Graphics settings in games - what are Full screen mode, anti-aliasing, vertical sync, shading and other options


Graphics settings in games - what are Full screen mode, anti-aliasing, vertical sync, shading and other options

Modern games are increasingly introducing various settings that are designed to improve graphics and performance. In addition to accessibility for the visually impaired, there are also some important graphics modification options. In this guide, we will go into detail about the common graphics settings that are often used in games.

What is the difference between Full-Screen Mode, Windowed Mode, and Borderless Windowed Mode

At the moment, the modes are divided into three types:

  1. Fullscreen - The application is displayed on full screen.
  2. Windowed - The game appears in a framed window.
  3. No frames (Borderless) - windowed mode without frames (outwardly similar to full-screen, but works like a window).

Full-screen mode

In full-screen mode, the Windows operating system gives the game control over the processes displayed on the screen. In this variation, the full performance of the system is used, and all available resources are allocated for its operation. Users will be able to adjust the display refresh rate and take advantage of V-Sync or G-Sync software modules.

The main disadvantages are the blocking of the mouse cursor in the current window and the inability to quickly switch to another screen or application. With any intervention of third-party programs, for example, to work with screenshots, the game window will be minimized.

windowed mode

In windowed mode, the user can freely move between applications, but fewer resources will be allocated to the game, so its performance will be much lower: FPS drops and frequent lags are possible on weak devices. In addition, the program will receive a severe limitation on the frame rate and many useful technologies, and all changes in the color gamut of the image will have to be performed only on the monitor.

Window frameless

When using this setting, the image will be fully stretched to fit the desktop, but retain all the advantages and disadvantages of windowed mode. The user will be able to freely switch between windows, but many useful features will not be available.

We recommend that you use "Full-Screen Mode" in almost all games, as it opens up access to image fine-tuning, vertical synchronization, and other software modules. Of course, performance will depend on each individual game and your hardware configuration.

How Smoothing Works

This function eliminates the effect of jagged objects. By disabling this option, instead of a smooth image, users will notice pixels, and the picture will appear fuzzy. Among all types of anti-aliasing, rendering and post-processing variations are distinguished. The former process the image in the process of construction, while the latter applies the effect to the finished frame. The following are the main options for anti-aliasing in games:

SSAA (SuperSample Anti-Aliasing) is a simple and effective method that can affect game performance. Depending on the used multiplicity of smoothing, a different amount of resources is involved. The image is rendered in a higher resolution, for example, in 4K for FullHD. After the operation is completed, the picture is compressed to the used sizes, the pixels are averaged by color and the “soapy” effect disappears. The technology is inefficient for resolutions above 1920x1080.

MSAA (MultiSample Anti-Aliasing) is an improved SSAA method that uses only a part of the frames with objects and does not affect performance so much. The smoothing process is the same, therefore, with a large number of objects, drawing uses additional system resources. On powerful video cards, it does not cause a “soap” effect, but on weak hardware, you should not set more than 2x anti-aliasing (2X).

CSAA (Coverage Sampling Anti-Aliasing) and CFAA (Custom-Filter Anti-Aliasing) are analogues of MSAA from NVIDIA and AMD, which use neighboring pixels during processing and use about half as much computer resources. There is almost no "soap" effect. The development process is quite complex, so today developers are trying not to implement such anti-aliasing options in new games.

FXAA (Fast approXimate Anti-Aliasing) is a low-resource method that averages the colors of neighboring pixels. Thanks to this, a very noticeable “soap” effect appears, but the load on the equipment is reduced, and the FPS loss will be no more than 1-2 frames. If the game does not have this anti-aliasing method, owners of NVIDIA GTX and RTX graphics cards can force it to be enabled in the control panel.

MLAA (MorphoLogical Anti-Aliasing) is an analogue of FXAA from Intel, which uses only processor resources and significantly reduces the load on the video card, as it starts working after the frame is rendered. In this case, areas with sharp color transitions are highlighted in the image, in which certain shades will subsequently be replaced. Despite the reduced soap effect, this method is rarely seen in modern games, because FXAA is easier to use in development.

SMAA (Subpixel Morphological Anti-Aliasing) is a synergy of FXAA and MLAA technologies that uses the resources of a video card and, in addition to differences in color gamut, also takes into account the brightness of pixels. Often appears in games, this variation of anti-aliasing does not require powerful hardware to work.

TXAA or TAA (Temporal Anti-Aliasing) is developed by NVIDIA. The technology not only eliminates the “ladder” effect but also removes unnecessary jitter of objects. The work uses the MSAA and SMAA algorithms, and also analyzes previous frames. Excellent smoothing of static objects, but uses a huge amount of resources when processing moving objects.

DSR (Dynamic Super Resolution) is NVIDIA's core technology available in the Control Panel. The algorithm works according to principles similar to SSAA. Allows you to take screenshots in high resolution, but in the absence of optimization of algorithms from developers in games, it changes the sensitivity of the mouse and the game interface.

DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) is a revolutionary technology from NVIDIA, which is often taken out as a separate parameter in games. The algorithm uses neural networks to smooth the image without wasting system resources. The method completely removes the "ladder" and "soap" effects, and the FPS value remains at a high level. The technology is only available on RTX series graphics cards and is currently not supported in all games.

FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution) is an analogue of DLSS from AMD. The method is based on real-time temporal scaling of the image. This allows you to "stretch" low resolution to high. The technology is much simpler, so it is being actively implemented in new games.

What is Texture Filtering? How Anisotropic and Trilinear Filtering Works

The most common setting in games is also sometimes referred to as Anisotropic Filtering. This technology increases the clarity of objects at a distance and helps to improve the quality of rendering textures on various surfaces located at an angle. There are variations with pointwise sampling, bilinear and trilinear filtering, but on modern computers, anisotropic is used in most cases.

In-game parameters, you can change the filter factor (2x, 4x, 8x, and 16x). The selected value determines the number of texels used (3D object texture pixel) when processing the image. The higher the value, the better the picture will be. This parameter also affects system performance, however, modern video cards cope with anisotropic filtering algorithms without any problems.

Why is it necessary and how to enable Vertical Sync

Almost all games have a vertical sync option - V-Sync. The technology equates the frame rate in the game to the refresh rate of the monitor or TV. This helps to get rid of the "tearing" of the image and reduce the load on the video card. To obtain such results, vertical synchronization fixes the number of frames required for rendering. For example, for a monitor with a refresh rate of 60 Hz, the video card will only load 60 frames.

Despite all the advantages, the technology leads to a delay in the response between the manipulator and the game character. In this case, the hero on the screen may move slowly or not immediately start executing commands.

It is recommended to enable this function in single games, where the smoothness of the picture without gaps is important. In multiplayer projects, where the user is required to instantly respond to events on the screen, it is better to refuse vertical synchronization. High refresh rate monitors, as well as G-Sync software modules from NVIDIA and FreeSync from AMD, will help to get rid of tearing. 

How clouds, shadows, fogs, and reflections are configured in games

Detailed adjustment of each parameter will achieve the best performance. Most often, all options are taken out in one parameter:

  1. Lighting - affects the reflection of objects, the quality of highlights, and the shine of objects.
  2. Shadows - add volume and realism to objects on the screen.
  3. Detailing objects, particles, and textures (Detailing objects, particles, and textures) - allows you to select the resolution of surrounding objects, nature, and living creatures.

Please note that there are exceptions. The example of Cyberpunk 2077 shows how the developers have expanded the standard functionality of the settings and allowed the players to choose various parameters on their own. Users can change:

  1. Contact Shadows - Responsible for high-quality processing of shadows and adding details that are not available with standard settings.
  2. Improved Facial Lighting Geometry - Improves the accuracy of facial animations.
  3. Quality of objects for local shadows (Local Shadow Mesh Quality) - determines the level of detail of the objects that are used to create shadows, and provides a match between the shadow and the light source.
  4. The quality of local shadows (Local Shadow Quality) - indicates the level of detail of shadows from artificial light sources.
  5. Cascaded Shadows Range - determines how far shadows are visible from the sun.
  6. Resolution Cascaded Shadows Resolution - is responsible for the level of detail of the shadows from the sun.
  7. Distant Shadows Resolution - indicates the level of detail in the shadows of distant objects.
  8. Volumetric Fog Resolution - determines the quality of fog, dust clouds and other particles in the air around the player and provides realistic light rays and color transitions in scenes.
  9. Max Dynamic Decals - determines the number of dynamic decals that are illuminated at the same time.
  10. Screen Space Reflections Quality - determines the level of detail of reflections, their quality and smoothness.
  11. Subsurface Scattering Quality - Sets the skin lighting detail.
  12. Ambient Occlusion - Provides natural shadows in areas where they may not render correctly, and light is blocked by the geometry of the environment.
  13. Color Precision - Indicates the overall image quality and smoothness of color transitions.
  14. Volumetric cloud quality .
  15. The quality of the reflections in the mirrors (Mirror Quality) .
  16. The level of detail of images (Level of Detail).

What is Shading and Light Scattering? What is the difference between SSAO, HBAO, HBAO+, HDAO, VXAO, and RTX technologies?

In many games, the Ambient Occlusion setting, or "Light Scattering", is found. This is a shading technology that can be used to achieve a realistic display of objects in a scene. The classic version is not suitable for real-time computing, so technologies based on this parameter have been developed. It is impossible to calculate it on the example of real life, however, there are maximally approximate algorithms. Powerful equipment is required for the technology to work. Let's take a closer look at each type of shading:

  1. SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion) is the first technology that came to video games. After constructing the geometry, the algorithm obtains information about all objects and performs the necessary calculations to construct shading. The depth of each pixel is determined and the number of obstacles in the path of the light source is calculated using several samples.
  2. HBAO (Horizon-Based Ambient Occlusion) is a modified version of NVIDIA's SSAO based on a physical model. The number of samples increases, consuming more system resources. Rendering calculations use low-resolution frames, resulting in image flicker.
  3. HBAO+ is a revised version of HBAO that gets rid of annoying flickering. Chess rendering is used as the current algorithm, which takes into account the results from previous frames. This allows you to maintain the original resolution of the image and reduce the load on the equipment.
  4. HDAO (High Definition Ambient Occlusion) is a development from AMD whose algorithm achieves similar results with HBAO. As practice shows, it is quite difficult to identify a clear leader and notice the difference between them in games.
  5. VXAO (Voxel-Based Ambient Occlusion) - the technology relies on voxels instead of pixels, as in previous variations of Ambient Occlusion. It allows you to get more reliable shading.
To replace these parameters, along with NVIDIA's RTX series graphics cards, Ray Tracing technology has come. The revolutionary development of the company does not apply to Ambient Occlusion, it uses a completely different physical model. It uses new light modeling algorithms to achieve the most realistic reflections. When using the appropriate graphics card in games, you can enable this setting, and if you have a deep setting, choose the quality of shadows, lighting, and reflections.

Additional and minor graphics settings in games

In addition to the basic settings, there are additional settings in games that do not significantly affect the performance of the computer. Below we briefly list some of them:

Viewing Angle (Fov) - allows you to adjust the visible area in front of the player.

Grain (Film Grain) - imitates the effect of an old film, gives the image better clarity and greater realism. An optional parameter that can be disabled if desired.

Glow (Bloom) - increases the intensity of light sources and creates highlights in the image. In most games, the picture looks better without this setting.

Depth of Field - creates a slight blur of objects in the background to enhance the cinematic image.

Motion blur (Motion Blur) - blurs the background without changing the object. Most often found in shooters. In this case, the rest of the image will blur as you move the camera.

Glare (Lens Flare) - activates the effects of glare on the lenses and highlights, particularly bright light sources.

Chromatic aberration - softens the contours of objects using color distortion (red and blue tints are added) and allows you to make the image cinematic. In most cases, it is not suitable for dynamic games.

Unique graphic settings

In some games, you can highlight special parameters that are not found in other projects. Most often, such settings have an additional description; in most cases, the mass user is not familiar with them. As an example, some technologies from Hunt: Showdown can be highlighted :

  1. Optimize the shape of surfaces - reduces the size of intermediate textures to increase the performance of the graphics processing unit (GPU).
  2. GPU Tessellation or Tessellation - divides the polygon mesh of objects into smaller and more primitive forms, which allows you to improve the picture by reducing the performance of the GPU.
  3. Two-stage scene rendering is a rendering algorithm that improves image quality but significantly reduces system performance.
  4. Two-stage lighting calculation is a rendering algorithm that will significantly improve the image, but reduces hardware performance.

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