Starcraft 2 Performance Guide

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by Chansey, Aug 14, 2010.

  1. Chansey macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    #1
    Great guide, not my work. Original thread here:):
    http://eu.battle.net/sc2/en/forum/topic/169527587?page=1

    The Starcraft II Performance Guide For Macs - Updated 07/29/2010

    Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    - 1-A. Current Conditions

    - 1-B. Things To Know Before Changing Any Settings

    2. The Settings
    - 2-B. iMac

    - 2-B. Macbook Pro

    - 2-C. Macbook, Macbook Air, & Intel-based Mac Mini

    3. The Changelog
    - 3-A. Upcoming Revisions

    - 3-B. Past Changes



    Introduction

    Hello and welcome to the Starcraft 2 Performance Guide for Macs. My name is Frost, but most of you existing Blizzard fans on the Mac will recognize me as Stoneblade/Vedeyndal, author of the WoW Performance Guide For Macs over on the WoW Mac Tech Forums. As such, the two guides are very similar. (alright, they're almost identical… I'm lazy.)

    This guide is designed to help you get the most out of your Mac while running Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, as well as keep you updated on known widespread performance issues. This guide WILL be updated and refreshed as the game evolves and gets patched.


    1-A. Current Conditions

    Right now, the Mac client is seeing some pretty major performance issues due to bugs with both the nVidia graphics drivers in 10.6.4. Snow Leopard, and a bug within Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty.

    The Shaders, Lighting, Shadow options eat up all of the available video memory, or VRAM, very quickly. This results in the computer paging out to the standard RAM and to the Hard Drive to store the shader details, which is much slower than VRAM. This makes the game slow to a crawl.

    I personally recommend capping the frame rate of Starcraft 2 so your computer doesn't overwork itself, wasting resources on the shaders, leaking all of the VRAM and overheating itself in the process. See below in "Things to Know Before Changing Any Settings" for more information on how to do this.

    Blizzard, Apple, and nVidia are aware of these two issues, along with others, and are each working on fixes for their respective bugs.

    For now, I recommend capping the frame rate of the game.


    Current Mac System Requirements:

    Mac Minimum System Requirements
    - Mac OS X 10.5.8, 10.6.2 or newer
    - Intel Processor
    - NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT or ATI Radeon X1600 or better
    - 12 GB available HD space
    - 2 GB Ram
    - DVD-ROM drive
    - Broadband Internet connection
    - 1024X720 minimum display resolution

    Mac Recommended System Requirements:
    - Intel Core 2 Duo processor
    - 4 GB system RAM
    - NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT or ATI Radeon HD 4670 or better


    Note that as of right now, ATI Radeon is by far the better vendor to go with over nVidia if you have a choice. nVidia's graphics drivers on OS X tend to be of poor quality and have sub-par performance.



    1-B. Things To Know Before Changing Any Settings

    For the sake of keeping the actual settings section of this guide clean and easy to read, I'm going to list most all of the innate, machine unspecific requirements here.

    For starters, if you're running Leopard, most machines will indeed see a minor increase in performance upgrading to Snow Leopard.

    Second, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't have the latest software for your chosen OS. This software fixes bugs, enhances your security, and improves the overall stability of your computer. It's free and it's simple to get.

    To get the latest possible software for your Mac's version of OS X, go to the Apple icon on the top left corner of your desktop, click the "Software Update" option from the list, and then download everything on the list that pops up.

    10.5 Leopard users should be at 10.5.8, and 10.6 Snow Leopard users should be at 10.6.4. Note however that as mentioned above, there are bugs in the nVidia drivers under 10.6.4. Remaining at 10.6.3 is your best option right now if you're using an nVidia graphics card.

    You can check to see what version you're running by clicking on the Apple icon in the top left corner of your desktop, and then clicking the "About This Mac" option on the drop-down list.

    Limiting the in-game frame rate to 30 or 40fps will help keep your Mac cool and prevent overheating. The Macbook Pros especially tend to run a little bit hot being in that nice tiny form factor. To limit the frame rate, type in and save the following into the Variables text file:

    frameratecap=30
    frameratecapGlue=30

    "30" being the value of whatever number you want to cap it at. You will find the Variables text file under:

    "Macintosh HD\Users\TheUserYouInstalledSC2Under\Documents\Blizzard\StarCraft II\"

    To see the current frame rate while playing the game, hold down Control+Option, and tap the F key.



    The Settings

    It should be noted that as of this writing, there are severe performance bugs in Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty on Mac OS X. Especially running on nVidia hardware.

    Even machines that "should" run the game just fine on High or Ultra settings are struggling to keep the game playable at Medium settings. This WILL change as the bugs are fixed. So don't get all bummed when you see your machine listed with the settings on Low. Once the bugs are fixed I will update this guide with the appropriate settings they would normally be capable of.

    Each setting in the game's graphics options menu has a mouse-over tooltip that describes it's function, and what part of the computer it taxes the most. So if you're having trouble getting smooth performance, think about what the weak points on your Mac are, and lower the appropriate settings.

    Also note that some settings, such as Lighting, are subsets of other settings, like Shaders. So depending on the parent settings, certain options for the child setting such as High and Ultra won't even show up as an option until the parent setting is set to High or Ultra to enable it on the child setting.


    From this point on, this guide will assume the following:

    1. You have at LEAST 2GB of RAM in your computer, 6GB+ is preferred.

    2. You have all of the latest updates for your version of OS X.

    3. For now, the "Shaders", "Shadows", and "Lighting" options should be set to "Low".

    4. You are not trying to run the game on an unsupported video card.


    2-A. The iMac

    Mid 2010 Core i5/i7 iMac with ATI 5750 Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Medium
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Medium
    Terrain: High
    Reflections: On
    Effects: Ultra
    Post-Processing: High
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 60fps.



    Mid 2010 Core i3/i5 iMac with ATI 5670 Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Medium
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Medium
    Terrain: High
    Reflections: On
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: High
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 60fps.



    Late 2009 Core i5/i7 iMac with ATI 4850 Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Medium
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Medium
    Terrain: High
    Reflections: On
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Medium
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 60fps.



    Late 2009 Core 2 Duo iMac with ATI 4670 Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Medium
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Medium
    Terrain: High
    Reflections: On
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Medium
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 60fps.



    Early 2009 Core 2 Duo iMac with ATI 4850 Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Medium
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Medium
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: On
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Medium
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 60fps.



    2009 iMac with nVidia 9400m Integrated Graphics

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Low

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: Medium
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Off
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps. Integrated graphics.



    Late 2008 iMac with 256MB or 512MB nVidia 8800 GS Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: High
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 40fps.




    2-B. The Macbook Pro

    Mid 2010 15/17-inch Core i5/i7 Macbook Pro with 256MB or 512MB nVidia GT330M Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Medium
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 50fps.


    Mid 2010 13-inch Macbook Pro with GT320m Integrated Graphics


    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: Medium
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Low
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps. Integrated Graphics.



    2009 Unibody Macbook Pro with 256MB or 512MB nVidia 9600M GT Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Medium
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps.


    2009 13-inch Unibody Macbook Pro with nVidia 9400m Integrated Graphics


    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Off
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps. Integrated Graphics.


    Late 2008 Macbook Pro with 256MB or 512MB nVidia 8600M GT Graphics Card

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: High
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: High
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps.



    2-C. The Macbook, Macbook Air, and Mac Mini


    Mid 2010 Macbook with GT320m Integrated Graphics


    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: Medium
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Low
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps. Integrated Graphics.



    Mid 2010 Mac Mini with GT320m Integrated Graphics


    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: Medium
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Low
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps. Integrated Graphics.



    Late 2009 Polycarbonate Unibody Macbook with nVidia 9400m Integrated Graphics


    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: Medium
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Low
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps. Integrated Graphics.



    Late 2009 Mac Mini with nVidia 9400m Integrated Graphics

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Medium

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Medium
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: Medium
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Low
    Models: High
    Unit Portraits: 3D
    Movies: High Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 30fps. Integrated Graphics.



    2009 Macbook Air with nVidia 9400m Integrated Graphics

    Textures:

    Texture Quality: Low

    Graphics:

    Graphics Quality: Custom

    Shaders: Low
    Lighting: Low
    Shadows: Low
    Terrain: Low
    Reflections: Off
    Effects: Low
    Post-Processing: Low
    Physics: Low
    Models: Low
    Unit Portraits: 2D
    Movies: Low Definition


    Notes: Expect an average of 15fps. Integrated Graphics.



    The Changelog

    3-A. Upcoming Planned Revisions

    - Revisions for the OS X 10.6.5 update.

    - Tweaked settings as Blizzard improves Shaders and Shadow performance.

    - Updates for new Mac models

    3-B. Past Changes

    - 07/30/2010 - Fixed a few typos and errors.
    - 07/29/2010: Wrote Performance Guide 1.0
     
  2. Galrash macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2010
    #2
    Great post, thanks for the advice!

    I do have one question though, I have read a lot of people advising to run SC2 in Boot Camp with Windows 7 for better performance.

    I have the new mid-2010 iMac 27" with the i5 processor. Am I really going to see any noticeable difference or not considering it has an ATI card and not nVidia?

    (obviously SC2 runs fine on the iMac, I am just curious if I can get a little better graphics quality out of running in bootcamp)
     
  3. LoneWolf121188 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2007
    Location:
    Longmont, CO
    #3
    Thank you! And yes, there's a HUGE difference when running in Windows! I was playing in Win 7 x64, then tried it out in OS X 10.6.4 and I was *shocked* at the difference in responsiveness, lag, etc.
     
  4. mcs37 macrumors regular

    mcs37

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2003
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #4
    Thanks for posting this. I've been running SC2 on my 13MBP (late 2009 model) with 8GB RAM and the nVidia 9400M for about two weeks now. Default settings that it chose. Videos are fine, but there is definitely noticeable sluggishness during gameplay. The system seems to respond slowly to mouse clicks -- maybe something like 60ms latency. It's not insane, but it's noticeable. Definitely not as snappy as Starcraft was way back when.

    So I've heard about bugs in SC2 and in the nVidia drivers for Snow Leopard. Does anyone know ETAs for these issues being resolved? Historically, demand for popular games has driven updates to hardware/software. (if you'll recall, the whole advanced graphics gaming revolution started in the late 90s with 3DFX and popular games like Counterstrike)

    For now, I'm happy playing SC2 at all, but I haven't started playing against humans yet because I fear my computer will be too slow to respond. (this kind of sucks since the machine isn't a year old, has 8GB RAM, and is using a 256GB SSD)
     
  5. henrikrox macrumors 65816

    henrikrox

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    #5
    Good read, however you should make one for bootcamp and one for osx, cause the settings can be much higher in windows and get the same fps.

    Also i dont know why you suggest people with integrated gpu (new mac mini etc) should have 3d portratis on, since its a fps killer. its weird, but it is

    also you say that i3 5670 dual core imac, gets the same fps as i7/i5 quad core 5750, its just plain wrong. There is a 20fps difference atleast.
     
  6. cluthz macrumors 68040

    cluthz

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2004
    Location:
    Norway
    #6
    With 10.6.3 my MBP can run on med/high settings pretty fluid.

    WHy are you talking about 6gb+ RAM? SC2 is still a 32 bit app..
     
  7. aki macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2004
    Location:
    Japan
    #7
    Excellent post, thanks for the hard work.

    One thing people should note is that your fps/performance will change greatly depending on the context - ie. 4v4 games, especially once/if you get maxed out armies, will tax your hardware more heavily. If you know you are playing rush games on 1v1 only, you can afford to set your graphics settings higher :eek:.
     
  8. BoltOns23 macrumors newbie

    BoltOns23

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2010
    Location:
    Toowoomba QLD Australia
    #8
    I just let the game pick what was best & it picked everything high etc
     
  9. Rithem macrumors 6502

    Rithem

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    #9
    Yeah... and it lags like hell on OSX. With the settings the game gave me I was around 20 fps... if even.
     
  10. SkyMasterson macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    #10
    Pardon my ignorance, but are you saying if I have 8 gigs of ram on my imac and running sc2 in osx, it won't take advantage of all 8 gigs?
     
  11. Chansey thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    #11
    If you got a new mac with good specs I say play in os x. It looks nice and works fine for me with my 17" i5. Windows looks even better but I don't think it's worth booting into windows for it. And when 10.6.5 comes out I'm sure we'll see radical improvements in performance.

     
  12. henrikrox macrumors 65816

    henrikrox

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    #12
    While its good work

    Its just a shame that most of its plain wrong
     
  13. cluthz macrumors 68040

    cluthz

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2004
    Location:
    Norway
    #13
    Yes. 32 bit app can only utilize 4GB RAM. Osx itself rarely needs more than 300-400mb, so with 4GB you'll have at least 3.5GB for SC2

    Using 10.6.4? 10.6.3 will give you a lot better FPS.
     
  14. Chansey thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    #14
    What is? You are gonna have to specify if you reply like that.
     
  15. jeremyhu macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2010
    #15
    That's not how it works. Each 32bit process will have access to 4G of memory. Do a google search for "virtual memory" for more information.
     
  16. jeremyhu macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2010
    #16
    By having 6G of RAM, you can be fairly confident that all 4G of SC2's main process's address space can be resident (even though it won't need that much) while allowing 2G for other processes to remain resident (SC2's shader compilers, launchd, WindowServer, mds, ...)
     
  17. jeremyhu macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2010
    #17
    Each process will have access to 4G of memory. SC2 actually runs several processes (some to compile shaders for example), so having more will certainly help.
     
  18. Rithem macrumors 6502

    Rithem

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    #18
    Yeah. 10.6.4. It doesn't really matter all that much. I play mostly on bootcamp... at the rate of 1 mission per week haha. Internship + Gym takes up all my time :mad:
     
  19. Wang Foolio macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2010
    #20
    On my Late 2009 i7 I did notice that turning the lighting down a bit when playing with/against Protoss seemed to help the most out of everything. Makes sense if the lighting is experiencing the most bugs.

    Overall I've had very little reason to complain at all, I first started playing the game at 2560x1440 and everything set to Ultra, just for fun, like I always do. Even that wasn't as horrible as I had expected. Setting everything to high was fine for the most part, the Protoss graphics definitely dropped the frame rate a bit when things got hairy but it was never really *that bad* ...

    And the only time I noticed a significant drop in framerate for multiple sessions of gaming, I noticed that I had left a bunch of programs like MS Office running and minimized. Closing those helped :p

    Anyway I'll try playing around with some of the settings a bit to see what kind of effect it has. I'm sure it'll help me nudge settings up a tiny bit while still maintaining the other settings a bit higher.
     
  20. Slux macrumors member

    Slux

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    #21
    I tried the patch out on SC2 this morning. Mid 2010 i7 MBP 15".

    There was improvement. Previously I had to use mostly Medium settings with one or two Lows (specifically shaders). Changing to default (mostly High) settings caused some noticable degredation still, but when I set shaders back to Medium that went away.

    Not the Very High or Ultra I was hoping for, but improvement nontheless!
     
  21. mcs37 macrumors regular

    mcs37

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2003
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #22
    Yeah, so following this upgrade guide seems to have completely hosed my gaming experience for Starcraft 2, which is the first "real game" I tried on my mid 2009 MBP with the 9400M. I'm not sure who gets the FAIL, but I'm guessing it's somewhere between Apple and nVidia.

    Today I updated my software to the Snow Leopard Graphics Update. Great. Then later in the day I launched SC2. I was playing a single player mission then decided, wait, I've got the perf guide printed, I'll reset my graphics and have true 30fps, right?

    Wrong.

    The game is almost unplayable now.

    I set the game to the custom levels specified here, and it said I should restart the game. OK, done. As I waited 3-4 minutes for the login screen to load, I pondered if this was a good decision. I continued my campaign and tried to play.... ouch, it was painfully slow. Everything was jerky.

    So I quit the game, disconnected my attached USB drives (maybe time machine was running?) I then rebooted the machine and tried again.

    But again, fail. Soooo slow.

    So I reset the graphics to default and restarted not only the game but also the computer. Same problem.

    This game is now almost unplayable and it seems my Mac has slowed down as well, even as I type this. It just seems slower and less snappy than it was 15 minutes ago. I'm going to reboot and hope for the best.

    It's a bit sad that Jobs claims Apple is becoming a real gaming platform when the best advice for playing Starcraft 2 is to bootcamp into Windows so you can actually use that 9400m. I mean, it's integrated graphics and over a year old, but on LOW settings? Please...

    Maybe it's because I'm attached to a 22" LCD and the resolution is pretty high? Who knows, I'm taking a trip next week so I'll try it again on the laptop directly.

    But if that doesn't work, I think this is the end of my Starcraft 2 playing until I find a better machine.

    Very sad...
     
  22. Frederico1234 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2008
    #23
    That's probably it. Set the resolution to the lowest possible and try again.
     

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