Game Settings & FPS: 15 Facts You Should Know

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Understanding what the different game settings actually do can make a difference in your PC gaming. The performance of your system depends on many factors including the games you are playing, CPU, GPU, monitor and many other things.

A few simple tweaks can increase FPS in different games. In this post we will discuss 15 facts about game settings and FPS optimization that gamers should know to get more out of their system without any hassle.

Does motion blur affect FPS performance?

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Motion Blur has very little impact on your framerates and approximately reaches the 1% FPS drop so it’s worth disabling it to avoid feeling nauseous.

Below you can see how much it affects your frames per second at multiple resolution settings.

performance comparison of motion blur

As you can see in the image above, the change in FPS is mostly visible in 1660 x 900 resolution and after crossing the 1080p mark, there is hardly any change. This might not be true for every game but it’s a close estimation.

What is Tessellation in games?

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Tessellation is a method to add more edges (Edge-to-Edge Tiling) between the points where the segments join (Vertex Locations) even when these don’t exist in the original 3D model.

In consequence, this makes the model appear smooth and of higher quality at the cost of performance.

Should I turn Tesselation ON or OFF? What’s its FPS impact?

In low and average resolution monitors, tessellation can decrease your framerates by ~15% when you turn it on, though, the difference in FPS between normal, high, and very high tessellation levels is minimal. In higher resolutions, the performance goes down by ~25%.

Below you can see the enormous difference that tessellation makes in terms of image quality. You can notice the extra edges that it adds to objects. It’s advised to turn Tesselation ON as long as your PC can handle it.

tesselation on and off

And here is the impact that it has on your framerates:

performance comparison of tesselation in games

As I mentioned above, tessellation is very unique and highly depends on your resolution. You can see the difference between 1680 x 1050 and 2560 x 1600. From normal to very high, there isn’t much of a change in terms of performance so if you can afford to use Medium, you might as well go all the way up to Very High.

Which game settings affect FPS the most?

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Most game settings are taxing for your system but the most demanding are in order:

  1. Ray Tracing 
  2. Resolution (2k+ resolutions are way more demanding than 1080p and lower)
  3. Shadow Quality
  4. Texture Quality
  5. Game Physics (e.g. PhysX)³
  6. Anti-Aliasing
  7. Effects Quality
  8. Tessellation (Hairworks, etc…)
Important
  1. Texture quality can be way lower than what it is on the list since it only depends on your VRAM usage. If your video memory is not full, then your FPS won’t be affected at all.
  2. Anti-Aliasing can also be higher or lower on the list depending on the type that you use. For example, MSAA x8 is way more demanding in terms of resources than FXAA.
  3. PhysX can feel more demanding if you run it using your CPU. However, it’s recommended to use your graphics card combined with the Nvidia PhysX System Software to achieve a much higher FPS.

What game settings affect the GPU?

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In general, GPU-intensive settings are those that increase the visual quality of a game. Such settings are:

  • Resolution
  • Anti-Aliasing and especially Multisampling (MSAA)
  • Anisotropic Filtering (It’s hardly “intensive” though)
  • Nvidia PhysX
  • Supersampling
  • Depth of Field
  • Post-Processing
  • Texture Quality
  • Draw Distance (Render Distance)
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Nvidia PhysX can be rendered by both the CPU and the GPU. To get the best performance, it’s preferred to use a GPU that supports it with the downloadable software from the Nvidia website. For more information, click here!

What game settings affect the CPU?

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Anything that adds lots of stuff on your screen tends to be CPU intensive. Such settings are:

  • Shadows
  • Some types of Anti Aliasing (e.g. MLAA)
  • Volumetric Clouds
  • Level of Detail
  • View Distance (Depending on the game)
  • Water Reflections
  • Dynamic Lighting
  • Particle Quality (e.g. Fog)
  • Post-Processing
  • Nvidia PhysX (when CPU rendered)

Depending on the game and how it handles the Level of Detail (LoD), view distance can be processed either on the CPU or GPU. In most games, it mostly uses GPU and a little bit of CPU power.

Some of the settings above can be more intense than others but this highly depends on the game itself.

How many FPS can a 60Hz monitor display?

A 60Hz refresh rate monitor can refresh the screen 60 times a second. That essentially means that it can only display up to 60 FPS. Research has shown that having more frames per second (for example 100) can still make your gameplay feel smoother, even though it has its drawbacks.

Below you can see a detailed video from LinusTechTips where they extensively tested that by setting up CS maps with slow-motion cameras.

The positive of having more frames per second than your monitor’s refresh rate is that input lag decreases and therefore the game can feel a lot smoother.

On the other hand, if you have more FPS than what your monitor can display, you might start getting some diminishing returns such as screen tearing. That’s because your video card renders frames way faster than what your monitor can display.

Does Field of View Affect FPS Performance?

Increasing the Field of View (FoV) will add more objects to the screen that will then be rendered by the GPU. Therefore, higher FOV in games means that you can detect enemies much easier but at the cost of FPS.

Field of View does not affect sensitivity

A wide field of view doesn’t impact sensitivity at all. All it does is add more stuff to your screen which gives you the perception of lower sensitivity. In a narrow field of view, on the other hand, things leave and enter your screen more often which can cause motion sickness.

Below you can see its impact when running Destiny 2 with a GTX 1060 at 1080p Ultra Settings.

field of view fps performance chart

The performance hit of Field of View is not the same for every game. For older games, the FPS reduction will be significantly lower since the extra objects that enter the screen are not as detailed as those of modern games.

Does view distance reduce FPS?

Higher view distance will decrease your FPS as more models and objects appear in the background. These have to be rendered mostly by the GPU but also by the CPU. These processes will increase the overall load which eventually leads to lower frames per second.

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Below you can see the performance hit of View Distance in Fortnite while using an old graphics card in 720p resolution.

viewDistance
Important
  1. The performance hit of View Distance highly depends on the game, the graphics quality, and the resolution. As you can see in the picture above, Fortnite on LOW settings and 720p resolution barely affected the increase of view distance. On the other hand, a more demanding game set on Ultra Preset and 4K will see a much bigger FPS drop.
  2. View Distance is the setting that makes some objects or characters suddenly “POP UP” out of nowhere. This mostly happens when you have set it to low. It only affects non-player models!

What is Depth of Field in games?

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Depth of field is a video game term that refers to the amount of “focus” that a player can see on the screen. It blurs the background or foreground to focus attention on the subject. In games, it is used to draw players’ attention to various elements of a scene and make it more realistic.

Should I Have Depth of Field ON or OFF?

Depth of field is a setting that highly depends on the player. It can make the game look more realistic but it also adds blur in the background which is something that many players despise. Besides, depth of field is GPU intensive so turning it off can save you a couple of FPS.

Below you can see the difference that Depth of Field makes in terms of image quality and performance.

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As you can see in the picture above, the effect is not very natural and you can literally make it with your eyeballs by just looking at something that’s close to you.

depth of field fps performance chart

The performance hit varies per game since every game engine handles the depth of field differently. The expected performance loss should be as low as 3% (Rise of the Tomb Raider). Dying light is a great example of a game that’s highly impacted by DoF and can lose more than 10 frames per second when enabled.

Does VSync affect FPS performance?

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Although Vertical Synchronization(VSync) does not lower FPS performance by itself, if you have higher framerates than the refresh rate of your monitor, it will lower them to match the refresh rate, and that might cause input lag.

People mostly use it to fix screen tearing or over-processing issues.

Double or Triple Buffered VSync?

Choosing between double and triple-buffered VSync is a personal preference. Double buffering allows you to have steadier FPS (60, 30) but you might experience input lag at times. At the cost of stuttering, triple buffering offers you faster response rates and access to a bigger variety of framerates (60, 59, 58).

Does Anti-Aliasing Affect FPS?

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Anti-aliasing is responsible for making the edges of your textures look smoother. It requires a decent amount of computing power from the GPU to process them, so it’s one of those graphic settings that can significantly affect your FPS if you increase it too much. 

There are anti-aliasing options on both OpenGL and Direct3D. In fact, they can have a significant impact on your game’s performance. That’s because when you increase the number of pixels that are smoothed at once, more data has to be processed by your graphics card. The more data that has to be processed, the slower your computer gets.

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The performance hit when going from No AA to FXAA is very slim, which is the reason why most low-end PCs prefer using it over the alternatives.

Below, you can see its impact on a high-end GPU like the TITAN X SLI at 1620p resolution when playing GTA V.

anti-aliasing performance chart
Does Anti-Aliasing cause input lag?

Anti-aliasing doesn’t inherently cause input lag or any lag for that matter. However, it consumes some graphics processing power to work properly, so it can cause some type of lagging and FPS drop if your graphics card can’t handle that. 

Should ambient occlusion be ON or OFF? Does it affect FPS?

Ambient Occlusion will have a noticeable impact on your FPS when you change its value from OFF to SSAO. However, as you increase it to HBAO+ and higher, the difference in terms of performance is insignificant (1 or 2 FPS reduction) while you get a decent visual improvement in return.

In general, it’s advised to turn this option ON if your GPU can handle it. Below you can see its impact on Splinter Cell Blacklist and The Witcher 3 at 1440p resolution.

Ambient occlusion fps impact in games
  • You’ll notice in the image above that Witcher 3 gets nowhere near the hit that Splinter Cell gets in terms of performance. If you want to increase your FPS, make sure that you run benchmarks as some games might react to ambient occlusion differently.
  • Ambient occlusion is very hard to notice if you have enabled your shadows as it will only affect the soft ones. Try disabling your shadows to see its full potential.

Does Texture Quality Affect FPS?

texture quality fps impact chart

Texture quality will have a significant impact on your FPS but ONLY if you don’t have enough video memory available.

This setting mainly affects the VRAM usage. Most modern games use extra settings such as “Model Quality” and “Object Quality” to tweak the quality of even more specific textures.

You can see its impact on a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB VRAM at 1080p – max game settings of Destiny 2. This might not apply to every game but the most FPS decrease you will experience is close to 3% unless your VRAM is full.

Does anisotropic filtering affect FPS?

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Anisotropic filtering uses GPU resources to improve the quality of the texture when you look at them from an angle. In most cases, its impact to your FPS is minimal while it makes the game look WAY better. It’s recommended to turn it ON and set it to 16x.

Below you can see its impact on a GeForce GTX 980 Ti at max game settings of Rise of the Tomb Raider!

anisotropic filtering performance impact chart

As you can see in the image above, the biggest difference is in the jump between Trilinear and 2x AF. After that, going from 2x to 16x barely makes a difference in performance. It might not be the same for every game, though.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this has been helpful in teaching you something new about the importance of game settings. In the right hands, good configuration can make all the difference between a laggy, frustrating gaming experience and a smooth, satisfying one.

If you want to improve your overall performance in video games, you more than likely already know there’s a lot of factors that come into play. If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments.

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