Read this if you want better performance without spending any money. This can help on any system, not just lower end. In general, if you’re not sure about a setting on your computer, leave it alone. You can also google it if you want to figure it out.
The two most important components for performance are your processor (CPU) and your video card (GPU). The thing about GW2 is that it’s easily bottlenecked by the CPU, meaning if you have a medium to high range video card, your CPU will hit 100% before you’ve reached the best frame rate that your video card can handle.
The first step is to get some information on how your system is handling it. You can check on how your system is doing by opening up the Task Manager, and clicking on Performance. On Windows 8 or 10, right click the processor graph and change it to logical processors to see each core individually. On Windows 7 you might want to click the Resource Monitor button for more info. Chances are while you’re in game you’ll see one core pegged at 100% and the rest just kinda farting around at like halfway. That’s because the Guild Wars 2 engine is old as hell and doesn’t do the whole multi-threading thing very well. Can’t do much about that sadly.
Not all video cards come with drivers that let you check usage. you can use GPU-Z to get readings on it.
You’ll also want to know how hot your machine is. You can use HWMonitor to keep an eye on your temperatures.
When running a game, at least one of your GPU or CPU will be at or near 100%. It’s important to know which one it is if you want better performance. If your frame rate is too low, then you will need to find a way to reduce the load on the one that is maxed out.
The most obvious option is to decrease your graphics settings in game. However our goal is to get the best performance and appearance that we can, so you’ll want to use the other improvements that are available as well. Farther down I’ll include a detailed description of the in game settings.
Most likely your system is bottlenecked by your CPU (by a single core even), but reducing load on your GPU is good too. You can try the following to increase performance, usually at the expense of power consumption, heat, and battery life:
- Update your video drivers. Latest video drivers will often perform better than previous ones, sometimes dramatically. Go to the NVidia or ATI website for the latest version of your driver.
- Don’t run anything in the background. Open the Task Manager and click Startup (Windows 7: open Start Menu and search for msconfig; open it and click on the Startup tab). Disable anything that’s not helpful (and uninstall it from the Control Panel if you never use it), then restart your computer.
- Set up your antivirus. If you have Norton, McAfee, or some other Big Antivirus, toss that shit and put a lightweight antivirus program on there. They’re just as safe and a lot less intrusive. I personally use Microsoft Security Essentials (known as Windows Defender on 8 or 10, and comes with), plus I keep MalwareBytes Free as a backup scanner. If you want something more advanced I’ll leave it to you to do your own research.
- If you’re on a machine with two video adapters, make sure it’s not using the weak-ass onboard adapter to run games with. Generally this is in the BIOS settings, which is different for every machine. Google is your friend. GPU-Z should tell you which adapter you’re using.
- Set your power profile to High Performance. By default, your power setting will be set to Balanced or Power Saver, which sacrifices performance in the name of efficiency. Open Control Panel, click on Power Options, and choose the High Performance plan. You can fiddle with the advanced power options as well if you like; there’s a few settings in there which are kinda nice to know about.
- Make sure you’re not overheating. If your system is too hot, it will automatically slow itself down to reduce heat. That means your frame rate drops. Every system is different, but you generally want to be at or below 60 or 70 degrees celsius. 80 or 90 is getting pretty hot and you’ll likely see performance drops. If you’re running too hot, then find ways to give your system better airflow. Stick a couple of erasers under the back feet of your laptop to give it some breathing room underneath. Add a case fan to your desktop. Keep it off the carpet and away from any heaters or furnace vents. Open it up and blow any dust build up out using a can of air (they’re cheap at computer shops usually). Airflow is the key.
- Overclock. This is generally only available to desktop gaming rigs, and I don’t recommend it on a laptop because you’ll likely overheat it. Mid to high end video cards will include overclocking software as part of the driver, and overclocking your CPU depends on your processor and motherboard. Video cards are easier to overclock, so start there. There’s a quick guide at this site, and google is your friend.
- Use a better version of Windows. Windows 7 is the oldest version of Windows that should be considered acceptable in my opinion. 8 added some improvements such as better SSD management and other small under-the-hood kind of stuff, and 10 improves on that further. 10 is free to upgrade to, but there’s a chance it won’t play nice since it’s so new. You might see a difference, you might not. I haven’t upgraded to 10 yet (I like to leave time to patch out any major issues), so I can’t comment from personal experience, though there’s speculation that it can help reduce CPU load.
Finally, adjust your graphics settings. Below I have outlined each of GW2’s settings (disclaimer: these are the settings available to my machine; depending on your hardware and drivers, you may have slightly different settings available):
- Field of View (in the General Options page): affects how wide your viewing angle is (horizontal and vertical). Can help with motion sickness too. While it can affect performance, I would recommend setting it how you prefer and finding the extra few frames elsewhere. None of the other camera settings should affect performance.
- Resolution: You’ll want this as high as your system can handle, otherwise it’ll look terrible. turn it down only if you’ve turned the other settings down and it still doesn’t run well enough. Has a massive impact on GPU, no impact on CPU. Windowed Fullscreen is nice you have dual monitors and want to seamlessly change between the game and a browser or something.
- Refresh Rate: best to leave this alone.
- Frame Limiter: why would you want to limit your framerate? Well, it can make it feel more consistent if your framerate goes up and down. It can help with tearing as well if you have problems with vsync. If your monitor is 60Hz then it’s not like you’d see those extra frames anyway.
- Interface Size: changes how the user interface looks. No impact on performance, it’s entirely personal preference.
- Gamma: kinda like brightness, but not quite. maybe make small adjustments if you have trouble seeing in the dark or if the light is blinding. No performance impact.
- Stereoscopic Rendering: only for 3D monitors, which nobody has or cares about.
- Preset: this is for lazy people and people who don’t know what the settings mean. Since I’m about to explain what the settings mean, then if you use the presets you are lazy. I personally think that the presets never get it right.
- Animation: The quality of animations that are shown, like how your clothes react to your movements, how the water ripples, etc. I haven’t noticed much difference while playing with this. Turning it down should reduce CPU load a little. I don’t think it affects GPU load much but you never know.
- Antialiasing: Tries to smooth jagged lines by basically blurring the image a bit. Supersampling does the same thing, so if you have supersampling on, leave this off. I think FXAA looks awful, so go with SMAA instead. Normally I’d recommend going with SMAA over supersampling, because the difference is minimal and SMAA is faster.
- Environment: Basically controls the number of detail type objects which are shown. This stuff is only there to make things look nicer, so don’t worry about it affecting gameplay. Reducing this setting will decrease load on GPU. Seems to have no impact on CPU in my case, but no promises.
- LOD distance: Basically makes stuff that’s far away look worse, since it’s harder to see anyway. Should reduce load on both CPU and GPU if you turn it down.
- Reflections: Stuff that’s visible in mirror like surfaces (probably just water). Reduces GPU load when water is present if you turn it down.
- Textures: Makes objects look sharper and nicer. Mostly affects GPU.
- Render sampling: Subsamble looks blurry and bad, but greatly reduces GPU load, similar to reducing your screen resolution. Supersampling looks very clean and smooth, but is pretty hefty. Native is basically normal mode, in between the two. If you use SMAA, then stick with Native.
- Shadows: Quality of shadows in game. Affects GPU and CPU.
- Shaders: Affects the complexity of the graphics system as a whole. Higher levels add effects such as material quality, shininess, things like that, to all objects. High impact on GPU.
- Postprocessing: effects like bloom, lighting, etc. small impact on GPU, I think it looks bad so I leave it off.
- Character Model Limit/Quality: These affect the number of other players you can see at once, as well as how many “placeholder” models you see instead of what they actually look like. Makes a big difference for CPU load if you’re in a big group.
- Ambient Occlusion: add darkness to areas where the light is blocked by an object. Some GPU impact, but looks quite nice in my opinion.
- Best Texture Filtering: Basically, turn this on if your textures are on high and you want it to look a tiny bit prettier. Affects GPU a little.
- Depth Blur: Stuff that’s far away is a bit out of focus. Small effect on GPU load, and once again I think it looks bad so I leave it off.
- Effect LOD: Reduces stuff like fire and electricity effecs that are father away if you turn it down (uses the same setting as LOD distance if you check the box). Helps with CPU load to do so.
- High-Res Character Textures: basically maxes out your texture setting, but only on characters.
- Light Adaptation: Postprocessing technique which changes the brightness depending on how bright it is where you’re standing. I think it looks washed out in dark areas so I leave it off. Should have little to no performance impact.
- Vertical Sync: Matches your frame rate to that of your monitor to reduce tearing (looks kinda like if you cut a picture in half, and glued it back together slightly out of place). Reduces responsiveness and frame rate if your performance is less than like 50-60 fps normally.
If you try all this and still want better appearance, or higher frame rates, you might need to upgrade your computer.