User:TechAngel85/SWTOR Modern Guide

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SWTOR Tweak Guide - 2016
Tweaking Star Wars: The Old Republic for graphical enhancement on modern systems.

Created by: TechAngel85.
Discussion: Forum Topic

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Contents

Introduction

Welcome! Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) has been out for several years now. Anyone that has played these games can attest to that the game isn't the best game, graphically speaking. There are a few reason why this game still looks like it does after so many years. The main reason is the game is an MMO. Most MMOs are not as graphically beautiful as mainstream releases due to their very nature. MMO games have to take into account the online aspect of the game. The content needs to be fed to hundreds or thousands of users at the same time while maintaining acceptable frame rates so users have a smooth experience.

Also, SWTOR specifically, BioWare had planned higher resolution textures to be an option; however, during testing they found the HD textures to cause massive performance drops even with higher-end hardware. Therefore, those textures have never been released. This is the reason why detailed textures and models are usually not found in MMOs. SWTOR's "cartoon" style graphics is also not out of the ordinary for MMOs. Take a good look at World of Warcraft, for example. That game is massively popular and successful. BioWare, in my opinion, is on par with their texture style, without having gone too "cartoon" with the look. In my opinion, it's well balanced but there is always room for improvement.

For those reasons, this guide aims to improve the visual appearance of the game while maintaining acceptable performance during game-play. Since textures are out of the equation, the guide will mainly be adjusting settings both in-game and out to help improve the graphics, as much as possible. The changes this guide recommends have been tested on multiple planet types to ensure optimal performance across the entire game. Therefore, after completing this guide users may notice they have really great performance on Coruscant and decide to tweak the settings higher. I would not recommend users doing this until they have visited other planets such as Alderaan, which are a little more performance heavy.

This guide will not:

  • Replace any textures in the game.
  • Be a complete game overhaul such as S.T.E.P.

SWTOR was built upon the HeroEngine, which provides users with limited customization via an INI file. Therefore, this guide will only cover the tweaks which have an actual effect in the game from collected benchmark data, and tweaks which have a visual difference to the image quality in the eyes of the author. So, let's jump right into it!

System Requirements

The hardware requirements for this guide will be simply to match or best my own hardware specification listed below. The reason being is I know the following changes work on these specs in my system, so if you match or best my setup, then it'll run on yours too.

Hardware Recommended
Windows OS Windows 7 64-bit /32-bit nor newer versions of Windows have not been tested
CPU Intel Core i5 /equivalent or higher
System RAM 8 GB or higher
GPU Nvidia GTX 760 4GB VRAM /equivalent or better
Monitor Resolution 1920x1080 /higher resolutions have not been tested

In-Game Settings

The first stop along our journey is to open up the game and define the in-game [Graphic] settings. We will basically be opening up the game and maxing out the settings with a couple exceptions.

To be able to edit the in-game [Graphic] settings:

  1. Launch the game
  2. Load any one of the active Legacies
  3. Make sure the character is in a safe area so no attacks are initiated
  4. Turn off PvP, if enabled
  5. Hit the [Esc] key to open the in-game menu and select [Preferences]
  6. Now select [Graphics]
  7. Users should now be in the game's graphics menu.
#2 - Load Legacy

#2 - Load Legacy
#4 - PvP Off

#4 - PvP Off
#5 - Game Preferences

#5 - Game Preferences
#6 - Select Graphics

#6 - Select Graphics
#7 - Graphics Menu

#7 - Graphics Menu

General

swtor_Graphics_General.jpg

Below is an overview and recommended settings for the options within the General section:

Vertical Sync

Default: Disabled (unchecked)
Recommendation: Disabled
Description: This setting turns vsync on or off. It's disabled by default.
Testing Results: I am testing the default settings since it struck me as odd to have Vsync disabled by default. So far I haven't experienced any issues with it being disabled and the game running at 100+ FPS. Results my vary by system so if testing finds the game runs smoother with Vsync enabled, please enable. The recommendation could very well change in the future.

Full Screen Exclusive Mode

Default: Fullscreen
Recommendation: Fullscreen
Description: This setting controls the screen mode the game will be ran in.

  • Fullscreen - runs the game in fullscreen mode
  • Windowed - runs the game in a window
  • Fullscreen (Windowed) - runs the game in a borderless window

Tip: [Fullscreen (Windowed)] mode can be used if players will be Alt-Tabbing out of the game for various reasons (such as creating a guide ^_^ ). However, I would suggest using [Fullscreen] for actual game-play.

Graphics Quality Preset

Default: High / this may differ depending on hardware specs
Recommendation: Ultra
Description: This changes graphic quality presets. Changing this setting will change various settings in the Advanced section to a predetermined value. When the game first runs, it will choose one of these presets. The default preset for you is the default preset the game thinks you should use based upon your hardware specifications. This setting will change to [Custom] whenever a user make manual changes in the Advanced section. I have provided compares below so users can see the difference in the presets.
Testing Results: While on Coruscant, I ran a two minute benchmark for the High, Very High, and Ultra settings. The average frames per second remained at 110 FPS for all presets. Due to this, users can set the preset to [Ultra] and skip to the Graphics Card section below. The rest of this section is provided for informational purposes until more testing is completed. Up to this point, this recommendation has not been tested on a more demanding planet nor in Warzones.

Very Low

Very Low
Low

Low
Medium

Medium
High

High
Very High

Very High
Ultra

Ultra
Resolution

Default: NxN / this should default to the native screen resolution of the monitor.
Recommendation: Default
Description: This setting controls the screen resolution at which the game is displayed at.
Tip: First, this guide has only been tested on 1920x1080 resolution. However, users should still set this to their native screen resolution. Be aware that higher screen resolutions are more heavy on performance. Therefore, playing at a higher screen resolution than 1920x1080 may require some customization of the settings for performance reasons. I can not know how higher resolutions affect the performance until users report in with usable benchmark data. See the end this guide for submitting such data.

Refresh Rate

Default: NN / this should default to the native refresh rate of the monitor.
Recommendation: Default
Description: This setting controls the refresh rate for the game.
Tip: 60Hz is the most common; however, this should be set to the native refresh rate of the monitor in use. Often there will only be one option to choose.

Full Screen Gamma

Default: 100
Recommendation: Default
Description: This setting controls the gamma of the displayed image. Turning this setting down will darken the overall image. Note that this setting is only available in Fullscreen Mode.
Tip: This can be adjusted to suit personal preferences, but please only do so after completing this guide due to later adjustments.

Gamma 100

Gamma 100
Gamma 75

Gamma 75

Advanced

swtor_Advanced_Settings.jpg
Bloom

Default: Enabled
Recommendation: Enabled
Description: This setting turns the Bloom effect on and off in the game. Bloom enhances the lighting effects in the game so light sources look as if they're emitting light.

Bloom On

Bloom On
Bloom Off

Bloom Off
Conversation Depth Of Field

Default: Enabled
Recommendation: Enabled
Description: This setting turns the Depth of Field (DoF) during conversations on and off. This effect is mainly active when you talk to a NPC. The surrounding background will have a blurred effect applied to it. This is to help the player focus on the conversation and ignore the often busy background.

Texture Quality

Default: High
Recommendation: High
Description: This setting controls the quality of how the textures are rendered. The two values are [Low] and [High].

Shader Complexity

Default: High
Recommendation: High
Description: This setting controls the complexity of how the shaders are rendered. The higher the value the better the quality. The three values are [Very Low], [Low] and [High].

Anti Aliasing

Default: High
Recommendation: Very High
Description: This setting controls the antialiasing (AA) the game renders on the image. The higher the value the better the quality. The four options are:

  • [Off] - no antialiasing
  • [Medium]- runs FXAA only. FXAA is a fast antialiasing method which has a softening effect on the game's textures.
  • [High] - runs 4xMSAA. This is multisampling AA and is the most common form of AA used.
  • [Very High]- runs 4xMSAA combined with FXAA
Character Level of Detail

Default: High
Recommendation: High
Description: This setting controls the level of detail the game will render character models. The higher the value the better the detail. The two values are [Low] and [High].

Texture Anisotropy

Default: High
Recommendation: High
Description: This setting controls the level of anisotropy the game will render on the textures. The higher the value the better the image quality. The four values are

  • [Off] - no anisotropy
  • [Low] - ?
  • [Medium] - ?
  • [High] - ?
Character Texture Atlasing

Default: Low
Recommendation: High
Description: This setting controls the level of antialiasing the game will render on the characters. The higher the value the better the quality. The two values are [Low] and [High].


Graphic Card Settings

Now it's time to move on the graphics card profile for the game. Unfortunately, I only have a Nvidia card at my disposal so AMD users will have to match the settings in this section to the best of their ability.