Saturday, October 29, 2011

Battlefield 3 - thoughts

Origin, the Electronic Art’s version of Steam, let me download and install Battlefield 3 (BF3) few days before the official release date. I pre-ordered BF3 a while back, about 7 months ago in fact, when I visited Sri Lanka after the dreaded Touhoku Earthquake in Japan. I could have pre-ordered it from Japan, but there were two issues. What was available was a the Japanese version and the price was hefty. We are talking close to JPY7,000, which translates to about US$82 those days. (I believe the game is only $59.95 in the US, and you see how the conversion rates work!). If bought from Sri Lanka, I can buy it from the Indian EA Store. The price was a reasonable $20. I wouldn’t mind spending that much for a game, that might be the best game ever released on the PC.
 
Anyways, I pre-ordered the game for cheap, and waited for the release date to arrive. Like I said before, we were given the binaries few days early, so I installed it and tried loading the game. Oh bummer! We have to wait till the official release date to play it. Oh well, that is – fair I would say. So I waited till 25th, which was the official release date for US version. Couple of days before that, I got an email saying that I could only start playing it on the 27th. Fine, I thought. Too bad, the US jerks are getting a head start. They need that anyways. :P But just to test my luck, I tried playing the game on the 25th. They were right. It wasn’t released to me yet. Instead of giving me “wait till 27th you moron”, I got “wait till 2nd you loser. pwned!” This is not right. I got the email saying that I could play it on 27th. This is not funny. So I downloaded a crack (it cannot be illegal as I have already paid for the game, and I am not playing MP early to get an advantage) and started playing the single player campaign till they unlocked multiplayer for me.
 
Getting the game to load was a pain in the butt. I would get stuck at the intro video for no apparent reason. On my PC, I had to log out and log back in every time I wanted to play the game. With all those hardships, I finally managed to start the single player campaign. At first I thought it was the cracked EXE, but not to be. Read along and you will find out.
 
Here are some videos of me playing the single player campaign.
 
 
 
 
I tried MP on 27th, and it worked! Someone was playing a trick on me. Doesn’t matter. It is all good now.
 

Graphics performance

The graphics were awesome. But they still haven’t got the foliage as good as the original Crysis and Crysis Warhead. They are still two dimensional for the most part. Only the trunk of the trees are made up of polygons. But the special effects, textures and lighting were exquisite.

If you have been reading my blog, I bought a couple of HD6950’s quite recently. I was expecting to get 60fps+ at max details. I had the catalyst 11.10 preview 3 drivers installed along with the 11.9 CAPS3, which was the recommended setup back then. Within a few minutes into the game, I was greeted with disappointment. It was stuttering massively, even though I was getting well over 80fps at everything maxed out. It was not microstuttering though, if it was any consolation.
 
After playing few hours, I finally had had enough and wanted to get to the root of this. There were two things causing this, which had bigger influence I do not know.
 
1. Intel Hyperthreading. Of course, there have been incidents where HT was causing performance issues with games in the past, but it was only giving less FPS, instead of stuttering. Interested in how it looks like when stuttering? I recorded a couple of videos (but only cut scenes to clearly show the difference) to show what happens to FPS when HT is turned ON.
 
This is when HT is turned OFF
 
See how the FPS goes crazy when HT is turned ON? Not only the FPS is fluctuating, but the actual FPS is less than with it turned OFF
 
2. CAPS3. Even though AMD released those CAPS specifically for this game, there was a problem with them. The naked 11.10 preview 3 drivers were not having the problem. And they released CAPS4 with a fix. I do not know if CAPS4 gave some kind of better performance, but I stick to the naked drivers and it has been great. This also fixed the getting stuck at intro video as well. Apparently it was related to Crossfire.
I hope they fix the HT bug with a patch – soon!

Anyways, there are many articles hovering in the internet which talk about the performance figures. Take a look at this. Battlefield 3 GPU & CPU Performance @ Techspot.com
 

One word about MSAA

I played the single player game with MSAA at 4x and it was still playable. I was getting 60 ~ 80 fps for the most part. Of course there were places where it dipped to 30fps and it was hardly playable at 30fps. You really need 60fps on this game. Even though SP was playable with MSAA, I couldn’t play MP. Well, you should get all the FPS you can have in a FPS. A little slow down will definitely cost your life. So I turned MSAA off and now I am getting 100fps-ish on average. It does fluctuate between 50 and 200fps, and I turned HT back ON, but it is very smooth in MP. There are – as usual – ping issues but I cannot do anything about it.

 
Edit: They say there is a way to enable FSAA which has a way lesser impact on performance but giving almost the same quality. So far I have not been able to find it though. LOL
 

Crossfire is good?

I was using Afterburner to measure the GPU load while playing the game, and while I didn’t monitor it in MP as I was getting high fps, I was constantly looking at it in SP. (Afterburner supports the G15’s LCD display, so I don’t need to have it displayed on the screen.) What I found out was that whenever there was a slow down, the GPU load on one GPU had dipped to around 50% mark. While I was getting 60fps, it felt like 20fps. Was that microstuttering? I don’t know. But after a few seconds it would get back to 95-99% GPU load and everything is back to normal. Weird, but it could be an issue with CF or maybe because these drivers are prerelease versions.

 

MP experience

I cannot show my colors as I was able to in Crysis 2, because Crysis 2 is a different kind of game and it is brand new. Playing BF3 with BF veterans was hard work. I cannot even drive a tank properly. Helicopter and jets are hands down NO GO! In COD4, I loved playing as a sniper, but it was just point and shoot. But in BF3, you have to take the physics into account. Sniping is hard work. The gravitation and time works as in real world. You cannot just aim at the head and shoot. And it is different from rifle to rifle. How the heck am I supposed to remember all that? Some people can. I do not play it 24/7 like some people. There are so much to learn in this game. It’ll take a whole year for me to learn the game. Maybe I will then be ready for BF4. ;)

 
Guide: Aiming as a sniper.
 
Anyways, if anyone wanna add me on battle log, the username is nushydude.
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