How did we get here?
In PC gaming, and often in general, if you upgrade something or build new, you want to see how it performs. The goal being to make sure what you have done is an improvement, or if it works at all. One way it to use a comparison tool or set of tools to test the components. In software, we use benchmarks.
This is anything from an application to test how long it takes to complete a task, say rendering, to stressing the CPU or GPU, to see when they reach a power limit or throttle back performance. Different tests give different results for testing different things. There are a slew of these type of tests for PC, many of them are free, some require a license or purchase. Being paid or free isn’t the focus here. The actual focus is Gaming Performance.
Most gaming performance benchmarks are purchased. You have to buy for the game to test it. You can use the trial version to do some play testing, but this has varying results. For that matter, the best way to actually test a game is actually play it, but many come with built in benchmark tools of one type or another. And, yes, some are better than others.
What about gaming benchmarks? – The catch up
In-game benchmarks usually test a scenario or group of scenes, with what should be typical gameplay, or an example of it, to see how the graphics and processing stress the system. Many are aware of this, but for those that aren’t, it’s a chance to test your game using different settings to find the best overall experience. Some games are graphically intensive, so rendering scenes and objects take priority. Some games have several things happening at one time, or an open world, and need processing power. Esports titles often fall into this category.
Coincidentally, many Esports titles don’t have built in benchmarks. It all comes down to what you are willing to sacrifice to get extra performance. The game doesn’t have to look as good, as long as you can score first, or find a target quickly. Esports titles are usually very fast paced and the details on the screen don’t have to be in 4K. These games prioritize speed over immersion.
But you said some are better than others.
I did, and here’s why. If a tool is too difficult to use, is it effective?
Think about this. Do you drive a manual transmission vehicle or automatic? Many will say, automatic because it’s easier to drive. Many people don’t even know how to drive a stick. Some of you just said in you head “I don’t”, some said “yes, I do!” , and the rest said “I wonder if I remember how”. Do you remember at least three telephone numbers? See where I’m going?
There are games that have excellent tools for testing. They can be found on a settings screen, usually in the graphics settings, and are very intuitive. You can change the resolution, and texture quality from the same area or adjacent areas, and the test will run. Others are not as good, but still rather easy to figure out and do make sense for what they are. Some, however, are buried in different menus, require resetting the game, and take a long time to run. It doesn’t matter how good the tool is, if it’s too difficult to use, it’s not effective.
In many cases, using gaming benchmarks helps find the best set up for your situation, and may require multiple runs. Other cases are for people testing different equipment and again, multiple runs. Benchmark tools that don’t let you adjust settings, are buried deep in a menu somewhere, and take five minutes to run, just aren’t effective tools. Yes, I’m talking about you Red Dead Redemption, and Assassins Creed Valhalla.
If you are ever watching one of my videos and wonder why I don’t test certain games, it’s most certainly for this reason. Both of these games have stunning benchmarks, but both are very difficult to run for different reasons. The good just doesn’t outweigh the bad, here. In the last video I made mention of some of the drawbacks with RDR2, but I ended up cutting the part about Assassins Creed. It was another three minutes when the video was already twenty minutes long.
RDR2 takes a while to run and will not let you choose settings outside the normal parameters of your equipment. Yes, I said normal settings. I can’t choose a higher quality setting that tries to borrow resources such as system memory, the tool turns other settings down. That’s great if I am playing the game casually, but not if I’m trying to test. The length of time and the different settings in the first part of the benchmark makes it seem like I chose the wrong tool for the job.
AC Valhalla is different because it’s hidden, and you have to start the game over each time. I should clarify. You have to start the game over each time you change the graphics settings, for example, high to medium, medium to low, etc.. This is a pain on it’s own, but to have to do this for five different settings on each resolution is tedious and overshadows how good the benchmark actually is. It gives great information and the scene is gorgeous, but it takes far longer to run than should be necessary. There needs to be a better way.
Benchmarks worth mentioning.
Other games, including a game by the publisher of The Witcher Series, CD Projekt Red, with CyberPunk 2077, have reworked their benchmark to not only make it easier, but to give more accurate results for each run, which should be applauded. This benchmark used to be a hot mess. Still, other games don’t have tools at all, which is fine, I just don’t have all day to do playthroughs, being a solo act. So, I have to find the best balance I can. It’s an ongoing process to find the best way to give an accurate comparison, and because there are no perfect tools for the job, I will have to keep choosing the best available. I guess that’s what makes all of this fun.
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