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

Welcome To The World...Of Warcraft: Cataclysm

I've been waiting for this day ever since downing The Lich King.

It's the way of things, isn't it? You clear all of the end-game content from one expansion and circle around in a holding pattering until new fights, new mechanics, and new gear become available. Sure, some folks gravitate toward PvP (What you PvP for? Honor f$%king rewards?). Others knock out achievements in their spare time. But I enjoy raiding. So when the end-game content is clear, it's all about anticipation of what's next.

The Burning Crusade was 'meh' (aside from the pre-nerf Kael fight). I enjoyed Wrath of the Lich King a bit more. But the original World of Warcraft remains my favorite iteration of the game. And now, with Cataclysm, the action returns to Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. We're back to the original storyline (I had always wondered when we'd see Grim Batol opened up), and we even get to fight Nefarian and Onyxia again. To be sure, Cataclysm looks to be the closest thing to vanilla WoW since 2007.

But that doesn't mean the game looks the same. Blizzard's own in-house development team continues to improve the 3D engine with revamped water and lava rendering, the addition of sunshafts, and an experimental DirectX 11 code path that we'll demonstrate to have a major impact on performance.

In other words, what you thought you knew about the way this game taxed your PC is changing.

Stormwind, post-Deathwing

I always chuckle a bit when I see folks talking about World of Warcraft as if it were the lowest common denominator of PC gaming. Yes, it's in Blizzard's best interest to make this massively popular title as accessible as possible to its millions of subscribers. But there's a gaping difference between the most entry-level settings WoW supports and the lushest options it offers. Cranked up to Ultra quality, this game can actually bring a number of respectable graphics cards to their knees. I have the benchmark results to prove it, too.

So, before the game goes live for everyone to enjoy, let's have a look at the detail settings you might want to use. I have 12 different cards from AMD, 12 cards from Nvidia, enough processors to show that cores, clocks, and cache do matter here, and a direct comparison between the DirectX 9/11 code paths.

The best news of all is the these game engine changes went into effect for everyone with patch 4.0.1. So, you can dial in the settings you want to use now and simply enjoy Cataclysm tomorrow.

  • 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