1. OPTIMISE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM
First thing you should do is use a search engine to find a guide on optimising your operating system, if you use Windows Vista then search “how to optimise windows vista”. You need to find a guide that only presents meaningful, efficient little things you can do that can drastically optimize the performance of your PC. These guides will have a major effect on basically everything you do with your computer and is well worth a look if you spend half your time waiting for things to happen.
Secondly, you should consider overclocking your video card. Depending on the video card you use, this can reap good benefits or not. Some cards are notably good overclockers, like the 7900GS, or X850Pro, while some can’t achieve much, like my actual X800XL.
For ATI cards, a nice overclocking utility is ATI Tray Tools. It’ll make your life so much easier.
For NVidia cards, Rivatuner has the best reputation, although I don’t currently own an nVidia card and didn’t get the occasion to test it.
Both are easy and intuitive to use, but you should always be very careful about overclocking, and take the time to read a comprehensive guide.
Thats the computer sorted, now we can do some tweaking in Oblivion.
a) Oblivion launcher options and in-game video options:
I’ll leave some up to your experimenting, since all pcs are different. However, in order to optimize your framerate, try changing your options according to the list provided here, one at a time, until you find a comfortable setting.
1. VSync OFF. VSync reduces image tearing, but this is generally a secondary concern. It can have drastic consequences on framerate.
2. Water quality on NORMAL. It is hard to see any difference between normal and high water rendering, except in the framerate.
3. Resolution: between 1280×1024 and 800×600. Middle-range cards and lower have a really hard time with high resolutions. This can absolutely kill your performance. With a little antialiasing, a lower resolution can be just as good and with a major boost in framerate.
4. Textures on MEDIUM. This is advised on all video cards 256 MB or less. It was often pointed out that playing Oblivion for a long time with high textures is overkill for 256MB video cards. Medium textures look just as good as long as you’re not looking up too close.
5. Anti-aliasing 4X, 2X or OFF. Above 4X, Antialiasing does nothing except slowing down your computer. At 2X, it’s already a major improvement over none, and most video cards can do this almost “for free” (with no framerate hit). Of course, if you really have low-end hardware, then turning it off altogether will improve performance even more, although at a significant quality hit.
6. Very little or no grass. Even on high-end video cards like the X1950XT, Oblivion’s default grass is an fps killer. However, there are ways to optimize its rendering, as we will discuss below. So before you reduce your grass, try the other options at the end of this guide.
7. Shadows on self/Shadows on grass/Tree canopy shadows/Ext Shadows/Int shadows OFF. Shadows are easy to ignore and are often a major fps killer.
8. Specular distance at 40% or lower. I did some testing and specular lightning doesn’t seem to change much, except making shiny surfaces somehow even more shiny. For the fps cost, it’s not necessarly worth it.
9. Blood decals on LOW or OFF. Minor detail that can slow you down even more in combat.
10. Window reflections OFF. All kinds of reflections involve rendering stuff twice, which is always taxing on the video card.
This file is NOT located in your Program Files/Oblivion directory but rather in My Documents/My Games/oblivion.ini. Double-click on it and then find and edit the following lines. As the oblivion.ini is a long text file, CTRL-F is your friend.
bUse Joystick=0 (leave to 1 if you are actually using a joystick)
bUseRefractionShader=0 (especially true on low-end ATI cards. This will lead to strange artifacts for spell effects, be warned.)
bPreemptivelyUnloadCells=1 (leave at 0 if you have 1GB of RAM or more)
bSelectivePurgeUnusedOnFastTravel=1 (leave at 0 if you have 1GB of RAM or more)
If your processor is a dual-core or supports hyperthreading, edit the following lines as such:
If enabling grass doesn’t kill your framerate, or if you can’t live without grass (that sounds very wrong), optimize it:
iMinGrassSize=130 (you can try a higher value: 150, 180, 200)
Blanking the following will prevent all the startup movies from loading into the memory, thus reducing memory usage and speeding up Oblivion on the startup:
Disabling the animated map in the main menu can increase mouse responsiveness:
Finally, disabling music frees up the CPU somewhat, and some people really prefer playing the game without music, so they can enjoy all the ambient sounds.
There are a few mods released in various locations that will help you optimise your game performance, just search for the names below:
Streamline: Oblivion is reputated for bad memoy management. This awesome program will clean the memory intelligently, resulting in significantly reduced stutter for everyone!
Low Poly Grass: This mod replaces the 20-poly grass mesh with an 8 poly one, effectively reducing the graphical load presented by grass by more than 50%! This works wonders on most systems. A lot of people actually prefer the simpler mesh for aesthetical reasons too. If you’re looking for maximum performance at all costs, search for a 4-polygon version, called Low-Low poly grass. It looks extremely simplistic though.
Quiet feet: Having a sound playing for each of the four paws of each animal around you (including your own horse!), especially if they’re all running at the same time, can totally bog down the CPU. This mod simply removes this sound.
Operation Optimization: Similar to low-poly grass, this mods replaces many meshes with low-poly ones, that look just as good. I haven’t have the occasion to test it personaly, but it has been said to improve the framerate in some areas.
De-Parallaxer: This removes parallax mapping on most textures, thus making them appear more flat. I’ve not been able to see much improvement in framerate with this, but that’s maybe because I was more bottlenecked by fill rate than anything else. Depending on the video card you use, it could help.