Enhancing videogame graphics on a Mac (Windows 7, Battlefield 3)

May 16th, 2012 by Mark Nanut 18 comments »

BF3Update 4.5.2013: The methods I originally described in this post did work fine, but I just wasn’t completely satisfied with the image quality (still jaggies here and there even at 2xMSAA and general lack of detail at 0xMSAA). Turns out the only real fix for my eyes is to use 4xMSAA with postAA low, no injector, no sharpening, no color fixes (other settings: textures+shadows low, effects+mesh: ultra, terrain medium, deco high, no AO). I was surprised to find that 4xMSAA actually does work smoothly on my 6750M with measly 512 MB VRAM at 1366×768 (non-native though, but also non-scaled of course) resolution with new 13.5 catalyst beta drivers. Had to free as much VRAM as possible (desktop at 16bit color in non-aero mode, using only some 5 MB VRAM, kill hardware acceleration in Firefox) and remove all injectors though (FXAA/SMAA/SweetFX) because they were hurting performance in combination with 4xMSAA. The game now looks sharp and smooth, is a pleasure to watch and play, graphics are easier on the eyes and spotting enemies is much easier with details so carved out and image so clear. So basically if you can afford 4xMSAA at a decent (laptop) resolution even at some low settings, go with it.

Other honorable mentions: The other method I tried prior to settling for 4xMSAA was to use SweetFX injector (a great injector btw) combo with SMAA, sharpening, color vibrance and contrast correction, ingame PostAA low and 2xMSAA. Looked pretty much great, especially the colours, you might want to try that out if 4xmsaa is not an option. In my “quest” for the perfect image quality I even came across a very interesting SSAA injector (download SSAA-Tool at http://www.tommti-systems.de/start.html). What SSAA (true supersampling which can actually be forced upon BF3) injector did in my case was to render the image at double pixels (2880×1800) and then display it downsampled to display’s native 1440×900 resolution. As you can imagine, the image quality is perfect this way, but it murdered my framerates in BF3 therefore it wasn’t even remotely usable, but with a high-end card (or a less demanding game) that would be a different story.

So the takeaway of this whole bf3 image improving oddyssey would be: some games can look near perfect with merely an FXAA injector (BC2 and countless others), but shader based antialiasing (FXAA or SMAA) alone is not enough for BF3, this game is simply made the way it is made, the injector spells work only partially. Use 4xMSAA with BF3 (or at least 2xMSAA). At least for me, 4xMSAA on low has better image fidelity than 0xMSAA on ultra, the difference between jaw-dropping versus sort-of-ok-but-kinda-sloppy. Happy gaming, over and out.

The original post 14.5.2012:
This is a follow-up post to the previous one. This time around, we’re going to sharpen BF3 graphics further and improve the image quality in BF3, at no performance cost and start enjoying some high-fidelity visuals. No, it’s not yet another post about DANOC FXAA. » Read more: Enhancing videogame graphics on a Mac (Windows 7, Battlefield 3)

Running demanding games on low-end MacBook Pro graphic cards

May 29th, 2011 by Mark Nanut 3 comments »

aka “Performance gaming on a low-end Macbook Pro laptop”

This post (which admittedly has nothing to do directly with being more productive on a Mac) was initially meant to be a lot more thorough and longer and cover step-by-step all the essentials on how to optimize old Macbook Pro with ATI X1600 graphics to run games well. Instead I decided just to focus on how to optimize it to run well one of the most demanding first player shooter multiplayer games right now, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BFBC2 or BC2). You can then, however you find appropriate, apply these methods on other games as well, even though I have to admit that the time to upgrade the “gaming rig” has now finally come. Besides, there’s been said a lot online on how to optimize performance of Bad Company 2, so let’s just see how to get it to be playable in our case. We’re talking only fairly decent 20-30 FPS here, low resolution of 1024×768, low settings, all while retaining good visual quality and what’s also of utmost importance: keeping the game responsive and snappy. » Read more: Running demanding games on low-end MacBook Pro graphic cards

Running high-end games on low-midrange MacBook Pro GPUs (part 2)

April 8th, 2012 by Mark Nanut 2 comments »

BF3The takeaway first: Battlefield 3 (multiplayer as well as campaign) is very much playable on 9600M GT with 256MB video RAM and a mid-2009 dual core Macbook Pro, with a few tweaks applied and a few compromises, mostly the resolution at which the game can be played comfortably. » Read more: Running high-end games on low-midrange MacBook Pro GPUs (part 2)

Speed up OSX Mavericks

February 9th, 2014 by Mark Nanut No comments »

Hi, so the tips for speeding up Mavericks are mostly the same as with Mountain Lion, with a few
exceptions, so I’m sort of copying the content over. Main differences are that you don’t need to necessarily use Chrome for browsing, since Safari 7 in Mavericks is finally fast again. The other tweak that won’t work is switching to a 2D Dock – in Mavericks there is only a 3D Dock. So the tweaks below are again mostly related to disabling vertical sync (BeamSync) and then ironing the anomalies that result from it – weird Mission Control and full-screen switching animations, so what we do is we basically disable those animations, problem solved = snappy UI.

1. Disable vertical sync (BeamSync)

Some remarkable human put together an app that disables BeamSync – no need to play around around with QuartzDebug anymore, so you can mostly forget about the jibba-jabba I wrote in the related ML post.

The program is called BeamSyncDropper2 and it works with Mavericks as well. Here is the link to it:


Run it and enjoy disabled vertical sync. Even better, make it start at boot.

2. Show scroll bars only when scrolling – to fix scroll lag

In System Preferences > General, set scroll bars to show only “When scrolling”. This fixed choppy scrolling in a couple of apps and I decided to stick with this setting.

3. Disable laggy trackpad inertia scrolling

Inertia scrolling feels mostly laggy and Apple wants to force it down out throats. Disable it by going into System Preferences > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad > Trackpad options

and set “Scrolling: without inertia”

4. If you have two graphic chips, switch to a more powerful one (with GfxCardStatus)

Obviously, switching to a more powerful discrete graphic processor (say, Radeon 6750M/6770M, NVidia 330M/650M,…) will speed things up. But don’t worry, you can still have a fast Mavericks even if you only have integrated Intel HD 3000/HD 4000 graphics.

Contrary to the title, you don’t actually need GfxCardStatus program to switch to a more powerful graphic processor – you can do this in the Energy Saver preference pane as well by disabling “Automatic graphics switching”. It is just that it’s much more convenient to switch between discrete or integrated graphics with GfxCardStatus, so I definitely recommend installing it.

Download it from here: http://gfx.io/

5. Speeding up or disabling Mission Control transitions

So, we disabled BeamSync and now we have smooth scrolling, but somewhat choppy Mission Control transitions. Fortunately, Mavericks has an option to set transition duration. The shorter you set this, the less lag you will feel. You can not only shorten the transition time – you can also disable the animation completely.

To make a faster Mission Control animation, open up Terminal and type:

defaults write com.apple.dock expose-animation-duration -float 0.15
(and then type “killall Dock”)

To disable animation completely, type:

defaults write com.apple.dock expose-animation-duration -float 0
(followed by “killall Dock”)

Play with what works best for you. Hint: set it to zero.

6. Speeding up or disabling full-screen app switching animation

Unfortunately there is no system setting to kill or speed up the often unnecessary slow animation when switching between full screen apps, if you use apps in full-screen mode at all. Fortunately, a program exists, called TotalSpaces, which circumvents this limitation. With it you can dramatically speed up the transitions between desktops/fullscreen apps and even change the type of transition (Cube, Swap, Slide or Flip). You can also choose to not use transitions at all – switching between desktops will then happen instantly and save you a couple of milliseconds time at every switch, resulting in a lifetime saved over a course of a couple of million years. Worth a shot if you ask me. “I want more life, f***er!” :)

Note that TotalSpaces has no effect on zooming in/out of a full-screen mode. This zooming in/out might still feel slow and possibly even look ugly.

Get Totalspaces here: http://totalspaces.binaryage.com/

7. Have your browsing experience fully GPU-accelerated – use Chrome as your main browser (very optional)

Safari 7 in Mavericks is plenty fast, no need for Chrome really. But if you are going to use Chrome, below’s a few tips.

First of all: to my knowledge, in Chrome versions later than 29 the option to disable GPU VSync was removed, not sure if it was recently added back (at the time of writing this Chrome 32 is out). You can get the older version of Chrome 29 on the internet, but you will have to disable automatic Google updates, which requires some file tweaking.

Ok, the tweaks. Type “chrome://flags” in the URL bar (omnibox) and set:

GPU compositing on all pages: enabled
Threaded compositing: enabled
Disable GPU VSync: enabled (mind the wording – you are actually “enabling the disabling” of vsync in Chrome)

Then relaunch Chrome. You should have a super snappy Chrome browser now.

8. Minimize with Scale effect

Go into System Preferences > Dock

and set “Minimize windows using” to “Scale effect”. For good measure, you can also disable “Animate opening applications”.

9. Disable elastic scrolling

defaults write -g NSScrollViewRubberbanding -int 0

10. Disable zooming in Accessibility preference pane

Go into System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom

and uncheck all options.

Nice people posted on the previous post some additional tips (thanks!), which are:

11. Disable OSX notification center
12. Disable mouse acceleration
13. Disable unused fonts in Font Book


All these tips should result in a dramatically more responsive and usable operating system. Of course there are many other things you can try if your system is slow, such as repairing permissions etc.

Hope all this works well for you. Cheers.

Automator app to reboot from OSX into Windows

May 24th, 2013 by Mark Nanut No comments »

To reboot from OSX into Windows directly, I have tried using the application called Bootchamp. It does work all right, mostly, except that by rebooting via BootChamp the volume and brightness controls under Windows don’t work anymore. To overcome this I have tried to reboot into Windows via preference pane Startup Disk and in this case the brightness and volume controls in Windows work the way they should. So I put together this Bootchamp alternative of sorts: an inglorious Automator app to reboot into Windows via StartupDisk.prefpane. Here is the app – together with the script which you should tweak to your own liking (change volume names) or re-record in order for it to work: Download

One thing though: this will set Windows as the startup volume and this change will stick until you set otherwise. To overcome this, you can devise another Automator app in the same vein to reboot from OSX into, well, OSX. :)

Speed up Mountain Lion

March 14th, 2013 by Mark Nanut No comments »

MLUPDATE 15.3.2013: Today 10.8.3 update came out and it seems to work smoother than 10.8.2. Still, applying these tips will give you an even smoother performance.

So you have this feeling that Mountain Lion (10.8.2) on your new or old Mac feels sluggish. In this post I’ll give some extra tips on how to improve this. Keep in mind that these are merely ADDITIONAL tips that do work, and you shouldn’t ignore the more general optimizations (make sure you have enough RAM, upgrade SSD, have enough disk space left). Let me point out that Mountain Lion DOES invariably feel laggy also on relatively new and capable machines such as:

MacBook Pro quad i7 late 2011
(2.2GHz quad i7, 8 GB RAM, Radeon 6750M graphics and Intel HD 3000 graphics, 128 GB SATA3 SSD)

MacBook Air dual i5 mid 2011
(1.7GHz dual i5, 4 GB RAM, Intel HD 3000 graphics, 128 GB SATA3 SSD)

With these tips I substantially improved performance on both of them. These methods will also work and improve performance on older Core 2 Duo Macs as well, but I cannot tell whether the results will be as great. One thing to add: the explained methods work very well and Mountain Lion will work faster to the point of feeling very fast, yes, yet still not as fast as Snow Leopard 10.6.8 – at least on my quad MBP. That’s why I currently prefer using Snow Leopard 10.6.8 to Mountain Lion 10.8.2, which is something I wrote about in my earlier post. » Read more: Speed up Mountain Lion

Downgrade to Snow Leopard for performance boost on a late 2011 quad Macbook Pro

March 8th, 2013 by Mark Nanut No comments »

symlinkAt the time of writing this post, the latest version of OS X is 10.8.2 Mountain Lion. While it brought many nice features and definitely is nicer and faster than Lion, it also comes with some compromises. I already wrote about how Apple uses power throttling in order to make battery run longer and this behavior persists in Mountain Lion. » Read more: Downgrade to Snow Leopard for performance boost on a late 2011 quad Macbook Pro

Extend space of a Bootcamp partition with symbolic links (Win7)

March 8th, 2013 by Mark Nanut No comments »

symlink Are you running a dual boot configuration (OSX and Windows 7), presumably not on a very large SSD drive, and are often running out of space on a Windows 7 bootcamp partition? Instead of resizing the partition, there is a more simple solution – move some of the files from bootcamp partition to another partition/drive and provide a symbolic link to them.

If you use your Windows 7 bootcamp installation for gaming, then you probably ran into low disk space issue more than once, had to delete/uninstall games in order to install another one or temporarily move game files to another drive only to copy them back later. Fortunately, ever since symbolic links have been introduced into Windows 7, you can leave game files or directories elsewhere and simply provide a symbolic link to them. Have in mind that this will work only with Windows 7 installed, not with Windows XP (which doesn’t have symbolic linking). » Read more: Extend space of a Bootcamp partition with symbolic links (Win7)

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