Oblivion Hardware Question
May 1, 2006 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Gaming Hardware Question: I recently started playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Right now I am running just about at the minimum required for the PC version: Pentium D 820 Dual Core (2.8 GHz) Radeon X300 SE 128MB Video Card 1GB DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz 160GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) Right now I am playing at the lowest resolution, which is fine for me. I am enjoying this game immensely as is. The only real problem is that when I an fighting 4 or more enemies at once, the game slows down and it becomes almost unplayable. I am wondering what would be the best upgrade to improve this specific aspect of game pay. I am not an obsessed gamer or anything, so I don't want to sink tons of money on a top-of-the-line video card. I don't want to spend more then $200 or so, and I am wondering if I would be better off getting a bargain 256mg video card, or if I should upgrade my system memory. Thank you.
posted by moseymose to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get a new video card. The current 200-range cards (7600GT on the Nvidia side and the equivalent Ati card) will help out immensely.

On the other hand, upgrading from 1gb to 2gb of system RAM will help you very little if at all.
posted by selfnoise at 11:15 AM on May 1, 2006

See this article for benchmarks on a range of current cards.
posted by selfnoise at 11:17 AM on May 1, 2006

$300 on a 7900GT is by far the best investment for you at this point.
posted by kcm at 11:20 AM on May 1, 2006

Sell your current system and get all your money back, buy a sub-1ghz system with sub-128mb video, and buy an Xbox 360 with the remainder.
posted by vanoakenfold at 11:39 AM on May 1, 2006

Fellow oblivion player, also struggling with the requirements for playing over 5 fps.

You can get a good video card for your price, that shouldn't be a problem. Also, if you haven't checked out the oblivion technical forum, it's a must read. There's a lot in there on tweaking and fixing to get the best oblivion experience possible.
posted by puke & cry at 11:43 AM on May 1, 2006

BTW, I had to chuckle a bit when you described your system as "about the minimum required." Right now I run it on a 1.8Ghz Pentium M Thinkpad with the 64MHz version of the same card you have.

My immediate suggestion is to turn down the texture size. At 640 x 480 you won't be able to tell the difference, anyway.

Buying video cards is alot like buying processors - to get the most bang for your buck you want to buy in the "sweet spot," about two or three models back from cutting edge (on which you pay early adopter tax).
posted by ChasFile at 11:44 AM on May 1, 2006

oh and for the "get a 360" answer, remember that the 360 gets 3 official mods and none of the hundreds of user-made mods. You won't have the construction set to make your own mods and such. And you don't have the console commands to get you past all the bugs in oblivion, which you're gonna need.
posted by puke & cry at 11:45 AM on May 1, 2006

Don't spend money yet.

First see the Oblivion technical forums for game-specific tweaks and settings. Some people have been able to drastically increase performance by making simple tweaks to the settings. Judging by your problem, I would particularly pay attention to stuff about audio issues (this game has had lot), especially stuff about adjusting hardware acceleration and adjusting the iMaxImpactSoundCount setting in the .ini file (instructions available) to adjust the maximum amount of sounds the system tries to play simultaneously. It might also be a million other things, but you should definitely try adjusting settings before spending money on new hardware.
posted by insomnus at 11:47 AM on May 1, 2006

And buy much lower than that and you are getting crippled "budget" models or outdated technology that's not worth investing in.
posted by ChasFile at 11:48 AM on May 1, 2006

Good grief - I'd have said that you've already got a really good spec PC; for something to crawl on it, I'd suggest that the developers need to go back to their code and do a bit of optimisation... utterly disgraceful!
Although vanoakenfold's comment may sound a bit flippant, it's actaully not a bad idea.

If only enough people would boycott this stupid hardware->software->hardware vicious cycle :-(
posted by Chunder at 11:56 AM on May 1, 2006

utterly disgraceful!

There is, by most estimates, some 600 hours of gameplay content in Oblivion. Add in some general running-around-exploring time, and let's say conservatively you could play this game for 1000 hours. If you average 10 hours of play a week, that's two years worth of gaming. It is very possible that people buy two new computers in that time.

Is it the most stable, well-written game of all time? No. But do they have a legitimate reason for making a game that doesn't run well on today's hardware but will run great on the next generation? Absolutely.
posted by ChasFile at 12:03 PM on May 1, 2006

Is it the most stable, well-written game of all time? No.

They're just being true to the roots of the series. Ah, Daggerfall, where bizarre clipping issues got rewritten as gameplay ("you have fallen into the void"), and some of the most exciting moments came from wondering when the next CTD would hit, and whether it would permanently corrupt your save game.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:10 PM on May 1, 2006

I get a chuckle out of the "buy a 360" comment(s)...

Before you dump some money on upgrading there are some tweaks you can do from this site that may help.

I have a pretty beefy gaming machine but even changing some of the settings recommended in the link above helped speed things up.
posted by cbushko at 12:23 PM on May 1, 2006

Heh, the poster who said to 'buy a 360' hit the nail on the head.

I played Oblivion extensively on a friend's PC; he spent about 300 getting it up to speed to play. And no matter what he did, it didn't look half as good as it does on the Xbox (from a frame rate POV; I know the maximum rez on a PC is better, but who cares if you can't actually play the game at that rez?).

Also, more importantly, as ChasFile says, you could spend 500 or so hours on the game; would that be more fun on the couch with a wireless remote, or hunched in front of your monitor? You decide.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 12:30 PM on May 1, 2006

Does your friend have an HDTV??
posted by cbushko at 12:32 PM on May 1, 2006

The comparisons to Daggerfall are not entirely fair. Oblivion is quite light on the gameplay bugs (unless you count questionable design decisions as bugs) and the steep system requirements are put to good use; the game looks better, particularly with HDR on, than essentially any other title out there while retaining a "go anywhere" feel.

A 360 should certainly be considered as a valid option, though I would not be interested in the thing beyond playing Oblivion and thus it made little economic sense from my perspective. One should also note that the new video card will allow you to play a number of new games, not just Oblivion, so it's a bit of a false dilemma.

In terms of tweaks, I recommend the "grass density" tweak most of all... it made very noticeable improvements for me.

Note that adjusting the "render frames ahead" option may produce some hard-to-diagnose issues in other games.
posted by selfnoise at 12:45 PM on May 1, 2006

I'll second looking into whether you are running into a problem with hardware sound acceleration. Also, people with older and lower-end ATI video cards have had problems with some of the lighting effects that go with spells and magical weapons. I think turning off anti-aliasing was one work around.

As for upgrades. Your video card is the obvious issue. The game doesn't show much benefit above 1GB of memory (unless you have unusual amounts of crap running in the background).

If Oblivion is your primary gaming interest, then NVidia cards don't make any sense. It's pretty clear by now that ATI cards (at least in the $200+ price range) have better minimum FPS in Oblivion than similarly priced NVidia cards. So, for $300, the best choice for oblivion is probably the x1800xt, closer to $200, the x1800gto performs noticibly better than the somewhat cheaper 7600gt.

One thing to be aware of though, if you have an AGP motherboard your options are somewhat limited among the latest generation of cards.
posted by Good Brain at 12:49 PM on May 1, 2006

I agree with most of the posters here that your video card is the problem.

I do not know about performance being better with ATI cards but I am running with a BFG Geforce 6800 and it works very well. It is AGP and I put a $30(CDN) silent cooler on it from Arctic Cooling. I couldn't be happier with it.
posted by cbushko at 1:00 PM on May 1, 2006

Buy a new video card. You have enough ram for now, and your proc is fine. Despite what other above may be telling you, a x300 is in no way sufficient for Oblivion.

You need at LEAST a 7800 and above or a x1800 and above to get your video performance up to the rest of your system. Ati is indeed a bit better at oblivion, but my 7800 GT is handling oblivion fine, if I turn off grass (which I don't like aesthetically anyway)
posted by JZig at 1:03 PM on May 1, 2006

repeating the new video card thing - even a $120ish one would be an improvement. the x300 is a very low-end chip; it's only a bit better than onboard. yours may even be using system RAM for its memory (the lower-end ATi cards have "hypermemory" or so that steals RAM from the system), which would further hamper its abilities.
posted by mrg at 1:18 PM on May 1, 2006

I highly recommend this XFX 7600GT. A $30 rebate just expired, but you may be able to find a better price.
I have this running on a Athlon 64 X2 3800 (2 GHz) with 2GB RAM and I am able to run Oblivion pretty well maxed out (at 1024 X 768). I just started playing, so I haven't been in any intense battles as of yet.
posted by bradn at 1:57 PM on May 1, 2006

The x300 might not be a good card, but if the only slows down in combat with lots of opponents, sound has often been found to be the culprit and tweaking has given adequate performance.
posted by insomnus at 1:58 PM on May 1, 2006

Best answer:
I am wondering if I would be better off getting a bargain 256mg video card
If you do buy a new video card, most certainly do NOT use the amount of RAM as the determining factor as to its speed. The amount of RAM has very little to do with the performance of a video card. A 128MB 7900 will absolutely smoke a decrepit 256MB 5700 eight ways sunday.

When estimating how a video card will work with games, you need to know the GPU's core clock rate, the memory clock rate, and the number of pixel and vertex shader units. The amount of RAM is more like the 6th or 7th thing down in the list of priorities, so pay it little attention.

If you go to the ATI or NVIDIA web site to look for specs, you will be overwhelmed with a lot of marketing garbage like "HyperShading UberBrilliance MegaEngine SuperCock v3.1!!!". Instead I suggest looking at review sites. rojackpot.com has a nice table that summarizes the vital specs of almost all models of video cards:
posted by Rhomboid at 2:20 PM on May 1, 2006

Sorry for the minor derail, but how well would this config run oblivion?:

Intel 1.6ghz Celeron Duo
ATI x1300 graphics card
1024mb DDR RAM

Just wondering if I should bother giving it a try or not.
posted by knapah at 2:28 PM on May 1, 2006

Ram, bigtime.
posted by rinkjustice at 3:26 PM on May 1, 2006

It's the video card that's dragging you down, not RAM.Per the Anandtech article, a Geforce 7600-class card will provide reasonable performance, for around $150 (check newegg). If you spot a good deal on a Geforce 6800 or Radeon X800GTO, those will save you a few bucks and also be decent performers - or at least, vastly better than your current card.

If you're super thrifty, check out Anandtech's FS/T forum.
posted by unmake at 4:41 PM on May 1, 2006

On a related tangent, for someone who will soon be in a very similar situation, can anyone recommend a cheap computer package that'll be Oblivion sufficient? I ordered the game from Amazon and then realized that my clunky old craptop won't cut it. X-Box 360 is out of the question because I don't plan on ever buying another video game. I'm looking at Dell packages and the like, but a friend suggested that an old computer with a very new video card might be even cheaper. Sorry for the derail! Thanks!
posted by my homunculus is drowning at 2:14 AM on May 3, 2006

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