Computer game performance degradation
September 29, 2005 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Why has Half Life 2 started behaving like I'm running it on a Commodore 64 instead of my HP zd7000 with 3.4 Gig processor?

I've played the game right through a couple of times and it always ran like greased lightning, as I'd expect with my rig. Recently I decided to crack through it again (hey, I like the game a lot) and it was fine for the first few levels, then I had occasional instances of brief "freezing" where the graphics didn't keep up with the mouse movements. Now it's like that all the time. It's like playing in treacle. The response to all commands is severely degraded and delayed, making the game pretty much unplayable.

I've done the obvious things like checking disk space, defrag etc. and I'm concerned this problem might indicator something more sinister going on with my box. Any thoughts? By the way, all my older, less resource-heavy games such as Unreal and Half Life 1 still run fine.
posted by Decani to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
I can't offer any help, other than to say you're not alone. I, too, decided to give Half-Life 2 another runthrough, and was astonished by how poorly it ran on a fresh new XP SP2 system with the latest graphics drivers on only the second time I launched it since reinstall. Delays, poor framerate combined with massive pauses, and terrible loading times.
posted by zsazsa at 9:23 AM on September 29, 2005

Huh. Do you have any other performance-intensive current gen games to test?

Is your HD being slammed while this slowdown occurs? HL2 handles content streaming in a way that is not exactly optimal.

Have you installed any new software or drivers lately? Maybe there's something mucking around as a background process messing you up.

Could also be a problem with the video card hardware itself.

My sympathies: these are often difficult issues to fix. And HL2, in my experience, is a very strangely coded game that often has equivalently strange issues.
posted by selfnoise at 9:28 AM on September 29, 2005

One other thing I thought of... there isn't any chance that the ever-loving Steam is trying to download something while you're playing the game (like Day of Defeat)?
posted by selfnoise at 9:29 AM on September 29, 2005

I'm guessing you might have a Nvidia video card. There has been a known issue with the latest version of the Nvidia drivers and the HL2 engine.

Try to back-rev your video drivers a few steps and I bet that you will see an improvement.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:31 AM on September 29, 2005

Heh. And I was about to suggest UPDATING his drivers. Still a good idea if you're on an ATI, though.
posted by Imperfect at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2005

For me, sudden, mind-bending drops in game performance have pretty much always been video-related. Overheating card, driver nastiness. If you know for a fact** that your video driver setup hasn't changed at all since the last time you played, I'd worry about the card itself, and consider the possibility of clocking it down a touch to test the heat theory.

**and even then you should probably double-check, re-install 'em, up- or down-grade 'em as suggested above, etc.
posted by cortex at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2005

Response by poster: Answers so far: yes, I have Nvidia and I believe I did download something for it when I first bought the game. As I say, I've played the whole thing right through twice without any performance issues at all. As for Steam... no, I play the game in offline mode. And I haven't installed any new software or drivers since the game ran fine. And I've closed down as many background apps as I think I can get away with.

Most annoying, this, but thanks for the replies so far although I'm afraid I need a translation for this, WD!

Try to back-rev your video drivers a few steps
posted by Decani at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2005

Just an idea, but you mention you're playing in offline mode - have you let Steam connect to the 'net lately and download any available patches, tweaks and things? I've noticed HL2's performance improve quite a bit on this PC, and have seen Steam grabbing a few files here and there when I've launched it - obviously it won't answer the question of why the performance has dipped so suddenly, but it's probably best to be sure you're on the latest possible version of the game.
posted by terpsichoria at 10:22 AM on September 29, 2005

Response by poster: terpsichoria: yeah, I connect to Steam every now and then. When I first started getting these problems I tried playing in online mode too. No joy. I'm leaning towards the idea that it might be a problem with my card. Unfortunately I don't have any similarly intensive applications to test it with.
posted by Decani at 10:26 AM on September 29, 2005

If you are okay with opening your computer case, you should make sure that your video card's fan is running. Overheating card sounds likely to me.
posted by monkeyman at 10:31 AM on September 29, 2005

Back-rev, meaning to go back a few revisions. Under Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel, remove the Nvidia Driver, and then download an older version from Nvidia's website and install that instead.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:50 AM on September 29, 2005

Response by poster: WD: thanks. I'll give that a whirl.
posted by Decani at 2:53 PM on September 29, 2005

If you happened to go online to update your Steam platform within the last few months, but before the most recent patch (which was only yesterday, I think), you might have run into the issue with video cards that can't support DirectX 9.0.

Basically, a recent Source engine patch would force your video card into trying to run DX9.0 even if your card didn't support it, which made it run very poorly.

There is a workaround:
Check the properties of the game under the steam "play games" menu, and add a launch property of "-dxlevel 80" (without quotes) - that should fix it.

However, the most recent HL2 patch (I think yesterday or the day before) should have fixed that particular problem.

If back-rev-ing doesn't work for you, try to make sure you have the most recent drivers for your card. The most recent NVidia drivers should be 78.05.
posted by gemmy at 3:51 PM on September 29, 2005

Response by poster: OK. I did what I probably should have done before asking this question. I reinstalled the entire thing. So far it seems to have fixed the problem. Progresssive congestion through excessive use caused by bad coding? Who knows?

Thanks again for all your suggestions.
posted by Decani at 5:10 PM on September 29, 2005

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