Contrary to popular beliefs, there are very many people who are gaming on old computers and far from optimal setups. For the longest time I thought that extremely low framerate and very bad latency was something I simply had to live with. And to a certain degree I was right. I can't afford the hardware to have really good graphics. What I can afford though, is the time it takes to set up my computer to be optimized for gaming, and make sure the games I play are configured for maximum performance rather than the shiniest graphics.
So let's get to it!
How to reduce latency
First of all, you need to GET OFF ANY WIRELESS CONNECTION! Wireless sucks, and that's all there is to it. It will never allow for the same response time or bandwidth as a wired connection. You love your WiFi router and think cables are old fashioned? Well... you gotta choose between being hip or having the optimal gaming setup at this one.
Secondly you need to make sure your computer's network settings are optimized for gaming as well. The following only works for certain operating systems, but has been tested and confirmed to work on them:
- Windows 7
- Windows Vista (SP1 or higher)
- Windows XP (SP3)
You can do it the short way and install Leatrix Latency Fix. I've been using it for years, and it truly does reduce my in-game latency to an acceptable minimum. Even with slow and bad connections I'm usually resting at a more or less stable latency of 30-90ms with this installed.
- From a command prompt (usually in All Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt) run “regedit”
- Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\Tcpip\Parameters\Interfaces
- Browse the items under interfaces until you find one that has an IPAddress entry matching the network interface you want to affect (typically LAN IP addresses start with 192.168 or 10.0); note that if your IP address is automatically assigned by a DHCP server you may need to look for a matching DhcpIPAddress instead of IPAddress
- Right-click on the interface and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value, name it “TcpAckFrequency”
- Right-click the new TcpAckFrequency value and select Modify, enter “1″ (Hexadecimal radio button should be selected)
- Right-click on the interface and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value, name it “TCPNoDelay” (note that TCP is all uppercase this time – that’s intentional)
- Right-click the new TCPNoDelay value and select Modify, enter “1″ (Hexadecimal radio button should be selected)
- Verify that both TcpAckFrequency and TCPNoDelay now show up in the adapter’s property list with types REG_DWORD and values 0×00000001
- Exit regedit and reboot (reboot is necessary for the changes to take effect!)
- Play a game and enjoy your new low ping
How to increase framerate
Framerate is life. There can be no doubt about it. The more fluid the motions are, the lower your response time gets, and the better you are able to play. Low or laggy framerate can also affect your latency in a bad way, as the time it takes for the computer to send responses to the servers go up when the framerate goes down. So it is in your interest to always have as good a framerate as you can get.
There are several ways to improve your framerate, and not all are related to your graphic card as you might had expected. That is a big factor though, so I'll start with that.
Optimize your graphic settings
Yes, it sucks to have ugly graphics, but this is the point where you have to choose between good screenshots and good gameplay. It is possible to make up for bad performance in PvE by good personal skills, since every encounter pretty much is scripted and predictable. But in PvP you're just completely screwed without proper performance and response time. So the shiny graphics simply have to go!
I'll only mention those settings I find to be the most important from the World of Warcraft graphic options here, and briefly explain how they affect the overall performance.
Set this to Fullscreen. For all systems this produce a higher framerate and lower response time, since the operating system simply gives World of Warcraft a higher priority.
This one isn't as obvious as you might think, as many graphic cards have a very good innate support for it, meaning you can have a good level of multisampling without really affecting your fps. I however, can not. Anything above 1x, and everything slows down. You'll have to experiment with this one, as it's not a clear cut case.
This is one of the biggest fps factors there is. Older computers may have as little as only 2GB of internal memory, and that is really way too little to properly run World of Warcraft. This setting digs into the memory more than anything else, as it is directly related to how many objects the game keeps in the memory at once. If you have too little ram, the hard drive must be more frequently used, and this slows down the whole game. I have it set to Fair, as Low just makes it unplayable in Battlegrounds.
Environment Detail, Ground Clutter - These affect fps as well, but to a lesser degree than View Distance. I do however recommend putting them lower than what the game recommends if you're having fps issues.
Put it at Low or Fair. My computer slows noticeably down when set to anything higher than Low.
As low as you need to go. This too is a very GPU-heavy setting. I hate not having the new shiny and transparent water, but it just affects the overall performance too much to ignore.
If you're still having issues after all the above have been adjust, then disable this one. I can't even activate it. Too old computer.
Believe it or not, but spell detail is a HUGE performance factor in group combat, meaning large raids and PvP. Experiment with lowering this one.
This can really boost your group performance when being turned off, but it comes at a price. You know all the big colored circles you see on the ground from spells? Well, turning this off disables them, and you only get some weak and almost invisible coloring instead. If your group starts screaming for you to get out of stuff you can't even see, then this setting is the sinner. I have it on in raids and dungeons, and off in PvP.
Triple Buffering (Advanced Settings)
Turn this crap OFF!
Reduce Input Lag (Advanced Settings)
Turn this OFF! Yeah, the client might respond faster when you click something, but your framerate just drops to nothing! If your input lags, this setting is NOT the solution. This is just a really crappy band aid.
Disable other programs
Running other programs in the background can really mess up your gaming performance. We all like to have WoW running in windowed mode with Winamp playing while browsing the web with Firefox or Chrome, right? And these programs don't use much resources so it's not a problem, is it? You should all know the answer to this by now.
Memory is a precious thing, and it directly affects performance and framerate. You need to conserve it as best as you can. You see, WoW - and other programs - start to use the pagefile and the harddrive long before you're actually out of memory. So when your computer reports having 500MB free, you probably have too little ram memory installed. Because your harddrive is already running overtime, and your performance is far worse than it should be. Let's fix that!
Close down your browser, even Firefox which is famous for its low memory usage is a real memory hog. Close your e-mail application if you're using such a thing. Close any PDFs if you have any open. And last but not least, close down Winamp or any other media player you might have running.
....what did he say?
Close down any media player you might have running, including but not limited to Winamp. They really assault your computers memory and performance. Believe it or not. I can't PvP with Winamp running. Luckily there are many other ways to listen to music. I would have gone crazy playing WoW in complete silence.
This is one of those things you notice the most in large scale group PvP. The more players are visible, the more objects World of Warcraft has to keep in memory at once. If I were to choose only 3 things to change, it would be to disable Winamp, lower my View Distance and run the game Fullscreen. If you have 4-6GB or more of ram, these things have far less impact on your performance.
Well, that concludes my little guide. I hope you find it helpful, and that it helps to improve your performance as a gamer the same way it has helped me!