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PC graphics options explained

Understand what graphics options mean, and which to choose.

Nvdia and AMD both offer tools to select the optimal graphics settings for the games you own, and both do a fine job balancing quality and performance. They really work pretty well, but I just like doing things myself. It's the PC gamer way, right? We tinker on our own terms.

If you're new to graphics tuning, this guide will explain the major settings you need to know about, and without getting too technical, what they're doing. Understanding how it all works can help with troubleshooting, setting up the most gorgeous screenshots possible, or playing with tools like Durante's GeDoSaTo.

We start with the fundamental concepts on this page. For the sections on anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, and post-processing that follow, I consulted with Nicholas ViningGaslamp Games' technical director and lead programmer, as well as Cryptic Seadesigner/programmer Alex Austin. I also received input from Nvidia regarding my explanation of texture filtering. Keep in mind that graphics rendering is much more complex than presented here. I'm a technology enthusiast translating these systems into simple analogies, not an engineer writing a technical paper, so I'm leaving out major details of actual implementation.


Nvidia brings G-Sync support to FreeSync monitors


A driver update will soon turn on G-Sync support for other variable refresh monitors.

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Nvidia's G-Sync is an adaptive sync technology that uses specialized hardware to match the framerate of the monitor with an Nvidia graphics card. Because G-Sync displays use proprietary Nvidia tech, though, they're pricey, and the open standard of FreeSync has come close to delivering the same experience on lower priced variable refresh displays. Now Nvidia is bringing G-Sync compatibility to some of those FreeSync monitors, no extra hardware required.

"We tested about 400 [adaptive sync] monitors and 12 of them passed," Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said at the company's CES press conference Sunday. "We're going to test every async monitor the world has made, and for the ones that pass, we're going to certify them, and we're going to optimize the software to support them, and we're going to turn it on in our software so that whatever Geforce customer enjoys that panel can now enjoy it as if they purchased a G-Sync monitor."


This new FreeSync monitor support will go live in Nvidia's January 15 driver update. And it actually won't be limited just to FreeSync monitors that Nvidia says pass certification. Those monitors will simply have the feature turned on by default.

"For gamers who have monitors that we have not yet tested, or that have failed validation, we’ll give you an option to manually enable [G-Sync], too," says Nvidia's press release.

For a more detailed explanation of G-Sync and FreeSync technology, check out our breakdown of the two here.

Merry Christmas


Command & Conquer and Red Alert Remastered are being developed by former C&C devs


Petroglyph Games was founded in 2003 by former members of original C&C studio Westwood.

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Electronic Arts revealed today that the Command & Conquer remasters it teased in October will begin with Tiberian Dawn, the story of the first Tiberium War between the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod that was told in the original Command & Conquer, and the alt-universe Command & Conquer: Red Alert, along with all their expansions, which will be bundled with the base games. 

Even better, the remastered versions will be done by Petroglyph Games, a studio created by former Westwood employees—Westwood being, among other things, the originator of the Command & Conquer series—after EA pulled the plug in 2003. As an added bonus, composer Frank Klepacki, who made the music for the C&C games and a pile of other Westwood classics (like this), is joining Petroglyph as the composer and audio director on the remastered games. 

"Here we are 20+ years later and EA has reached out to us regarding C&C. They had decided it was about time to revisit the original C&C games to give the fans what they had been asking for. Petroglyph has many former Westwood employees and is a perfect fit for bringing the original Command & Conquer games back to life," Command & Conquer co-creator and Petroglyph co-founder Joe Bostic wrote on Reddit.

"I’m excited to revisit the original Command & Conquer and Red Alert for our legacy fans, along with introducing the games to a new audience! Our battle-plan mission is to 'remaster' rather than 'remake' the original C&C games."

Bostic acknowledged that the definition of "remaster" is a little on the vague side, but he said that the developers want to take advantage of technology that simply wasn't available in 1995 and asked fans to continue offering input on where they think that should lead.   

"If you could turn back the clock, what would you have wanted in the original C&C games? How true to a remaster should we adhere do? What modern improvements can be added without deviating from the core game? Balance changes?" he wrote. "We will be starting development soon, so now is the time to let your voice be heard." 

Lemon Sky Studios, "one of the premier art studios around the world, with a unique specialty in remastering classic RTS titles," will also be involved in the remastering process. Details weren't provided but producer Jim Vessella said it would "help bring these original games to 4k glory." 

"The exciting part is that we haven’t started development yet. The community is literally getting in on the ground floor of this project and have every opportunity to help influence how we build this remastered experience," Vessella wrote. "Please continue to engage on Reddit and community channels and help us create the best possible remasters of C&C and Red Alert!" 

Vessella also reaffirmed that that Command & Conquer and Red Alert remasters will not have microtransactions

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