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World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm--Tom's Performance Guide

Detail Presets: Five Options From Which To Choose

Most of our benchmarks employ the Ultra quality preset in Cataclysm's Video menu. This is because we're consummate PC gamers, always looking to max out the experience versus what you might find on a console. To that end, we want to see what Blizzard meant this game to look like, rather than distilling it down to work with less-powerful hardware.

At the same time, we understand that not everyone is going to play Cataclysm at its most demanding settings. Sometimes it's necessary to scale back a bit in the interest of improving performance (that's why we tested at the Good preset as well). So we're going to cover the five available preset options and determine what you give up as you dial down from Ultra.

If you're not sure what it means to turn Liquid Detail from Ultra to Good or to disable Projected Textures, the following pages will illustrate each step of every setting that Blizzard exposes. You'll know exactly what you're getting into.

Ultra Quality

Not surprisingly, the Ultra graphics preset cranks every feature up as high as it'll go, letting the player pick resolution and multi-sample anti-aliasing settings. As you go through the next several pages, bear in mind that Ultra represents the top set of display options in Cataclysm.

High Quality

Taking a step down to High means making a couple of small sacrifices. First, Texture Filtering drops from 16x anisotropic to 8x anisotropic. All of the Environment sub-features scale from Ultra to High quality, and Shadow Quality, Liquid Detail, and Particle Density take one step back.

Good Quality

The Good quality setting steps you back to 4x anisotropic texture filtering. Again, all three Environment features take a step back (from High to Good). Liquid Detail persists at Good, but Shadow Quality, Sunshafts, and Particle Density pull back one slider position.

Fair Quality

Knowing that mainstream cards like AMD's older Radeon HD 4770 and Nvidia's GeForce 9800 GTX can play this game using Good quality settings makes us a little hesitant to recommend running anything lower. After all, even a $100 graphics card upgrade could get you a Radeon HD 4850 or GeForce GTS 250.

Nevertheless, if there is no hardware purchase in your future, or if you're stuck with integrated graphics, stepping back to Fair quality drops texture resolution, limits you to trilinear texture filtering, disables projected textures, and cuts every other setting by one slider position (including disabling sunshafts).

Low Quality

As an example of what gaming on a netbook or several generations of Intel's integrated graphics platforms will get you, Blizzard added the Low quality setting to Cataclysm. Don't use it, though. It's dismally ugly.

  • Odem
    Kind of unfortunate to see if I had gone with an i5 750 instead of a 955 I'd be seeing more fps. Although the money I saved for the same frames in most other games leaves me happy.
    Reply
  • WOW only uses 2 cores by default. However youc an configure it to "quasi" use more cores. you have to manually edit your config.wtf and change the variable: SET processAffinityMask "3" (3 is the default meaning 2 cores) to the following values for respective processors:

    i7 Qudcore with Ht- 85
    Any Quadcore chips with no HT - 15
    i5 Quadcore which does not have HT as far as I know - 15
    i5 Dualcore with HT- 5
    Dualcore with HT- 5
    Dualcore without HT - 5
    AMD tricore - 7

    There used to be a blue post explaining the settings and how to calculate it for different cores. But the old forums got wiped.
    Reply
  • sudeshc
    not a that big fan of wow, but still happy to see that they do keep in mind that people also have low end hardware too.
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    I'm impressed, if Chris went to all that trouble to benchmark the new expansion for a mmorpg in such great detail it can me only 2 things:
    1. Chris is a closet WoW-player
    2. Really bored
    With that said, i really do hope to see more of these articles, albeit with a more demanding title on the bench, even if it's from a "lesser" developer/publisher combo.

    PS: I do hope ppl appreciate my sense of humor :P
    Reply
  • dirtmountain
    Damn fine job Mr. Angelini, the most comprehensive hardware guide i've ever seen for WoW. This will save me hours, if not days of time when talking to players about their systems. Much appreciated.
    Reply
  • Bluescreendeath
    The Intel CPU scaling part was lacking...i7 980X at 3.7GHz? For WoW? Really?

    And why only Corei CPUs? Where are all the Core2s? 75% of Intel users still use Core2s and 775s!
    Reply
  • voicu83
    i hate you so much tom's hardware ... now i have to go buy an intel proc instead of my phenom ii x4 :D ... and add a dx11 board on top of it ... oh well, there goes my santa's gift :P
    Reply
  • Moneyloo
    Simply astounded by the time and effort that must have went into this piece. It also makes me greatly look forward to my new Maingear desktop arriving on the 23rd just in time for Christmas. Dual OC gtx580s in sli with a corei7 FTW. Ultra everything here I come!
    Reply
  • cangelini
    SpadeMI'm impressed, if Chris went to all that trouble to benchmark the new expansion for a mmorpg in such great detail it can me only 2 things:1. Chris is a closet WoW-player2. Really boredWith that said, i really do hope to see more of these articles, albeit with a more demanding title on the bench, even if it's from a "lesser" developer/publisher combo. PS: I do hope ppl appreciate my sense of humor
    It's a little easier to talk about WoW since I've been playing it for way too long, but I definitely want to see us doing more comprehensive coverage of demanding titles on launch day. It's all a matter of trying to convince the software guys to give a hardware site early access to the game. That's the hard part :)
    Reply
  • mitch074
    With hardware-accelerated cursor now enabled, OpenGL has finally become usable in WoW; was there any testing done on that? Not only does it sometimes give a boost to Nvidia cards, it's also the 'default' setting for Linux players - incidentally, the ones who were asking for the feature for a while.
    Reply