The eternal struggle of PC gamers everywhere is trying to find the perfect balance between visual fidelity and frame rate. Go too far one way, and you might not like the visuals. Too far the other way and you’ll end up playing what looks CCTV capture.
It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, and with so many PC setups and configurations, it’s difficult to find a one-size-fits all answer. This guide will provide some very general tips on increasing your frames per second, without having to purchase a new graphics card or additional PC hardware.
While FPS is undoubtedly reliant on your graphics card, the CPU can also affect it. There are many open-world games which are incredibly reliant on CPU performance. Ubisoft’s open-world titles are notoriously hard on CPUs, which is why a CPU overclock might be just the ticket you need to squeeze that extra frame rate in.
Overclocks do come with the inherent risk of shortening the life of your system, should it not be properly ventilated or cooled. Fortunately, most CPU units come with adequate cooling out of the box these days, and that's without installing additional cooling solutions.
Applying overclocks will vary between systems, as each motherboard has unique BIOS settings, but a quick google of your specific board should provide you with all the answers you need. You can also use programs like MSI Afterburner to overclock your PC performance.
Start from the bottom
If you’re looking to increase the performance of a game, the best thing you can do is turn everything to low. What you can do then is incrementally turn the settings up. If you turn a specific setting up and you find it affects the number of frames too much, you can turn it back down again.
A higher frame rate often comes at the cost of visual fidelity. By turning everything down and fine tuning it to your taste, you can strike a balance that sits right with you. If you are looking for a good place to start though, here are a few settings which can help performance:
- Field-of-view - Having this turned up can incur significant performance costs
- Anti-Aliasing - fixes jagged edges, but also has a major performance cost
- Texture Quality - Performance heavy, turning to medium or low will increase FPS
- Dynamic reflections - Looks pretty, but is another big resource hog
- Volumetric lighting - God rays look lovely, but are seldom worth the FPS cost
- Draw distance - Depending on the game, you can turn this down for a big boost
Update your drivers
Look, we know it’s obvious. But updating your drivers can result a tremendous boost in performance to your game. It could be a specific game update, or drivers for your graphics card. Regardless, staying up-to-date will ensure you are always ahead of the curve on performance updates.
4K gaming is all the rage at the moment. With the current generation of Nvidia cards primarily targeting 1440p and 4k gaming, it's likely that many people feel 1080p isn’t adequate enough. Truth is, if you’re playing on a 24-inch monitor with a reasonable viewing distance, 1080p will be more than enough for you.
Even if you’re playing on the front-room television, 1080p might be preferable over 4K. 4K resolution is still incredibly demanding on most systems, so it could be worth sacrificing some of that resolution for a better frame rate.
Optimise around your monitor
Knowing your target FPS when optimising graphics settings can provide a clear goal for performance. The best way to do this is by using your current monitor’s refresh rate as the aim. Got a 60hz monitor? Then you should only aim for 60fps. Running a 144hz monitor? 144fps is your goal - although that one is definitely much more difficult to achieve.
There are some games which just run poorly. No amount of front-end optimising can improve a badly designed game. Depending on the title you are trying to run, there are sometimes community created mods which can vastly increase performance and frame rate. One classic example is Nier: Automata, a game which launched in a terrible state on PC.
A few community mod releases later, Nier: Automata’s resolution and performance were fixed and the frame rate was far better. This isn’t a method you can rely on for all video games, but it's still worth a search.
Read More: What is adaptive sync for gaming monitors?