How to Optimize Games Using Benchmarks and In-Game Settings

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The customizability of gaming computers is a double-edged sword — on the one hand, it allows for flexibility and accessibility, and on the other hand, it makes it all but impossible for game developers to optimize the gameplay experience. Given that game developers cannot optimize your experience like they can on consoles, it’s up to you to do it for yourself.

Why Do Games Slow Down? (Maybe: What Is a Bottleneck?)

Gaming PCs contain several primary components — CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage — and a deficiency in any one of the primary components can affect gameplay in a number of ways due to the roles they play in gaming processes. A deficiency in any one component will hold back the other components in the computer, causing a performance bottleneck.

The CPU is in tasked with sending information to the GPU and processing things like game AI and physics calculations. In most action games, you’re only likely to encounter a CPU bottleneck when you’re running very high framerates, or if there is a lot going on in the game — open-world, sandbox, and strategy games are most likely to be CPU-bottlenecked because of the demanding AI and physics calculations they utilize.

GPU bottlenecks are the most likely culprit for performance degradation in modern gaming computers, since GPUs do most of the heavy lifting when your computer is running a game. With a few exceptions, any setting that affects graphical quality will put more strain on your GPU and contribute to a potential GPU bottleneck.

RAM and storage are unlikely to cause any performance issues, unless you are running particularly slow RAM, or a spinning HDD. While it is unlikely that RAM will affect your gameplay experience much, it is important to have enough RAM to run the game — most games list the minimum and recommended RAM quantity on their specifications guidelines. One area where RAM could affect gameplay is if you have particularly slow RAM, or RAM that is configured in single-channel rather than dual-channel. Storage speeds, on the other hand, only really affect load times — if you have a spinning HDD, or even a slow SSD, you should expect to see longer load times when you’re booting up the game and between levels.

While some sort of bottleneck is practically inevitable (if the performance wasn’t limited by some component, you would have an infinite framerate), adjusting your in-game settings and hardware configuration can help improve the utilization of the components in your system and reach a balance between frames per second and quality.

Bear in mind that not all games run on the same engine, so not all games will behave identically — some game engines run physics calculations on the CPU and GPU, others exclusively use the CPU or GPU, and others can switch between CPU and GPU for physics computing.

How Do You Identify Bottlenecks?

The first step in the process of optimizing your gaming performance is identifying the bottlenecks in your system using a combination of framerate and performance monitoring software. While there are other options available, we’ll be looking at how to use HWiNFO64, Radeon Settings, and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience to track framerates and usage in games.

-how to see and log frame rate with SiSoft Sandra (Afterburner), Radeon Settings, or GeForce Experience

-using benchmarks (external and built-in to games you use)
-HWInfo to track temperatures, usage, throttling

-Make adjustments to in-game settings and retest (explain which to change first, explain diminishing returns and which features matter for which hardware bottlenecks)

-Explain optimization for various use-cases (lower temps, high framerate, high graphics fidelity)

-Conclusion with mention of background apps and automatic game optimizers

Julian van der Merwe
Julian van der Merwe

Julian is a tech enthusiast who likes to dive deep into all manner of tech topics to find ways to best make tech fit seamlessly into a human world. When not clacking away at the keyboard, you can find Julian spending time with family or taking mediocre pictures.

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