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Complete Oblivion Optimization Guide

Last response: in Video Games
May 1, 2006 5:32:10 PM


Last update: July 17, 2007

The following advice are presented in order of relevance. So, 1 is more important than 2, etc.


First thing you should do is to follow this guide to Optimizing XP. I have seen dozens of guide to pseudo-optimizations and most of them are inefficient. This guide only presents meaningful, efficient little things you can do that can drastically optimize the performance of your PC. This will have a major effect on basically everything you do with your computer.


Secondly, you should consider overclocking your video card. Depending on the video card you use, this can reap good benefits or not. Some cards are notably good overclockers, like the 7900GS, or X850Pro, while some can't achieve much, like my actual X800XL.

Whether you are using an ATI or Nvidia card, ATI Tools is tha best.

ATI Tray Tools is easy and intuitive to use, but you should always be very careful about overclocking, and take the time to read a comprehensive guide such as this one.


Then, there is some tweaking we can do in Oblivion.

a) Oblivion launcher options and in-game video options:

I'll leave some up to your experimenting, since all pcs are different. However, in order to optimize your framerate, try changing your options according to the list provided here, one at a time, until you find a comfortable setting.

1. VSync OFF. VSync reduces image tearing, but this is generally a secondary concern. It can have drastic consequences on framerate.
2. Water quality on NORMAL. It is hard to see any difference between normal and high water rendering, except in the framerate.
3. Resolution: between 1280x1024 and 800x600. Middle-range cards and lower have a really hard time with high resolutions. This can absolutely kill your performance. With a little antialiasing, a lower resolution can be just as good and with a major boost in framerate.
4. Textures on MEDIUM. This is advised on all video cards 256 MB or less. It was often pointed out that playing Oblivion for a long time with high textures is overkill for 256MB video cards. Medium textures look just as good as long as you're not looking up too close.
5. Anti-aliasing 4X, 2X or OFF. Above 4X, Antialiasing does nothing except slowing down your computer. At 2X, it's already a major improvement over none, and most video cards can do this almost "for free" (with no framerate hit). Of course, if you really have low-end hardware, then turning it off altogether will improve performance even more, although at a significant quality hit.
6. Very little or no grass. Even on high-end video cards like the X1950XT, Oblivion's default grass is an fps killer. However, there are ways to optimize its rendering, as we will discuss below. So before you reduce your grass, try the other options at the end of this guide.
7. Shadows on self/Shadows on grass/Tree canopy shadows/Ext Shadows/Int shadows OFF. Shadows are easy to ignore and are often a major fps killer.
8. Specular distance at 40% or lower. I did some testing and specular lightning doesn't seem to change much, except making shiny surfaces somehow even more shiny. For the fps cost, it's not necessarly worth it.
9. Blood decals on LOW or OFF. Minor detail that can slow you down even more in combat.
10. Window reflections OFF. All kinds of reflections involve rendering stuff twice, which is always taxing on the video card.

b) Oblivion.ini

This file is NOT located in your Program Files/Oblivion directory but rather in My Documents/My Games/oblivion.ini. Double-click on it and then find and edit the following lines. As the oblivion.ini is a long text file, CTRL-F is your friend.

bUse Joystick=0 (leave to 1 if you are actually using a joystick)
bUseRefractionShader=0 (especially true on low-end ATI cards. This will lead to strange artifacts for spell effects, be warned.)
bPreemptivelyUnloadCells=1 (leave at 0 if you have 1GB of RAM or more)
bSelectivePurgeUnusedOnFastTravel=1 (leave at 0 if you have 1GB of RAM or more)

bBackgroundCell Loads=1
bBackgroundPathin g=1

If your processor is a dual-core or supports hyperthreading, edit the following lines as such:

bUseThreadedTempEffects= 1
bUseMultiThreadedFace Gen=1

If enabling grass doesn't kill your framerate, or if you can't live without grass (that sounds very wrong), optimize it:

iMinGrassSize=130 (you can try a higher value: 150, 180, 200)

Blanking the following will prevent all the startup movies from loading into the memory, thus reducing memory usage and speeding up Oblivion on the startup:


Disabling the animated map in the main menu can increase mouse responsiveness:


Finally, disabling music frees up the CPU somewhat, and some people really prefer playing the game without music, so they can enjoy all the ambient sounds.



Again, in order of relevance.

Streamline: Oblivion is reputated for bad memoy management. This awesome program will clean the memory intelligently, resulting in significantly reduced stutter for everyone! (Note: at the time of writing this, Streamline v.3 is in beta testing. I recommend using v.2.1 for the time being.)

Low Poly Grass: This mod replaces the 20-poly grass mesh with an 8 poly one, effectively reducing the graphical load presented by grass by more than 50%! This works wonders on most systems. A lot of people actually prefer the simpler mesh for aesthetical reasons too.

Quiet feet: Having a sound playing for each of the four paws of each animal around you (including your own horse!), especially if they're all running at the same time, can totally bog down the CPU. This mod simply removes this sound.

Operation Optimization: Similar to low-poly grass, this mods replaces many meshes with low-poly ones, that look just as good. I haven't have the occasion to test it personaly, but it has been said to improve the framerate in some areas.

De-Parallaxer: This removes parallax mapping on most textures, thus making them appear more flat. I've not been able to see much improvement in framerate with this, but that's maybe because I was more bottlenecked by fill rate than anything else. Depending on the video card you use, it could help.
July 16, 2007 12:01:24 AM

Just wondering, I can't find the "iBackgroundLoadLoading=" line. Also, exactly what does editing the value of "iMinGrassSize=130" do?
July 17, 2007 6:05:31 PM

Lastly Grass is a big performance hurter. You can decrease the density of grass by INCREASING iMinGrassSize. its default at 80, I found it looks great at 130. 170 seems to be the threshold between decently dense and sparse. If you find differently please let me know, but if I set 171 it's really sparse and if I set 170 it's dense again. I've found some areas in the west weald forest that are really heavy with shrubbery and they brought my comp down to 15 fps. If you are around the same specs as I am you might consider setting this up to 170, or if you want to be extreme 171 if you intend on exploring densely shrubbed areas. Another major performance enhancer is to set iMaxGrassTypesPerTexure to 1. This stops the game from loading extra meshes that you probably wont notice, I certainly can't tell the difference in my screenshots. I increased the wind value slightly to spice up the world a little more. Don't be afraid to crank up the distance now that you don't have 5000 grass poly's right under your feet

Got this from:

It's a dutch forum but the tweak guide is in english.

Related resources
July 17, 2007 6:38:02 PM

Ok guyz sorry I had forgotten to update this since like April 2006 so it was seriously outdated! Just did the update on both and here, and now the guide is much more useful.

@egel: I don't have Oblivion installed, but if you can't find the line, don't bother. Anyway the threading tweaks don't help much, it's more psychological than anything (yeah, I'm exploiting the dual-core capabilities of my computer!) ;)  The value indicated by iMingrasssize is the "size" of each patch of grass. The more each patch of grass takes "size", the less grass there is. This value alters grass density. Note that it doesn't make grass bigger or smaller, it just spaces out grass.

@morerevs: thanks for the input, I won't add them into the guide since I can't test it right now and haven't heard about it anywhere else.
July 18, 2007 5:41:27 AM

When I first started playing Oblivion on my P4 3.0GHz, 1GB Ram, 7800 GTX 256MB it made no difference if I used ultra texture quality or medium same preformance. It did shutter a lot outdoor though, max FPS 42 outdoor/indoor 65+FPS.
July 19, 2007 11:31:03 PM

@egel: I don't have Oblivion installed, but if you can't find the line, don't bother. Anyway the threading tweaks don't help much, it's more psychological than anything (yeah, I'm exploiting the dual-core capabilities of my computer!) ;)  The value indicated by iMingrasssize is the "size" of each patch of grass. The more each patch of grass takes "size", the less grass there is. This value alters grass density. Note that it doesn't make grass bigger or smaller, it just spaces out grass.
Cheers for that ;) 

I'm running Vista Ultimate 32bit on a Core2Duo E6420, 8800 GTS 320, GA-965P-DS3 rev3.3 mobo, 2GB ddr2-800 G.Skill RAM. Resolution of 1280*1024 on a VX922. Someone else told me here that they were getting minimum 40FPS Outdoors with a similar system, details barring AA maxed, but mine drops as low as 15 sometimes. I tend to use HDR, would that make that kind of difference? Or does that guy have a tendency to exaggerate. I have had the occasional weird error too...

I'm running the latest driver for my card.