Tech Life Walking through thick air

Warcraft Woes

This is the obligatory, yes, I’ve been playing Warcraft and, yes, it’s eaten a ton of my time, and, yes, I’m saving for my mount and, dear lord, telling all of you sure isn’t helping my self confidence.

But I need some help.

The home machine, a Dual G4, was recently upgraded to a Dual G5 along with whatever video card came with the standard configuration… some ATI Radeon variant. Before I moved over to the new machine, I did a couple of frame rate checks meaning I walked around in Warcraft a bit and unscientifically observed the frame rate which averaged around 11 fps.

Now, I’m a quality junky. If there’s a slider in the video options of the game which allows me to control detail, I always max it out because I feel that’s how the game designers wanted me to see it… high quality, right? On my G4, it was painfully clear that Warcraft was going to be a visual pain if I maxed out the settings, so I surfed a bit and found out which options were the performance versus quality trade-offs. Turns out that terrain distance had the biggest effect, but whatever switches I flipped, I was happy and proceeded to play for several months before the G5 arrived.

With the arrival of the G5, I was hoping to see a frame rate improvement even though the video card was effective to the same, but I was shocked to discover that my average frame rate for the same walk in Warcraft was ACTUALLY SLOWER. What the.

So, I did whatever good nerd would do, I bought more hardware. A fancy ATI Radeon 9600 Pro card. It was back ordered, so I had to twiddle my thumbs, but it arrived last night and YOU BET I WAS ALL OVER IT. Card installed, drivers updated, and HERE COMES WARCRAFT BABY.

Aaaaaannd I still feel like I’m walking around in thick air. Yes, it’s actually a slower frame rate. Ok, so I upped the quality settings a bit, so it’s hard to do a fair comparison, but, folks, I’ve upgraded all of my hardware including the core graphical brain and my FPS blows.

So, two things:

  • Am I missing something? Is there a switch that needs flipping? I know the drivers are in because there are substantial visually differences in the game, but why the slow FPS?
  • If I’m cursed to this FPS, what settings do folks think have the best trade-offs relative to performance-versus-quality? Is it just terrain distance and resolution or are there other combos that folks love on the Mac?

Also, I play on Cenarius. If you want to go kill stuff with me, send me a google talk @ rands.feedback@gmail.com.

14 Responses

  1. The 9600 was always a bit anemic. Here’s an ancient comparison between the 9600 PRO and the 9700 PRO (which sold for about five minutes, as I recall).

    The 9800 PRO is still a reasonable performer for reasonable money. I have something similar to this in my home machine. I’m not totally hip to the MAC compatibility issues anymore so you might be able to get even more FPS per dollar given a bit more research.

    Summary of recommendation: throw hardware at the problem.

  2. Yeah, the 9600 isn’t the beefiest card around. I’ve got a 9600xt, and it wasn’t cutting edge when I bought it last year. Still runs anything I throw at it, but not at insanely high settings.

  3. Matthew Welty 8 years ago

    I read something on the Blizzard boards about how there is a documented problem with the latest WoW Patch (1.8.1) and ATI cards. They’re allegedly working with ATI and Apple actively to fix the problem. We’ve also had misaligned text in our “Guild” tabs for about 2 months now so the degree to which Blizzard QA cares about this stuff is hard to imagine.

    I have an original iMac G5 and I’ve wrestled with the various video settings for some time now. A few things I’ve noticed to help performance:

    -Disable Vertical Sync. It doesn’t help at all. Unless you have horrific screen tearing I say live with it and enjoy the FPS.

    -Disable Smooth Mouse. This is also known to be a FPS killer on the Mac.

    -Don’t use any shader options. Pretty much anything down there is going to result in a tremendous performance hit.

    I also set Terrain Distance to Medium and Texture Quality to Lowest. You’ve got a lot more horsepower than me though (single processor G5 1.8GHz and an NVIDIA GeForce GO) so you may be able to toy around with that a bit.

    Also, since you’re running 10.4, be sure to go to System Preferences —> Spotlight and include your World of Warcraft folder as a private folder not to be indexed.

    Hope some of those tips help.

  4. I’ve been playing wow on my 15″ G4 powerbook for the past 6 months or so, and I’m fairly happy with it.

    It’s a 1.25GHz G4, with a mobility 9600 and a gig of memory. I also have a reasonably powerful desktop PC which has enough oomph to play it at 1280 at maximum detail, so I have been able to compare.

    A few things I’ve found about wow on a mac (or more precisely, a PB):

    1. You need a gig of memory, it just chugs and chugs on 512mb.

    2. Terrain draw ahead distance has the biggest impact on fps. I have it down at the lowest, and virtually everything else on.

    3. I run mine in a window (so I can flick back and forth between wow, adium and thottbot), at about 1024×768 (or is it 800×600?). So I’m not running at a high resolution.

    4. Ironforge is excruciatingly painfully slow around the auction house.

    With the above combination I average somewhere between 15fps and 25fps, which is much better than I had hoped. I find it very playable.

  5. Michael Pearson 8 years ago

    I didn’t think you could still buy the 9600, they’re that old.

    http://www.tomshardware.com – PC centric, but take a look at the VGA charts to get an idea of what sort of card you should be looking at. At a guess I’d say that spending about $200-$300 USD will get you what you need. Not sure of the mac compatability of the Nvidia 6600GT, but they’re a good midrange card, as is the upcoming Nvidia 7800GS.

    Actually, I’d just recommend that you save up pennies and buy a seperate gaming PC.

  6. PirahnaBreaks 8 years ago

    Try these settings:

    Terrain Distance to minimum, all shader effects ON *except* for Full Screen Glow, max textures, no multisampling/anti-aliasing, no anisotropic filtering. Make SURE you have at least a gig of physical RAM.

    I would suggest as low a resolution as you can put up with, UI Scale is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Played WoW on my PB15″ for 8 months on a 9600 mobile with those settings – worked great except in mass PvP or MC. Now I rock a 7800GT on a gaming box, but the choice is up to you.

  7. Concerned Citizen 8 years ago

    *Cough* buy a PC *cough*

    No offence, but if you were intended to play games on a mac, surely they would make some? As I said, no offence, meant.

  8. Daniel Roberts 8 years ago

    “if you were intended to play games on a mac, surely they would make some”

    what do you think he is playing? *Cough* moran *cough*

    A good place to check prices on hardware is:

    http://labs.anandtech.com/cats.php

  9. Stephen Jones 8 years ago

    *cough*mor/o/n*cough*

  10. Raffi Saltman 8 years ago

    Rands, you silly, silly person. You already had a Radeon 9600!

  11. Alas, for inadequate hardware. As others have suggested, a Radeon 9600 is by no means the solution to any problems. Sure, it probably cost a *reasonable* amount of money in real-world terms, but it was released as a budget card. In 2003. Now, as a resident of the world of IT I’m sure the enormity of that two year gap won’t be lost on you.

    But I digress; it seems that (at the very least in WoW) what ought to be a perfectly decent setup doesn’t actually perform well. I can’t comment on the issue with ATI cards post-1.8.1 patch, but I’ve *never* found that I could get good performance on my Powerbook G4. This is a 1.5GHz 2004 model with 512MB of RAM (Mobility Radeon 9700) so it’s no slouch, yet I literally run it with every setting at minimum and it’s *still* only just about tolerable. Entering Ironforge makes the game begin to resemble a flickbook.

    By choice I play the game on my Windows PC. Whilst it’s very sad to have to say it, the only way you’re really going to get maximum quality out of the game is to go that way. I will be very interested in seeing how this changes once Apple go the way of Intel, but I have this nagging suspicion that the problems are at a driver level. If you have a relatively tiny game-playing userbase, you’re never going to get the scale of demand for better drivers that Windows gamers prescribe…

    But anyway. Best practical advice? Buy a Radeon X800. Expensive? Yes. Powerful? Yes. Cheaper than buying a PC? Yes :)

  12. chuck 8 years ago

    if it makes you feel any better, i’m on a Athlon64 3000+ with a 6800GT with 256mb of memory … while I can play at 1600×1200 with 2xAA pretty well … it does get choppity chop at times … especially in IF … that being said, a Radeon 9600 is not going to help you much in the FPS dept.

  13. Coeus 8 years ago

    “Saving for your mount”… haha wait until you start saving for your EPIC mount. The key is to farm and sell BoE blues on the AH. People these days will pay vastly inflated prices even for low-level blues to twink out their alts. The other way to make some gold is to find obscure ingredients that people need alot of, like Elemental Fire and Dreamfoil, which are used in Greater Fire Protection potions.

    Anyway… I’ve never had performance issues at all really, and I’m on a Powerbook with 512 megs of RAM. Even in IF or MC or other places with lots going on, my FPS have been great.

  14. Hi!

    Although I’m a PC user pretty much, I feel your pain. Or at least, I did. My old PC had only 512M and was extremely lagged out by Ironforge. When I upped it to 1G RAM, Ironforge stopped being Lag-forge (at least, not so much).

    That PC has a 9600 in it, and it is quite good on fairly minimal settings.

    The current PC is a Dell Inspiron 9300 — 256M Nvidia Go 6800 in it :) very sweet.