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Skyrim PC major frame rate drop when looking at cities?

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  • PC gaming
  • Skyrim
  • Video Games
Last response: in Video Games
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December 21, 2011 9:32:26 AM

Uhh, alright so I own the following rig:

Asus GTX 590 (dual GPU card, therefore it has SLI)
ASRock P67 Extreme4 Mobo
Intel Core i7 2600k overclocked to 4.4 ghz.
8GB of G.Skill Ripjaws RAM (2x4gb)

And In Skyrim, I get 60+ FPS almost everywhere EXCEPT for, specifically, when i'm looking at a large city (Such as Riverwood for those who play it) my frame rate drops way down to 50. It's really wierd because only when i'm looking at those large cities, like from the outside, does my frame rate drop to 50, not even when i'm in them or anything.

I've heard that Skyrim is more CPU-Intensive but I would think that the 4.4GHZ overclock i applied to my i7 before installing Skyrim would account for that.

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December 21, 2011 9:37:58 AM

all the way down to 50?? booo hooo go outside if you want higher than 50fps. wtf....
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December 21, 2011 11:01:49 AM

I'm not quite sure what your question is.

Skyrim is very poorly optimized for the PC, this is well known. A 590 will not perform any better in Skyrim than a 570.

Whats your GPU usage in Skyrim btw?
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December 21, 2011 11:36:42 AM

Great system you have there. But I'm not surprised about your performance issues. My experience is exactly comparable, although my system is overall less powerful than yours (Core i7 920 @4GHz and 2*GTX 560 Ti).

In cities, your performance is CPU limited. The computation related tasks such as controlling the behaviour of the NPCs, the various items and shops, and quest related stuff - basically everything that makes Skyrim the game it is - are all CPU tasks. They are somewhat complex and tax even the most powerful CPUs to the limit. Add to this the fact that Skyrim is extremely poorly optimised. It will max out one thread while the others remain largely idle. Most tasks the CPU is being asked to perform are easily threadable, so this is mostly a problem of software optimisation.

The problem doesn't really show itself on consoles because their graphics are so rubbish that you get a poor framerate everywhere. What you and I (and many other lucky PC users) have in common is a graphics subsystem that's powerful enough to expose the flaws in the software engine. Console users don't.

My experience is:

- in cities, FPS is around 40. CPU utilisation on one thread is around 90%, GPU utilisation around 60%

- outside, FPS is way higher. CPU (single thread) utilisation around 40%, GPU utilisation 100%

The bad news is that there is very little that can be done as the problem lies with the software game engine. The good news is that you're not exactly getting bad performance - and neither should you with your system - so I say you should be happy.

I heard that some people have reported a performance boost from disabling hyperthreading. The logic is that since the software can't use all the threads you have, allowing it to run on a proper core instead of a virtual one will give you more power. I tried it and do think performance has improved. Hardly a big boost but noticeable.
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December 21, 2011 12:23:27 PM

bwrlane said:
Great system you have there. But I'm not surprised about your performance issues. My experience is exactly comparable, although my system is overall less powerful than yours (Core i7 920 @4GHz and 2*GTX 560 Ti).

In cities, your performance is CPU limited. The computation related tasks such as controlling the behaviour of the NPCs, the various items and shops, and quest related stuff - basically everything that makes Skyrim the game it is - are all CPU tasks. They are somewhat complex and tax even the most powerful CPUs to the limit. Add to this the fact that Skyrim is extremely poorly optimised. It will max out one thread while the others remain largely idle. Most tasks the CPU is being asked to perform are easily threadable, so this is mostly a problem of software optimisation.

The problem doesn't really show itself on consoles because their graphics are so rubbish that you get a poor framerate everywhere. What you and I (and many other lucky PC users) have in common is a graphics subsystem that's powerful enough to expose the flaws in the software engine. Console users don't.

My experience is:

- in cities, FPS is around 40. CPU utilisation on one thread is around 90%, GPU utilisation around 60%

- outside, FPS is way higher. CPU (single thread) utilisation around 40%, GPU utilisation 100%

The bad news is that there is very little that can be done as the problem lies with the software game engine. The good news is that you're not exactly getting bad performance - and neither should you with your system - so I say you should be happy.

I heard that some people have reported a performance boost from disabling hyperthreading. The logic is that since the software can't use all the threads you have, allowing it to run on a proper core instead of a virtual one will give you more power. I tried it and do think performance has improved. Hardly a big boost but noticeable.


Excellent, informative response. Thanks, friend.
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December 21, 2011 12:23:34 PM

Best answer selected by DTsoy.
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December 21, 2011 12:45:37 PM

bwrlane said:

The problem doesn't really show itself on consoles because their graphics are so rubbish that you get a poor framerate everywhere. What you and I (and many other lucky PC users) have in common is a graphics subsystem that's powerful enough to expose the flaws in the software engine. Console users don't.


No, the reason why this problem doesn't show itself on consoles is because Skyrim was made for consoles, Bethesda optimized Skyrim to run on the Xbox 360/PS3 hardware.

Skyrim on PC is just a poorly optimized console port. I.E Only used 2 cores, offloads shadow rendering to the CPU, 2GB RAM limit (only just patched to 4GB)
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December 21, 2011 1:20:42 PM

Gothams Finest said:
No, the reason why this problem doesn't show itself on consoles is because Skyrim was made for consoles, Bethesda optimized Skyrim to run on the Xbox 360/PS3 hardware.

Skyrim on PC is just a poorly optimized console port. I.E Only used 2 cores, offloads shadow rendering to the CPU, 2GB RAM limit (only just patched to 4GB)


I think it's a bit of both. It's often said that the reason for Skyrim's weird performance issues on the PC are due to the nature of the port, but I'm not sure that can be the whole story. Most of the internal structure and logic of the programming will be common to all platforms even if the code is different. It's mainly the structure and how it is allocated across hardware resources that determines performance.

Monitoring performance on the PC in heaviest CPU scenarios shows the following: thread one is about 90% utilised, thread two about 40% and all other threads are hardly used (if at all). Huge amounts of processing resources are not being used. Given the independence of many of the tasks, this suggests that better threading could significantly improve performance.

This is an issue with the logical structure of the code. My understanding is that code structure is mostly a cross-platform issue. Unoptimised code is just unoptimised code.

Now, the xbox 360 has 3 cores with hyperthreading, so 6 threads. The PS3 has an 8 core cell processor. If the hardware utilisation profiles of these consoles follow similar patterns to the PC, this suggests they too have substantial unused computation resources.

But why then did the developers not work harder to optimise the code to exploit available hardware resources? I'm guessing the reason is that there'd be no point, since console performance is limited by its weak GPU capability. Single thread coding is easier than multi-thread, so why bother when you're bottlenecked elsewhere?

You could say that that this is another way of saying: the software was optimised for console hardware and translates poorly for typical PC scenarios, where the GPU imposed performance ceiling is far higher.

Academic questions of course, but nonetheless interesting for enthusiasts to get their heads around.
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