One of the reasons "World of Warcraft" (WoW) has remained at the top of the online gaming mountain for so long is its ability to scale to older hardware and remain playable. When it comes to the "best" video settings for WoW, you must look at the capabilities of the individual computer and adjust them individually. The key is to find the best balance between game appearance and acceptable performance. Enter the video settings by hitting "Esc" to bring up the main game menu. In the main menu, click the "Video" button to open the video settings window.
The quickest way to modify your video settings in "World of Warcraft" is via their preset graphics settings. Under the "Graphics" section in the video settings window is a slider with five positions; Low, Fair, Good, High and Ultra. Ultra settings will turn everything up to maximum, leaving only the resolution and multisampling features for you to choose. Using the presets as a guideline can speed up the process of determining the ideal settings to play at.
Multisampling is another term for anti-aliasing in WoW video settings. Increasing multisampling will smooth the edges of all objects in game by rendering multiple "samples" of each edge, reducing the amount of jaggy edges on models. As such, multisampling can have an enormous effect on frame rates, as it basically passes everything through the video card multiple times in rendering it to the screen. Keeping multisampling low can significantly enhance frame rates in the course of play.
Under the "Textures" section are options for modifying the resolution and quality of textures displayed in the game, as well as an option to turn on projected textures. Projected textures are effects from spells and effects projected outward onto the ground. As these help to determine the boundaries of spell effects, it is best to enable this setting, and get performance gains from other areas. The "Texture Resolution" setting determines the fine quality of textures. Going from low to fair texture resolution creates a distinct visible jump in texture quality. Moving from good to high, on the other hand, provides a much less noticeable improvement. "Texture Filtering" works much like multisampling in that it passes the textures through the video card rendering multiple times to enhance overall detail and smooth out their effects. It does not change performance to such a large degree as multisampling, however, so you can change it more in the course of finding ideal video settings.
The "Environment" section encompasses rendering that involves the world at large. It has a large impact on video performance, the biggest segment of which is "View Distance." View distance determines how far away objects are rendered. The further the distance, the more objects have to be rendered at one time, which can have a large effect on performance. "Environment Detail" is another area that impacts performance, though to a slightly lesser degree. This setting determines the content of the view distance, and how much of it is visible at any given time. The "Ground Clutter" setting can be a simple way to increase performance if you are able to forgo rocks and tufts of grass.
Under the "Effects" category are a few options that are purely visual enhancements to the game, but yet can affect performance if you are willing to balance against some additional eye candy. The "Shadow Quality" setting changes the quality of shadows from simple blobs on the low end to fully articulated shadows on the high end. The "Liquid Detail" setting accomplishes the same for water, ranging from simple animated water to fully detailed water complete with reflections. The "Sunshafts" setting adds visual lighting touches with the main differences in quality being the amount of glare and anti-aliasing of the sunshafts themselves. Finally, the "Particle Density" setting controls the amount of visual effects given off by environmental factors such as spells and fire. Decreasing this will increase performance in areas where either occur.
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