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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.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.