I can give an educated guess as the the Specs Required to play the game well, but that is where it stops.
This guide should allow you to get the best set-up for your PC, if you get Low FPS, drop a few settings you don't mind losing, if you have plenty of FPS, grab a few settings you itch for. Although I'm sorry if I dwell a bit on the stuff only us with the expensive hardware can use.
Before you follow this guide, go and grab Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2. They have significant performance tweaks, especially if you have more than one CPU core. Load times are also much improved. You will need to install SP1 before SP2.
Also, if you have any 3rd party visual theme stuff installed (Such as Window Blinds), make sure FSX is in the “do not skin" list.
The way to set AA for best results has changed since FS2004. You may have noticed that your AA in FSX is a bit fond of just turning off all of its own, especially if you switch tasks for a second. Whether you have an nVidia or an ATi card it's the same.
The best solution is to set the AA in your graphic card settings to “Application managed", and turn on the in game trigger, which is control 4 in Fig2a. This will keep your AA on.
However, you may now notice that when switching away from and back to FSX; it won't come back properly, if this happens just press “Alt Gr+Return" twice.
Texture Filtering and the Blurries
To save on memory use, the textures wrapped around the ground and objects far away, and at steep angles, use progressively smaller texture maps. However the MIP-MAP used is ideally just to big for the polygon it occupies.
Without filtering these areas shimmer due to the way the pixel to be displayed is selected, which changes a lot. There are two filtering methods to make these look better:
1. Isotropic filtering – minifies (in a similar fashion to Photoshop shrinking an image) the sample from the MIP-MAP in correlation with the distance from viewpoint, and angle to viewpoint, to produce an optimal resolution to fill the polygon with, this may be 27x34 pixels for example. But it's not perfect, it can cause the blurries, or a linear appearance.
2. Anisotropic filtering – is much more sophisticated, it works in a very similar way to anti-aliasing, it looks at each pixel and plots say 16 points (yes, this is for 16x AF) inside that pixel, these points are looked up on the texture map and usually fall on several pixels, an average colour is taken from these points and that colour is what it displayed on the final pixel. It is quite expensive computationally. This eliminates the blurries to an extent, but it can bring back the shimmer.
If you didn't understand that last bit, don't worry, it's about as complex as laying an image in a polygon can get. Here's how to make use of it. There are several settings in your graphic card and FSX you can use, and you'll each have your own preference, I suggest you do a comparison yourself as your mileage may vary. You will be setting your filtering via your graphic card settings and inside FSX (control 3, Fig2a).
FSX - None / ATI CCC - Use application settings
FSX - Trilinear / ATI CCC - Use application settings
FSX - Anisotropic / ATI CCC - Use application settings
FSX - None / ATI CCC - 16x Anisotropic
FSX - Trilinear / ATI CCC - 16x Anisotropic
FSX - Anisotropic / ATI CCC - 16x Anisotropic
Some other causes of “the blurries" are:
• Global max texture size – control 5, Fig2a.
• Level of detail radius – control 1, Fig2c.
• Texture resolution – control 4, Fig2c.
• Light bloom (not what we can “the blurries", but blurred edges of 3d objects) – control 7, Fig2a.
The graphical settings are quite different from FS2004, there is some new stuff, and a new technique for getting the AA to work.
The following images are a guide, you should set the settings to what you think your PC can manage, this will come with experience. The settings pictured are from my Core 2 Duo rig.
1. Target Frames Per Second, this is the point at which your PC stops thinking about the next frame and starts loading up-coming scenery, if you have slow loading scenery when flying or panning, be sure to set this below the frames your PC can achieve. The human eye perceives anything over 25FPS as perfectly smooth motion. To see your current FPS hit Shift+Z twice.
2. This is the resolution that the game displays at in full-screen mode. For best results (especially on LCD screens) set this to your desktops resolution, unless you have a reason to use something else. It's quite hard to tell which is currently selected, but it's the lighter one (1280x1024x32 in the image). The 16 or 32 on the end means the colour mode used, 32 is the better one offering more colours, but not all monitors support it. Setting your refresh rate under XP makes no difference, as XP forces all full-screens apps to use 60Hz. If you know what you are doing you can work around this, and you'll know what frequency to use.
3. This is a setting for the texture filtering explained above.
4. This is the in-game trigger for your cards maximum Anti Aliasing. It's explained above.
5. This is a “limit" on all the other texture resolution settings, I like to keep it off and set the resolutions how I like in the other tabs. This setup is also a suggested cure for the blurries.
6. This gives camera style lens flare, I personally can't stand it.
7. This gives effects where sunlight would IRL, but it seems to make edges look blurry, and it's a bit of a frames hog.
8. Wing flexing!
9. This is the box for messages, if you have naf internet and your real world weather stops updating you get a message to say so every 5 mins, in such case single line is best to stop this from gradually filling your screen.
1. Do you want the old 2D cockpit, or the new fully-clickable 3D cockpit?
2. This is for the little yellow labels that appear when you hover the mouse over stuff.
3. Boosts the texture resolution of the 3D cockpit.
4. Makes your 2D cockpit see through, 0% is solid and 100% is invisible.
5. This makes your aircrafts shadow visible on the ground.
6. This makes your aircrafts shadow visible on itself, where applicable.
7. This makes your aircrafts landing and taxi lights, light up the ground.
1. This sets how far away there is detailed scenery around you, such as autogen density and those texture MIP-MAPs we talked about earlier.
2. This is the detail of the shape of the ground.
3. This is basically the amount of polygons that make up the shape of the ground.
4. This is the size of the pixels in the ground textures, the smaller, the more detail.
5. This slider sets the water effects, none and 1.x are the levels seen in FS9, 2.x requires quite some processing power to run with decent FPS, but it looks stunning.
6. More detail on the ground.
7. This is the density of designed scenery.
8. This is the density of automatically placed scenery. Mango has published a bit on this in his tweaks (link at the end).
9. This makes buildings and trees cast shadows on the ground.
10. The quality of the effects, such as con trails. If you plan on landing a helicopter with any degree of accuracy you may want to consider lowering this.
1. This sets how far away clouds can render, IRL you can see about 80 to 90 miles on a shockingly clear day.
2. Do you want realistic clues on thermals, spiral arrows, or nothing at all?
3. 2D or 3D clouds?
4. How many clouds?
5. For real world weather this collects wind speeds and directions at all altitudes, not just ground.
6. Does what it says on the tin.
7. How quickly the weather changes as per the theme, or when RWW downloads the next batch.
1. How many big jets do you want around you?
2. How much general aviation.
3. Airport vehicles, such as pushback tractors, if there is one near you it will actually come and shove you.
4. Do you want labels above traffic aircraft.
5. What things do you want these labels to say.
6. What colour should the text of these labels be?
7. How long should each part of the label be visible?
8. How many roads have cars on them? Go to where two roads cross for an interesting sight.
9. How many ferries? IMO there are to many at even quite low settings.
10. How many other boats. Same as ferries, there are too many, and too many of them are powerboats, not sailing boats, unfortunately this can't be changed in the CFG file.
I have to explain this one each and every week, so it's going in the guide.
How to make the reverse thrust work (analogue sticks only):
1. Click Calibrate Joystick.
2. Chose your joystick and click Properties.
3. Move the throttle so it is a few mm away from the bottom.
4. Click Calibrate.
5. When you get to the throttle bit, just slide it gently up to full, then move on.
6. Now when you press the key assigned to “Decrease Throttle Incrementally", and the throttle on your joystick is all the way down, it will work properly.
What is a “Null Zone":
You'll see that there is a slider for sensitivity and “Null Zone":
• The sensitivity is how much the control surface will move given a certain control input. If maximum is still to slow for you, you can adjust it further in the CFG file, if minimum is too fast, you're screwed.
• The Null Zone is the area of control input on an axis next to neutral, where your input will not affect the control surface, if you find you slowly turn in the air, it ay be that your rudder null zone is too small.
These are the 3 “axes" (plural of “axis") control surfaces, and what they do:
• Elevators – Pitch, Climb and Descend, stick forward and back.
• Ailerons – Roll, Tilt port and starboard, stick left and right.
• Rudder – Yaw, Point port and starboard, twist stick or press pedals.
For more tips and tweaks visit Mango's Tweak Collection, and Some SP1 Specific Tweaks. Additionally a very informative article by nabeel46 here.
FSX not your thing? Check out my FS9 display settings guide.
As usual I accept no responsibility at all, and treat this like a wikki, if you have something to add, by all means do so. You can also ask questions here.
Also, a very big thanks to Metalex for doing the Filtering comparison photos.
Edited by PiP, 02 May 2008 - 02:46 PM.