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

SSD Performance In Crysis 2, World Of Warcraft, And Civilization V
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There are a ton of terms used to quantify storage performance. If you're a gamer, you have to be wondering how such dry terminology can apply to having fun. Rather than telling you, we're going to dissect three popular titles to show you instead.

SSDs cost a lot more than hard drives; that much is well-established fact. Depending on the drives you're comparing, the difference in price per gigabyte can be as much as 30x.

So why on earth would anyone want to buy a solid-state drive, then? Shave down Windows' boot time? Fire up applications faster? Accelerate file transfers? Sure, on all accounts. But if you're a gamer, first and foremost, you want to spend your money on the components that'll give you the best possible performance. And if that means giving up CPU or graphics budget to score an SSD, you want to know if the trade-off is worth it, right?

Storage Type
Magnetic
Solid-State
Brand
Seagate
OCZ
Model
Barracuda
Agility 3
Capacity
1 TB
120 GB
Price
$60
$210
Price Per Gigabyte
$0.06
$1.75


That evaluation isn't an easy one to make, though. When you read through an SSD review, you typically see a handful of measurements that try putting performance in context compared to other solid-state and magnetic products. But you generally don't get any frame of reference when it comes to gaming. Those familiar metrics include:

  • 4 KB random writes
  • 4 KB random reads
  • 128 KB sequential reads
  • 128 KB sequential writes


But what do input/output operations per second and megabytes per second really mean to the enthusiast interested in knowing how storage technology affects the launch times and game play of the latest and greatest first-person shooter?

In the lab, we’ve already seen situations where dropping in a cutting-edge SSD doesn't have a big effect on performance. The reasons why aren't particularly complicated. However, we thought it'd be a good idea to break down the way three popular games affect storage performance in order to give you a better understanding of how they tax your storage subsystem. Crysis 2, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and Civilization V are all going to get tested.

It might surprise you to learn that the "one size fits all" approach doesn't apply to SSDs and it doesn't apply to games. If you want to better understand storage reviews when it comes to gaming, this information will help you make a more informed purchase.

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Top Comments
  • 22 Hide
    cngledad , August 18, 2011 6:01 AM
    a comparison with a 7200rpm hdd for example will be great.
  • 21 Hide
    agnickolov , August 18, 2011 7:38 AM
    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.
  • 19 Hide
    AlexIsAlex , August 18, 2011 7:36 AM
    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?
Other Comments
  • 14 Hide
    the_krasno , August 18, 2011 5:00 AM
    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!
  • 4 Hide
    Soma42 , August 18, 2011 5:10 AM
    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.
  • 9 Hide
    AbdullahG , August 18, 2011 5:13 AM
    If only SDDs were a few cents a GB...
  • 12 Hide
    Gamer-girl , August 18, 2011 5:27 AM
    Gameplay: Nearly all writes.

    Doesn't this reduce the life of a SSD?
  • 1 Hide
    crewton , August 18, 2011 5:43 AM
    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.
  • 3 Hide
    Nnymrod , August 18, 2011 5:58 AM
    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.
  • 22 Hide
    cngledad , August 18, 2011 6:01 AM
    a comparison with a 7200rpm hdd for example will be great.
  • 19 Hide
    AlexIsAlex , August 18, 2011 7:36 AM
    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?
  • 21 Hide
    agnickolov , August 18, 2011 7:38 AM
    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.
  • 15 Hide
    celuloid , August 18, 2011 7:52 AM
    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.
  • 7 Hide
    executor2 , August 18, 2011 7:55 AM
    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
  • 6 Hide
    feeddagoat , August 18, 2011 10:08 AM
    You should include fallout new vegas, that game seems to spend most of its life loading something or other.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , August 18, 2011 10:27 AM
    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!

  • 1 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 18, 2011 11:23 AM
    @ 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 ?
  • 4 Hide
    sceen311 , August 18, 2011 11:28 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadowgargos , August 18, 2011 12:32 PM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    icepick314 , August 18, 2011 12:55 PM
    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 Hide
    jacobdrj , August 18, 2011 12:56 PM
    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...
  • 11 Hide
    achoo2 , August 18, 2011 1:09 PM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , August 18, 2011 1:30 PM
    Interesting article. Confirms what users have been reporting.
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