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

Patch Notes: 4.0.1

In preparation for Cataclysm, Blizzard updated all of our clients with patch 4.0.1. That was a whopper of a download, but it made some significant changes. Listed in the update's notes were the following graphics-oriented points:

  • Improved water and lava rendering system (Video Options - Liquid Detail on the Graphics Panel)
  • Dynamic Sunshafts effect (Video Options - Sunshafts on the Graphics Panel)
  • Multi-monitor support (Video Options - Monitor on the Graphics Panel)
  • OpenGL Hardware Cursor support for Windows (Video Options - Hardware Cursor on the Advanced Panel)
  • Experimental support for DX11 (enabled by passing '-d3d11' on the command line or adding SET gxApi "d3d11" to the Config.WTF file)

Of course, we've already covered the experimental DirectX 11 code path, but we also wanted to address a couple of the other additions made that'll carry over to the next expansion.

First, water and lava. Blizzard's water rendering system has long been in need of attention. With 4.0.1, we get normal mapped liquid textures, procedural ripples, and full reflection. Additionally, the water pouring over a waterfall is affected by the Particle Density setting. Check out an example snapped in Elwynn Forest.

The lava system was also reworked. No longer does lava look like an animated texture. It now pours off of ledges, again, affected by the Particle Density setting.

Lava wasn't much of an issue in Wrath of the Lich King. Nor was it prominently featured in Burning Crusade. It wasn't since vanilla World of Warcraft that we were pushed underground into Molten Core and Blackrock Depths. With the return to Eastern Kingdoms, the new lava rendering is appreciated. The shot below is from within Blackrock Mountain.

The addition of multi-monitor support initially had me wondering if Blizzard was giving a nod to the folks out there with two or three displays who'd like to play the game across several screens. That is possible right now, but it involves some fancy footwork with add-ons. Unfortunately, the only thing you get with patch 4.0.1 is the ability to change the screen on which WoW is played.

We'll cover sunshafts in greater depth in a few pages; for now, know this is a feature you'll want to turn on. It adds an impressive element of realism in zones where the sun shines brightly.

  • 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