SSD Performance In Crysis 2, World Of Warcraft, And Civilization V

How Does Storage Performance Affect Gaming?

I/O Pattern on SSDs
Game Startup
Level Loading
Gameplay
Read/Write Balance
Nearly all reads
Nearly all writes
Seek Distance
This varies, depending on the game
Crysis 2: Sequential
WoW: Random
Civilization V: Sequential
Nearly all sequential
Transfer Sizes
This varies, depending on the game
A majority are 128 KB
Queue Depths
Almost completely queued one-deep
Mostly queued one-deep, but this also varies with game
Up to 50% of ops queued two- to eight-deep


There’s a lot going on when you play a game. So, generalizing about the way storage technology affects gaming ignores many of the nuances that affect how long it takes to fire up a game, load a level, or even just play through it.

Granted, simply replacing a hard drive with an SSD won't address all of your performance-oriented issues in one fell swoop. It's often the case that one subsystem is waiting on another, which in turn is waiting on something else. That's why it might take almost a minute to load a level in Crysis 2, even if the drive is busy for fewer than three seconds. Responsiveness also affects how commands stack up. When we run these same games on a hard drive, a majority of the accesses occur at queue depths between two and 64.

As a practical matter, you don't spend much time waiting for a game or level to load, which is why the gameplay itself should be your highest priority. And we've seen the consequences of stuttering gameplay on a system limited to magnetic storage.

As with most performance comparisons we draw, just because you see SSD A beat SSD B by 50% in a synthetic benchmark doesn't mean it'll load a game or level 50% faster, too. With that said, based on the results we generated today, it's pretty clear that an SSD can help speed up certain aspects of your gaming experience.

More than anything, we wanted to make some correlations between the often-dry storage benchmarks you see in most drive reviews and real-world gaming. Those terms, numbers, and graphs do mean something; hopefully now you have a better understanding of how they relate. Take our explanations of how each specification affects your favorite title and use the data in our reviews to draw your own conclusions about which SSD is  best for you.

Or, if you'd like to see more games dissected like this, feel free to let us know in the comments section.

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    Top Comments
  • cngledad
    a comparison with a 7200rpm hdd for example will be great.
    25
  • agnickolov
    There was supposed to be a comparison with a 1TB Barracuda, but nothing made it into the article itself. How hard could it be to display two adjacent bars on every graph instead of 1? E.g. red for the SSD and blue for the HDD.
    22
  • AlexIsAlex
    So it looks to me like game loading and level loading is not significantly hard-disk bound, if the disk is busy for such a short period of time. For example, loading a Crysis 2 level taking 58s, of which the disk is busy for 2.

    Does that mean if you had an infinitely fast disk, the level loading would take 56s? In which case, where is the bottleneck for level loading? Is it CPU bound? (if so, why isn't CPU usage at 100% when loading a level?) Memory? Graphics card?
    19
  • Other Comments
  • the_krasno
    If it doesn't improve FPS I don't see competitive gamers adding SSD's to their rigs for nothing but main OS drive.
    Longer loading times are not crucial when all you want is to frag your enemies!
    14
  • Soma42
    This just confirmed what I knew already. I will probably upgrade to a SSD with my next build, but they are still so bloody expensive for the storage they offer. Plus, SSD are supposed to have better reliability compared to magnetic drives.
    4
  • AbdullahG
    If only SDDs were a few cents a GB...
    9
  • Gamer-girl
    Gameplay: Nearly all writes.

    Doesn't this reduce the life of a SSD?
    12
  • crewton
    I took WoW off my SSD for 2 reasons: space and performance. WoW is just way too big of a folder with addons and everything else it was around 35GB and like this article states the start and initial load is really the only benefit. Once you are in the world (of warcraft) it's not used.

    I'd like to see how the witcher stacks up with SSD. You are constantly having to load different areas the entire game so I made sure to have that on the SSD while playing it hoping to reduce the load times. Would like to see if that really paid off or not.
    1
  • Nnymrod
    It's all about the bottleneck, which isn't storage for actually playing a game. That said, SSDs are definitely cool, and I have one.
    3
  • cngledad
    a comparison with a 7200rpm hdd for example will be great.
    25
  • AlexIsAlex
    So it looks to me like game loading and level loading is not significantly hard-disk bound, if the disk is busy for such a short period of time. For example, loading a Crysis 2 level taking 58s, of which the disk is busy for 2.

    Does that mean if you had an infinitely fast disk, the level loading would take 56s? In which case, where is the bottleneck for level loading? Is it CPU bound? (if so, why isn't CPU usage at 100% when loading a level?) Memory? Graphics card?
    19
  • agnickolov
    There was supposed to be a comparison with a 1TB Barracuda, but nothing made it into the article itself. How hard could it be to display two adjacent bars on every graph instead of 1? E.g. red for the SSD and blue for the HDD.
    22
  • celuloid
    Why don't we see how long are those loading times with HDD drive? Maybe we find out 2x faster loading is not worth 30x times more money per GB.
    15
  • executor2
    I bought my SSD for 2 reasons:
    1. Level loading with dragon age ( which dramatically improved over my 1 TB Samsung F3 , in reality the level loads 2x faster from 1 minute to around 22-28 seconds )
    2. My OS which was transfer to the SSD ( which brought faster windows loading , extremely faster shutdowns , instant application lunch , and better multitasking because i have my browsers on the SSD )

    If any of you don't wanna invest into a SSD believe me , IT IS WORTH IT !
    If you wait for performance to not cost you , you will wait an eternity.

    60GB SSD CORSAIR NOVA FORCE
    7
  • feeddagoat
    You should include fallout new vegas, that game seems to spend most of its life loading something or other.
    6
  • Anonymous
    From a pure readability point-of-view, it would be helpful to add a small summary chart on the last page that says
    - The more randomly data is accessed, the more performance boost is given by an SSD
    - The higher the queue depth is, the more performance boost is given by an SSD
    - The higher the transfer size is, the more performance boost is given by an SSD
    - The more (less?) write operations you have, the the more (less?) performance boost is given by an SSD

    Otherwise interesting read, thanks!
    3
  • mayankleoboy1
    @ alexisalex
    excellent point. i would like to know that too.

    @andrewku
    the end graph is not clear at all. can you add a bigger/better looking graph ?
    1
  • sceen311
    Pretty bad game picks for use of an SSD, once I am in game in Civ5 there is no more loading and those games can go for hourrrrssss. Only time I load in WoW is entering an instance and load times are very bearable. Not sure about crisis2.

    I put Oblivion on my SSD and that was a fantastic idea, there are loading times at least every 20 mins or so in that one, and sometimes within 2 mins. Fallout would be another good one for it, similar load times and all. Witcher would be a good one, I'm wondering about NWN, Dragon Age and the Mass Effect series but it's been a little while since I've played those and can't remember what the load times are like.
    4
  • Shadowgargos
    I would like to see League of Legends included in this benchmark metric, since the game has attracted 15 million users, and even though it's Online, SSD's & HDD's play a crucial roll in load times for the game.
    0
  • icepick314
    how about comparison between drives in RAID 0?

    I imagine since large capacity SSD are VERY expensive, most people use 2 or more middle-of-the-road SSDs in RAID 0 striping method...

    I hear 10000RPM HDDs are very fast in loading when in RAID 0 configuration...

    I imagine in real world situation, 2 of 10000RPM HDDs in RAID 0 are just as fast as 2 of the most SSDs in RAID 0....
    1
  • jacobdrj
    the_krasnoIf it doesn't improve FPS I don't see competitive gamers adding SSD's to their rigs for nothing but main OS drive.Longer loading times are not crucial when all you want is to frag your enemies!

    Meh, the faster I can start Fragging, the better...

    But while I can NOT live without an SSD as a boot drive, I CAN live with my games being on a 3-way RAID-0 of 10,000 RPM Raptors...
    1
  • achoo2
    This article is useless, Andrew. Show me concrete level load-times using a HD and SSD rather than abstract information about IO patterns and leaving me to synthesize possible comparisons.
    11
  • JohnnyLucky
    Interesting article. Confirms what users have been reporting.
    2