The Haus

Quake III: Team Arena Tweaks

November 26, 2000 -- by A.T. Hun

Updated 11/30/00: I added new timedemo scores with my new settings at the end of the article using the NVIDIA 5.22 reference drivers, which give a significant speed-up over the 6.47s I used in the original article.

id released a demo of their highly-anticipated expansion pack for Quake III Arena (Q3A) entitled Quake III: Team Arena (Q3:TA) on November 22. If you haven't downloaded it yet, check out this Haus news item for download locations.

Since it came out, the messageboards on Quake 3 World and elsewhere have been lit aflame with people complaining about how much slower Q3:TA is than Q3A. I noticed slowdowns myself, but assumed it was because of the design and extensive shader use in the level that comes with the Q3:TA demo. There are some third-party levels for Q3A which show similar slowdowns when a lot of shaders are in use. In all honesty, I don't think it bogs down my system a whole lot more than Q3CTF2 does.

At any rate, I decided to play around with the various Q3:TA settings and see how my framerates would be affected. I list the settings and their impact on framerate in the chart below. At the end, I take my new settings and show you the final result.

First of all, here are my system specs: Celeron 400, 128M PC66 SDRAM, Creative Labs TNT2 Ultra with the NVIDIA 6.47 reference drivers, Creative Labs SB Live! Value with the Live!Ware 3.1 drivers, Western Digital 16G IDE hard drive, and Windows 98. True, I don't have the newest system in the world, but if you think I'm going to spend $500-$1000 to upgrade my computer so I can play a $20-$25 game, you're out of your tiny little mind.

I started out by using my standard Q3A settings which seem to be a good mix of graphic quality and speed. The graphics settings are: 800x600, 32 bit color and textures, lightmap lighting, high geometric detail, normal texture detail, bilinear filtering, high sound quality, music off. Under game options the important settings are: marks on walls off, dynamic lights off, team overlay on, in game video on, status bar normal. Then I added these changes at the console: cg_gibs 0, cg_drawattacker 0, cg_lagometer 0. For reference, these settings (not counting the the Q3:TA-specific ones) give me 43.3 fps in demo001 in Q3A.

I went through each of the settings changes below one-by-one and ran two timedemos each using demo0000 that comes with the Q3:TA demo. If there was a major discrepency between the two (usually due to Windows deciding to do some housekeeping right then), I ran the timedemo once more.

Q3:TA Timedemo Results

Red indicates a framerate hit.
Green indicates a framerate boost.

Small status bar26.5+1.3
No in-game video27.3+2.1
Doppler sound on24.0-1.2
Low quality sound25.3+0.1
Vertex lighting28.6+3.4
Geometric detail: medium26.2+1.0
Geometric detail: low26.6+1.4
Texture detail: high21.6-3.6
Texture detail: low25.3+0.1
Compress textures24.8-0.4
16 bit color/textures24.6-0.6
New Settings
Small status bar,
No in-game video,
Geometric detail: medium
Same as above,
plus vertex lighting
New Settings with
NVIDIA 5.22 Drivers
Small status bar,
No in-game video,
Geometric detail: medium
Same as above,
plus vertex lighting

Every time I tried to run a timedemo with doppler sound on, I would get all kinds of pauses in the demo playback. Whatever it does, it incurs too much of a performance penalty to make it worthwhile. Somewhat surprisingly, vertex lighting gives the biggest speed-up. I am also surprised that going to 16 bit color and textures was slower than 32 bit (and yes, I changed by desktop to 16 bit and rebooted before I ran that timedemo).

If you can stand looking at it, vertex lighting's 13.5% speed-up is definitely worth it. Using my suggested settings at the bottom yields a 16.26% speed-up. Adding vertex lighting to that makes it a whopping 33% speed increase. Going back to the old, faithful NVIDIA 5.22 reference drivers added at least another frame per second. I've tried just about every NVIDIA reference driver there's been and I've never found ones any better for TNTs and TNT2s than the 5.22 drivers. I hope this article gives you an idea where to start tweaking Q3:TA on your own system.

If you'll excuse me, I've got to smack some bots . . .