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Written By: Stephen 'Waterdog' Waits [03.19.01]

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Unreal Tournament

While we're in the DirectX camp we might as well take a look at a real world DirectX game, the best choice would be the much-lauded Unreal Tournament. Though not the newest game, many upcoming titles are based on UT's engine making it a sensible addition to the bunch. For this round I'm using 3DPulpit's Thunder demo (www.3dpulpit.com), and have made up some graphics settings of my own. The specifics of each graphics setting are below.

Normal: 648x480/16 bit/medium detail levels/dynamic lighting off
High Quality: 800x600/32 bit/medium detail levels/dynamic lighting on
Highest Quality: 1024x768/32 bit/high detail levels/dynamic lighting on

These settings aren't totally arbitrary, I tried to emulate what Quake 3 has for its Normal and High Quality settings to give a better comparison between the two and their memory demands.

In the real world of DirectX the percent gains (and losses) are all at or below 1%. With differences being that small there's not much point in commenting on the respective gains and losses. Values that low can easily be attributed to error, had I had time to do 100 or more tests the gains/losses would likely have been much smaller, but I only did 3. While the graph looks discouraging, especially for WinME, the scale is important to look at and there's really nothing to worry about.

UT just doesn't seem to want a lot more RAM. High Quality settings don't yield any difference above the Normal mode, this time the variance is even smaller with each gain as values are all below 0.6%, positive or negative. ME repeats it trend of being more negative than 2k, though only slightly as all values are very small.

At the highest quality we see more of a drop in performance at 512MB with losses of 5.46% and 3.86% respectively These results seem more significant, and they are, but there are additional considerations. Because a higher quality setting decreases the frame rate, and thus the numbers used to achieve the percentage gain appreciably, the margin for error increases as there are less frames per second to work with. Still, drops for 512MB, however insignificant, seem to be developing consistency in DirectX gaming benchmarks.

Quake 3 Arena

We're done with DirectX, onto OpenGL and id's standard. Like the UT, Quake 3 isn't exactly new, but it too has many upcoming games using its engine so we might as well have a look to see how it performs. The included demo001 was used to benchmark Quake 3, with the Normal and High Quality graphics settings being Quake 3 presets. For the Highest Quality setting I cranked all the details all the way to the top and set the resolution to 1024x768.

What we saw with UT we see again with Q3, different APIs, same result, diminutive gains and a modest loss at 512MB. Again the scale is important to consider here, not only for gains, but also for losses. ME and 2k stay closer together with Quake 3's Normal settings, but the 512MB losses of 2.31% and 2.90% for 2k and ME have the gears cranking in my head.

High Quality is a more mixed bag. Again the gains and losses are small, none eclipsing 1.3%, and vary across the board. There's no significant difference between ME and 2k, and the losses aren't limited to 512MB. However, both ME and 2k do lose small amounts of performance for 512MB, again continuing a trend that although pretty insignificant, is still puzzling and disheartening.

At the Highest Quality setting, Quake 3 is pretty consistent regardless of memory. Increasing memory here results in very little difference in performance, nothing gets more than 0.2% of a gain or loss. At 512MB there's no change from 384MB for both ME and 2k, an interesting result but nothing shocking considering the low percentage gains and losses throughout Quake 3.

More Games! And Conclusion:

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