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Getting the most from FSX/SP1 and those "tweaks" :: Archived
A forum for Microsoft's Flight Simulator X
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Power User

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Joined: Jan 04, 2005
Posts: 5832
Location: Group W bench
PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:01 pm
Post subject: Getting the most from FSX/SP1 and those "tweaks"

I've been wanting to say something here for a while ever since the SP1 patch for FSX came out. It seems that ever since, one of the hot topics "out there" (not here) has been how certain changes in optimization now lead to "blurries" and stutters, etc. Curiously, the people who seem to be noticing it most are the power users and enthusiasts with high-end systems. Obviously, part of the performance optimization changed the priority on how some tasks, such as texture updates, etc, are handled. This sparked an interesting discussion which I feel is very much on the mark in terms of why some folks are still at odds with how the sim works. To save some reading, you can read the thread at AvSIM here....

Its us, the consumer...

You'll see some of my comments on there too and to sum it up, although performance has been greatly enhanced for most environments, the point is that there is no greater performance "tweak" than our decisions on where to put the sliders! Specifically, if you read about halfway down, you'll see where the light finally came on for me and I suggested the (no-brainer, in retrospect) idea of saving your existing config settings (via the new function in FSX which is quite useful for just this kind of thing) then setting EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE slider all the way down to the very minimum, saving THOSE settings, setting a cap on your frame rate just above what you can really be satisfied (set it to 25 if you'd be happy with 20, in other words) and then slowly starting up from there one by one, beginning with the absolute "must-haves" and then going to the ones that are a justified priority, until you have a flyable sim that looks good and the FPS are just starting to falter below the high mark. Then lower your FPS to the lower mark you really can live with and BING - done! Short story, I gained 3-5 SOLID, consistent, FPS over EACH AND EVERY possible tweak and setting and configuration combination I've tried and saved - and believe me, with my system, I've been following each and every possible tweak and know them intimately.

Now, what's curious, is that very night I reported great success with this, and it seems it worked for at least a couple of people as well. I'm still flying with these settings now and am continually pleased (nay, amazed) with the results. After just a very short time and with a minimum of fuss, I got:

- Pretty Dang sharp 1m scenery texture resolution, which for me looks great!
- Water effects at 2x Low
- Normal Autogen and Scenery density
- Medium LOD with a Mesh Complexity of 30 and Mesh Resolution f 38 (I'll turn it up if I hit the mountains and get away from the city autogen, and make a Bush Flying settings file)
- Medium special effects detail (and hey, I bet I can turn this up higher with minimum impact)
- Detailed clouds
- All types of traffic turned on, maybe just not as much as before (but I wasn't REALLY counting each of the lil' cars and logging trucks anyway)
- Hi-Res virtual cockpit and advanced animations

I did exactly as described in the above post and also did something else: I figured my personal acceptable FPS target would be 20 FPS, which to me is quite smooth and flyable and TrackIR pans great at that FPS.

Then, I upped that by 25% to arrive at an FPS cap of 25. THEN I started with everything on the bottom and prioritized what I wanted and slowly edged everything up. As it became much better-looking, I kept an eye on the FPS counter and when it started to stumble and stay just below 25FSP consistently, I then LOWERED the FPS cap to 20. Then I didn't touch much else.

It was surprising how far I got before reaching that point, and now I have a few FPS "budget" of spare processing time to let FSX keep up with texture loads, updating, and other housekeeping duties...plus handle thunderstorms and more complex weather, glass cockpits and ILS approaches. Maybe not all at the same time without dipping a bit further, but that keeps it in the flyable range. Nice, smooth 20FPS over a complex environment like Seattle with sharp, 1-meter ground textures (twice as sharp as the best FS9 can do) is an amazing sight to behold, especially on an older rig like mine.

To go a bit further....

What's also interesting, is that the next day, the very same advice appeared on ACES/FSX Program Manager Phil Taylor's blog....I don't mean to imply that by following my own revelation and success story means that he read it at AvSIM and felt it worth repeating (although it's one of the places he continually keeps tabs on) but actually, just the reverse - it vindicates the notion that of all the CFG file tweaks and playin' with numbers and soforth, there is no better method to improve FSX with SP1 than to ditch your old slider settings and build anew. Here's the entry from his blog and you'll see it pretty much advises the very same thing:

Sliders Blog

...And in thinking about it, it not only makes perfect sense to do this, but might also explain why some of the power users have issues. They'd be the first to archive their slider-config settings using the new feature before applying the SP1 patch. Then, after uninstalling/reinstalling FSX (which I didn't even do) and then applying the patch, they'd probably be the first to decide to import their existing slider config settings and do a comparison - which I believe is the root of the problem, since even with SP1, these sliders represent possible settings that weren't originally meant to be applicable to today's hardware, but would instead be turned up in the future and avoid the cost of a "new" sim (pretty cool idea, but it requires the user avoid the constant urge to go turn the dials up a notch every week).

In other words, to quote Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, "These knobs go to 11". Great if you got the hardware to handle it (and, do you REALLY? Or just think it "should"???), but I gained so much by just throwing away the old expectation on sliders and the CFG file baloney, and letting FSX do what it needs to do with reasonable - and remarkable - settings. Textures are apparently no longer a priority and you need to make a little headroom for them if they're to be clear all the time. At least that's the way she seems to behave!

"Once your reputation is ruined, you can live quite freely."
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