Joint Operations Tweak Guide

[Page 5] In-Game Settings

In this section I provide full descriptions and some recommendations for in-game settings to allow you to achieve a good balance between audio-visual quality and performance. Where possible I note the performance impact of each setting, although bear in mind that the extent of the impact depends on your particular hardware combination. It's impossible for me to give exact performance impacts such as "15% FPS reduction" or "10 FPS more" - it all depends on your hardware, and your other game and system-wide settings.

To access the in-game settings, start Joint Operations and click on Options in the main menu. Alternatively you can press ESC during a game and click on Options in the sub-menu. Note that if attempting to change the options in-game, you will only be presented with a limited number of settings. To access and change all the settings, you will need to be in the main menu Options screens. Also note that whenever you change a setting, it is important to click 'OK' on the bottom right of the screen to apply the change, otherwise the new setting may not be implemented.

Click to enlarge

All the settings under the Options section are explained in detail below:


Crosshair Appearance: Click the arrows either side of the crosshair image to scroll through a list of possible crosshairs to use in the game. Choose one which suits your taste. Has no impact on performance.

Crosshair Color: Click the arrows either side of the color box to scroll through the list of available colors. The color you select here will be applied to the crosshair you selected earlier, and some of your Heads Up Display (HUD) text. Again select based on your taste. Has no impact on performance.

Show Crosshair Spread: When ticked, this option allows the crosshair size to vary depending on the potential accuracy of your aim. For example the more you move around, the less likely you are to be accurate and if this setting is enabled, the wider the spread of the crosshairs to indicate this. I recommend enabling this setting as it gives you a visual indicator of your current accuracy. Has no impact on performance.

Enable PunkBuster: When ticked, uses the PunkBuster anti-cheat software installed on your system (See Troubleshooting Tips section above for more information). PunkBuster detects any cheats installed on your machine and enabling it is usually required if you want to play on most servers. I recommend you enable PunkBuster, and only play on PunkBuster-enabled servers to ensure a cheat-free experience. Has a minor impact on network bandwidth.

Keyboard Hints, Game Hints: When either or both of these options are ticked, you will get hint popups which provide keyboard or gameplay tips. If these start to bug you, untick these options to prevent them from appearing. Has no performance impact.


Resolution: This setting determines how many pixels (the individual dots which make up a computer image) are displayed on the screen. A resolution of 800x600 means 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels high on your monitor. The higher the resolution (the more pixels), the more detailed and clearer the game image, but it takes more graphics card and CPU power and hence you will see less Frames Per Second (FPS). The highest resolution available in this list of resolutions is limited to what your graphics card and monitor are actually capable of rendering (drawing on screen). The resolution alone will have the biggest impact on your framerate in Joint Operations. If nothing else helps you improve your FPS, you will have to reduce the resolution.

Widescreen Display: If set to 'Yes', Joint Operations will attempt to run in a 16:9 ratio Widescreen display format, similar to modern movies. If you're not running the game on a widescreen TV/monitor, your on-screen image may not differ (i.e. it may not have black bars on the top and bottom of the screen) however you may experience a drop in framerate. Set this to 'No' unless you are using a genuine widescreen-ratio TV or monitor.

Gamma: The Gamma slider controls the overall brightness of the onscreen image. The further right you move the slider, the darker the image. Gamma values which are too high are washed out and unrealistic, however the Gamma setting has no impact on performance.

Set Default Configuration, Set Performance Configuration, Set Quality Configuration: These buttons will apply preset values for all the Video settings if clicked. For example if you click the 'Quality Configuration' button, the Video options will all change to values which attempt to provide better visual quality, but generally lower performance for your particular machine. The 'Performance Configuration' option pretty much does the opposite. I recommend you do not use these presets however, as they cannot determine the right balance of image quality and performance anywhere near as well as you can yourself by going through this guide and adjusting each setting individually.

Terrain Poly Detail: This setting determines the number of polygons used to draw the terrain, which is the land, hills, valleys etc. The options here are Low, Normal, High and Highest. The higher the setting, the more polygons used, meaning the more detailed the shape of the terrain, but the lower your FPS. The visual difference between Low and Highest is not dramatic (and neither is the FPS difference), because all players have to view similar basic terrain to make things fair.

Terrain Texture Detail: This setting determines the quality of the textures (the surfaces of all 3D objects) used for the terrain. The options here are Low, Normal, High and Highest. The lower the setting the lower the visual quality of the terrain textures, but the higher your FPS. If you have a graphics card with low Video Memory (i.e. less than 128MB) then lower this setting to gain improved performance. In fact this setting has a very significant impact on performance even on high-end video cards, particularly in areas with lots of visible terrain. If you're struggling to gain FPS, you should lower this setting to Normal, or even Low.

Object Poly Detail: This setting determines the number of polygons used to render all objects in the game, except for the terrain. The options here are Low, Normal, High and Highest. The higher the setting, the lower your FPS. The visual difference between Low and Highest is not dramatic, and the performance difference is also not major, for the same reasons as the Terrain Poly Detail setting.

Object Texture Quality: This setting controls the quality of the textures used on the surfaces of objects in the game, such as buildings and vehicles - but not for the terrain. The options here are Low, Normal, High and Highest, and lowering the setting increases FPS, but reduces visual quality on object surfaces. This setting has a noticeable impact on performance, and on all but the fastest video cards lowering this setting will greatly improve performance.

Water Quality: This setting determines how realistic the water in Joint Operations looks. The possible options are Low, Normal, and High. The Low setting provides acceptable, but not highly realistic water with few ripples or motion. The Normal and High settings improve on this by showing more waves and ripples, and more realistic reflections of surrounding objects in the water, but at the cost of reduced FPS the higher the setting.

Shadows: This setting determines whether you see any shadows in the game, and how detailed shadows will be. The available options here are Off, Low, Normal and High. The higher the setting, the lower the FPS as your system has to do more calculations to determine where shadows are cast. At the Off setting, there are no shadows at all. This is unrealistic, but gives greatly improved performance. At the Low setting, only large objects cast some shadows, such as buildings. At Normal, most objects including players cast shadows. At the High setting almost everything casts a shadow, and the shadows are the most detailed possible, though not visually very different to the Normal setting. The Shadows setting has the greatest performance impact where there are one or more bright light sources. At Normal and above the FPS drop can be quite dramatic, especially when there are multiple characters on screen, since characters cast the most complex shadows.

Particle Density: Particle effects are used in things such as explosions, smoke, water spray and the like. These are made up of 'particles' as the name implies, and the higher the Particle Density setting, the more volume (and hence the more realistic) these effects look. The available settings are Low, Normal and High, with the higher the setting the lower your FPS when such effects are visible. In heavy combat this setting can have a dramatic impact on FPS, so Low or Normal is recommended for most people.

Frame Effects: Frame effects include such things as the blurring of your view as you take damage, the glare of the sun, and the general haziness of the sky. The available options for the Frame Effects setting are Off, Minimal, Normal and High. The higher the setting, the greater the impact on your FPS. Setting Frame Effects to Off gives a significant improvement to framerate in almost all circumstances at minimal noticeable loss in visual quality, so disabling it is recommended for most people.

Full Screen Antialias: Antialiasing is a method of smoothing the jaggedness of lines in 3D graphics. This setting has four options: Off, 2, 4 and 6. When set to Off, there is no Antialiasing used, unless you have forced Antialiasing enabled in your Graphics card's control panel. This provides fastest performance. If set to 2, 2x Antialiasing is used, which uses your graphics card to smooth out jagged lines at the cost of some FPS. Higher levels of Antialiasing (i.e. 4x and 6x) will reduce FPS even more, but smooth out jaggedness considerably, particularly for distant objects. If you have any level of Antialiasing enabled in your graphics card control panel, they will override these settings. If you want to use Antialiasing in Joint Operations I recommend selecting 'Application Controlled' (not '0x') in your graphics card's control panel and then setting the AA level in-game here. For more details see my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide. Note that if you have a Radeon 9800 Pro and Frame Effects are set to High, you will get a black screen if Antialiasing is enabled. Either set Antialiasing to Off or lower Frame Effects below High.

Texture Filtering: This setting determines the clarity of textures as they fade into the distance. The options are Bilinear, Trilinear, Anisotropic and Anisotropic High. Bilinear and Trilinear texture filtering appear very similar, and there is only a slight FPS drop from Bilinear to Trilinear. Anisotropic texture filtering on the other hand gives a sharp drop in FPS, although textures become much crisper and clearer. Anisotropic High will cripple framerates on all but very high end graphics cards. The extent of the performance impact of this setting also depends on your chosen resolution and Terrain/Object Texture Detail settings. For more details on Anisotropic filtering see my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide.

The following are two new options introduced with the update onwards. If you have not installed the latest update you may not have these options available to you:

Pixel Shaders: Pixel shaders create advanced lighting effects in the game. This option has three settings - High, Normal and Off. At High all pixel shader effects are utilized, which means things such as the shine on metals and weapons, advanced water effects etc. This requires a recent graphics card (e.g. Radeon 9600 Pro or above) to perform well. If you have an older graphics card or seek better framerates, reducing this setting to Normal will remove some of the less noticeable effects and gain a slight FPS improvement. If you want a big jump in performance, at the cost of some (still relatively minor) eye candy, set this to Off for maximum performance. I personally recommend Normal or Off for most people to ensure good, consistently high framerates with no real drop in visual quality.

Texture Compression: The options here are Minimal, Standard and Maximum. Texture compression reduces the size of texture file information so that more of them can fit into your graphics card's Video RAM and hence improve performance and reduce stuttering. However the more a texture is compressed, the more it may display "compression artifacts" - which essentially means you may see some discoloration (purplish tinges) and a slight reduction in detail. For the most part, Minimal texture compression ensures the best quality textures, but is recommended for those with 128MB or 256MB of Video RAM. Standard provides a good performance/visual quality balance, and is recommended for those with 64MB or 128MB of Video RAM. If you have 64MB or less of Video RAM, or simply want the best possible performance, select Maximum texture compression. Note that the visual quality is not significantly reduced with Maximum compression, but depending on your graphics card and Video RAM, the performance impact may not be as significant as the Pixel Shader option either.

The next page continues the In-Game setting descriptions.