic Settings!

    Hey all,
    As i got a new Graphics Card a few weeks ago, i decided that the time had come to see what i could manage with the WoW Graphics Engine. In this thread, i'll go through the absolute maximum settings (accurate as of 4.0/4.0.6), and just how they affect performance and quality. It's been a while since those graphic macros were accurate, so an updated one is in order.

    When Cataclysm was released, the increased the maximum values of a lot of the graphical variables. Many of these are above the maximum you can set in video options.

    Notes
    The WoW Engine isn't the most optimised out there, not for the higher end setups anyway. However, that doesn't stop it from pumping out fairly decent graphics if you've got the horsepower to support it. It won't look like Crysis, but it will look better than the top settings you can get from the video UI configuration panel. When you set custom variables that don't directly align with the notches on the Video UI Panel, the dropdown box will say "Custom".

    Also note that with regards to the heavier settings (such as Shadows), they can use an incredible amount of resources.

    To apply a setting, simply follow this syntax;
    Code:
    /console <variablename> <value>
    Replace variablename with the name of the variable from the list below (CASE SENSITIVE), and value with the value listed next to it (or any value below that).

    In the listing, i'll show them in a standard layout, and then in bold and red, i'll list what i recommend. This recommendation is based on having a very high end or extreme system (after all, even us enthusiasts enjoy less-graphically demanding games like WoW, but do wish for more out of them at times). As reference, my current system has a 6-core CPU, a GTX580 Graphics Card, A 240GB Solid State Drive (SSD), and 8GB of System Memory. It's not the most extreme system you'll ever find, but it's enthusiast level, and constantly being upgraded and optimised.

    General/First Things First
    The first thing you want to do is find out how much Video RAM your Graphics card has. This is usually one thing that's listed in the "title" of Graphics Card at online stores. Standard capacities used to be 256MB, and 512MB (and some had 1024MB). Nowadays, the more modern ones have 896MB, 1536MB, or even 2096MB! Video RAM Capacity is NOT the same as System RAM Capacity!

    Once you know how much you have, type the following into WoW;
    Code:
    /console gxTextureCacheSize VRAM
    Replace VRAM with how much memory your graphics card has. This will allow WoW to use as much Graphics Memory as you have available. When optimising WoW for maximum quality, it's important you're giving it the maximum headroom. This is especially true with Shadows and Textures.

    Another one, which will improve performance by between 5-25% relates to which API you use to render. If your Graphics Card and Operating System support DirectX 11, type the following into WoW;
    Code:
    /console gxApi D3D11
    This will tell WoW to render nativly to DirectX 11. The reason performance increases so much is because special effects don't need to be rendered through graphical extensions, and can instead render natively in DirectX 11. If your card or OS don't support DX11, then you'll either get an error, a black screen in WoW, or simply nothing at all will happen. It's strongly recommended to use this command if you know it's available to you.

    Once you've changed either of the above settings, exit the game via the in game menu. Do NOT close it by alt+f4 or by the cross in the top right corner as your settings will not be saved if you do!

    Shadows and Lighting
    Shadows are still the single greatest strain on a System when it comes to WoW. However, being able to set them to the absolute maximum does make quite some difference, both in quality and performance.

    shadowTextureSize: 1024/2048 (2048)
    The way Shadows in WoW work seems to be that they create a new texture relevant to each shadow. As you can imagine, in crowded scenes, this can use a lot of memory, and will slow the game down. What this setting does is sets the size of those shadow textures. A higher value generally means higher quality but a possible reduction in performance. In all honesty though, i don't see much difference between 1024 and 2048.

    shadowMode: 0/1/2/3 (3)
    This sets the overall quality of shadows. 3 is the maximum, and this provides full dynamic shadows for everything that's visible, regardless of how far away it is. This essentially makes it looks more realistic, but is VERY heavy on resources. This setting has one of the greatest effects on both quality and performance.

    NEW FOR 5.0! - ssao: 0/1/2 (1)
    This sets the overall quality of the level of SSAO (a new feature added in 5.0). To the more experienced gamers, you might know this as the equivalent of "Performance" and "Quality" modes for Ambient Occlusion from NVIDIA Control Panel. Note that this is the only setting where the allowed values are "inverted" (1 is "high", 2 is "low").

    NEW FOR 5.0! - ssaoBlur: 0/1/2 (2)
    This controls how well the SSAO effect "blurs" into the scene. At 0, it's interleaving lines, and at 2, it's a smooth effect. You'll need to go to somewhere dark-ish (such as the front entrance to Orgrimmar) and look at objects close to walls to see it properly. 1 seems to erase the SSAO a little, but 2 sets it to be very contrasting.

    NEW FOR 5.0(?) - terrainMipLevel: 0-1 (inclusive decimal) (0)
    This seems to change the shading on terrain in some aspect. It's difficult to explain, but i tried 0 and it seems to be of higher quality. It can be any decimal number between 0 and 1 (e.g. 0.001).


    Ground Effects, View Distance, Clouds & Spells
    Ground effects in this case are things like grass and stones. They can add a lot of graphical vibrance to the game, but do come at a cost (quite a heavy one at the high end). I'll also cover Spell Effect here. These are things such as Rain of Fire - how many "flaming coconuts" it summons. One important note about the spell effects is that the variable MUST be added to your config.wtf manually, otherwise the console command won't have any effect!

    NEW FOR 5.0(?) - horizonFarClipScale: 2/3 (3)
    This controls the scale of far clip of the horizon (i.e. how far the horizon appears [by a scale of an unknown base value]).

    groundEffectDensity: 0-256 (inclusive) (256)
    This controls exactly how many individual grass, rock and other ground entities are "created". Setting this to 256 adds a LOT of grass to scenes that have it, but to finish the effect off, you should check the next command and use it in conjunction with this one.

    groundEffectDist: 16-600 (inclusive) (600)
    This controls how far you can see the grass, rocks and other such grass entities. Setting this to 600 will create a VERY vast distance of grass for scenes which have it. Un'goro Crater and the Barrens are perfect examples. The cost here isn't that great on higher end graphics cards, but can slow down systems with low-mid range cards.

    groundEffectFade: 0-1277 (inclusive) (1277)
    This seems to be the same as groundEffectDist, but it's difficult to verify if they serve the same purpose.

    farclip: 0-1300 (inclusive) (1300)
    This is another of those startling variables that will drastically alter the quality and performance. It controls how far terrain is visible/rendered. Setting this to 0, you'll just get your UI visible. I do NOT recommend setting this below 100!. Setting it to 1250 allows me to see the Barracks at Razor Hill from the front of Orgrimmar! It does have a drastic effect on performance, so customise to your own requirement. Ultra sets this to 1250 as it is (a quite recent change it seems), but 1300 gives a little more view distance and seems to be the actual max.

    skyCloudLod: 0/1/2/3 (3)
    This controls how much depth clouds appear to have. It's not very graphically intensive, but does make a noticable difference to clouds. With 0, they're essentially flat layers with one tone. At 3, they appear to vary in depth, and this creates different colour tones as well.

    spellEffectLevel: 0-??? (Unknown Maximum) (100)
    This is one of the most amazing variables available. However, by default, it won't have any effect when you change it. This is because the variable doesn't exist by default. To enable it, you need to open "config.wtf" in your "World of Warcraft\WTF" folder, and add the following line;
    Code:
    SET spellEffectLevel 25
    Save the file, and restart WoW. Now, you can start playing about with the variable. What this does is changes how many individual "particles" are summoned from ground AoE effects such as Rain of Fire, Blizzard, and even Death and Decay. It doesn't change ground texture effects such as Consecration, or the "rune effect" from Ring of Frost (but does affect the amount of "steam" created by it).

    Personally, i recommend 100. However, this is one of those settings that's personal taste. It will have a drastic effect on performance. If you set it to 5000 as an example, you'll see 5000 fireballs summoned from a Rain of Fire, or 5000 Iceshards from a Blizzard cast. I believe this also affects the raindrops from Healing Rain. It WILL destroy your FPS if you set it too high!

    However, increasing it over the default of 25 does give the game more depth and makes things just that much more appealing.

    Water and Misc.
    This section contains the settings for water, and anything that doesn't fit elsewhere.

    waterDetail: 0/1/2/3 (3)
    This controls the overall quality of the water. Previously, this used to be customisable via 4-5 variables, but this seems to have been changed to onlt waterDetail in 4.0.6 (or possible 4.0.3). Setting it to 0 gives you the old water. Setting it to 3 gives you the maximum water quality currently available. This includes ripples, distortion, and world reflection. Unfortunately, Character Reflection still doesn't appear to be available (although if anyone knows of a CVar to allow that, i'll be happy to add it). Setting 3 specifically adds full world reflection, while 2 seems to only reflect certain parts of the world.

    ffxGlow: 0/1 (1)
    ffxGlow is an older effect. Players from TBC will remember an effect known as "Fullscreen Glow". Essentially, this added a very minor bloom effect to the world. When they changed the Video Configuration UI, they removed the checkbox. Well, the effect itself remained in game, and now you can control it again! Setting this to 1 wil increase colour vibrance. In places like Durotar (during the day), it can be overpowering, and too bright. However, in other areas it can create a nice moody tone. Tol'Barad is an excellent example of this. This is completely down to personal preference, and doesn't have much effect on performance.

    sunshafts: 0/1/2 (2)
    This controls the "sunrays" you see when your character flies in front of the sun. The difference between 1 and 2 isn't that great. 0 turns the effect off completely. I recommend 2 though.

    NEW FOR 5.0(?) - particleDensity: 10-100 (inclusive) (100)
    This controls how vivid and strong particle effects appear (i.e. the higher the value, the more particles).

    NEW FOR 5.0! - fxaa: 0/1 (1)
    This controls whether the rather new FXAA Antialiasing method is used or not. This is a personal preference. Please note that FXAA is shader-based, meaning that the whole screen will be antialiased (including text and ability icons, and it will appear slightly blurry). You'll need to restart the game for this to take effect.

    ----------
    Conclusion
    As you can imagine, setting these to maximum can increase graphical quality by quite some margin. It won't look photorealistic, but for those with higher end systems, it can actually give you much better quality than the maximum settings available in Video Options. Setting it to the maximum can slow your system down if you don't have the power to support it, but if you do, i say go for it.

    If there's any updates, i'll try to add to the guide above.

    Enjoy,
    Chron!
    Last edited by Chronalis; 2012-09-27 at 02:04 PM.
    [...]

  2. #2
    These look like fun to mess with. Will changing the slider in the video UI Panel undo most/all of these changes? I only ask because I want to make sure I can undo the changes easily if I go overboard

  3. #3
    Hey Chron,

    Thank you for this, I'm always looking for some better graphix in WoW.
    I do have a question; Some of these values in config.wtf weren't in my folder.
    Can it hurt to just add them?
    I didn't had "groundEffectFade" and "skyCloudLod".

    And, when i adjust these settings via the /console command in WoW, will I see something, like my screen refreshing or whatever?

    -Shaz

  4. #4
    Titan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shazjia View Post
    Hey Chron,

    Thank you for this, I'm always looking for some better graphix in WoW.
    I do have a question; Some of these values in config.wtf weren't in my folder.
    Can it hurt to just add them?
    I didn't had "groundEffectFade" and "skyCloudLod".

    And, when i adjust these settings via the /console command in WoW, will I see something, like my screen refreshing or whatever?

    -Shaz
    It doesn't hurt to add them as long as you add them in the same format as the rest of the entries in config.wtf.

    Some of the variables will cause parts of the world to refresh (e.g. changing a water variable will refresh/rerender the water), while others will simply update without causing a visible rerender (i.e. There'll be no black "flash", it'll just change).

    Quote Originally Posted by Mythicchaos View Post
    These look like fun to mess with. Will changing the slider in the video UI Panel undo most/all of these changes? I only ask because I want to make sure I can undo the changes easily if I go overboard
    Changing the slider after you've edited them will reset them to whatever that notch is designed for.
    [...]

  5. #5
    Herald of the Titans
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    would you mind posting some before/after screenshots from the usuall "extreme" graphics setting and the one that got even further?

  6. #6
    Mechagnome funkyfloyd's Avatar
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    synthaxx, id like to ask a question.

    ive recently upgraded to a GTX 480 from a GTX 280 and increasing any settings over what the 280 could do will cause the driver to crash or freeze the system.

    was a clean install of the drivers (total uninstall)
    what did i do wrong?

    -im sorry, i know this is very offtopic, but you seem to have teeny tiny bit of clue with this stuff :P.
    Last edited by funkyfloyd; 2011-02-14 at 06:40 PM.
    'Let no man deceive himself. If any one among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.'
    Translation: you are not a fool.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ghul View Post
    would you mind posting some before/after screenshots from the usuall "extreme" graphics setting and the one that got even further?
    This, please.

  8. #8
    Impressive! /sticky.
    UI & AddOns expert | Interface & Macros moderator - My work

  9. #9
    The Patient Ketho's Avatar
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    Very nice guide/graphics compilation =)

  10. #10
    Titan
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    As requested, here's a few screenshots to compare.

    ShadowTextureSize


    As you can see, the shadows are more defined at 2048. This is something that's very difficult to screenshot well and can only really be demonstrated in game.

    Ground Effects



    The difference here is very noticable. You can see the ground clutter is visible much further. There's no visible cutoff point and it just smoothly fades off into the distance.

    Spell effects


    For this one, i had to hop onto my (underused alt) Warlock. This is plainly obvious, as you can see. Imagine the difference in combat!

    It's difficult to demonstrate some of them in screenshots. It also seems farclip was changed quite recently in that 1250 is the max, and this is what's applied at Ultra. Original post has been updated!
    Last edited by Treeston; 2011-02-14 at 09:17 PM.
    [...]

  11. #11
    Herald of the Titans
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    looking awesome, thanks for the screens

  12. #12
    I appearantly can't minimize WoW after i applied these changes.
    Normally when I Alt+Tab'd out, WoW would go down to the taskbar and the sound would stop.
    Now however, WoW stays active on the background and music keeps playing.
    Also when I minimize firefox again for example it will automatically pop WoW up again..

    Any suggestions?

    -Shaz
    Last edited by Shazjia; 2011-02-14 at 10:28 PM. Reason: typo

  13. #13
    The Patient Ketho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Synthaxx View Post
    Spell effects
    dang! that's a lot of meteors!!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Shazjia View Post
    I appearantly can't minimize WoW after i applied these changes.
    Normally when I Alt+Tab'd out, WoW would go down to the taskbar and the sound would stop.
    Now however, WoW stays active on the background and music keeps playing.
    Also when I minimize firefox again for example it will automatically pop WoW up again..

    Any suggestions?

    -Shaz
    This. Oh god this.

    Edit: Deleted the directX11 line in the config.wtf file and it fixed it.
    Last edited by Nightroad; 2011-02-15 at 05:16 AM.

  15. #15
    How do i know if Directx11 is activated ? i did exactly as u said and i dont see any difference... i have a GTX 460. help!!!

  16. #16
    Code:
    /dump GetCVar("gxApi")
    UI & AddOns expert | Interface & Macros moderator - My work

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Treeston View Post
    Code:
    /dump GetCVar("gxApi")
    What does that do?

  18. #18
    Tells you if DirectX11 is activated....

  19. #19
    I flipped over to DirectX 11 a few weeks ago because I was having issues w/ Deepholm freezing the game, and I have noticed the game locking up too. If I switch to something that covers my entire screen (like firefox) and then tab back into WoW it seems to fix the problem. It's pretty annoying, but better than random crashes in Deepholm.

  20. #20
    Setting spelleffectlevel to 10000 has given me some laughs, followed by trying 100000 and a prompt crash

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