We've put together a quick FPS performance optimization & screenshot settings guide for Watch Dogs, using configuration file tweaking to improve framerate. Our previous article/video guide for Watch Dogs covers removal of mouse acceleration and smoothing, and before that, we benchmarked Watch Dogs' performance on PCs, calling it 'horribly optimized.'
Here's the video tutorial for tweaking the Watch Dogs GamerProfile.xml file:
Update: Our very critical review of Watch Dogs is now online here.
The file can be accessed in this location: %HOMEPATH%\Documents\My Games\Watch_Dogs\folder\GamerProfile.xml.
With careful modification of the settings in this file, it is possible to further tweak graphics options to perform better on lower-end PCs; to a similar tune, high-end equipment can gain some benefit here, too. The file contains several subsets of the "Level of Detail" setting found in the UI. Because of this, we're able to independently tune the view distance of various objects in game (buildings vs. NPCs, vehicles), which can directly tune performance and create a better screenshot environment.
Say you'd like to have a high view distance for buildings at a higher level of detail, but can't run the 'high' LOD setting due to borderline performance (call it 45 FPS, but you want 50FPS, for example). Manually setting "EnvironmentQuality" to "medium" or "low" while retaining a "high" GeometryQuality setting would achieve this. It is also possible to disable specific HUD and atmospheric elements (rain, splashes) for either screenshot or performance reasons.
Here are the settings I talk about in the video, along with a few extras:
DepthOfFieldQuality: Can be set to "console" or "pc." The "console" setting theoretically increases performance to a slight degree; setting this to 'off' will completely disable Depth of Field effects and boost performance.
DepthPassQuality: Set to 'console' to potentially improve performance. I could not see a visual impact in-game when testing this setting, though.
EnvironmentQuality: A subset of Level of Detail settings. Your LOD setting will be passed on to Environment Quality and other family members of LOD unless manually tweaked. Set to medium, high, ultra or similar to specifically change quality of environment -- like view distance of NPCs and game objects -- without changing other LOD subsets. This can be useful if you want a high view distance for objects and NPCs, but would like to retain otherwise medium settings for LOD.
GeometryQuality: Another subset of the Level of Detail settings for finer tuning. This one handles view distance and level of detail on buildings and structures. If you'd like longer range view of buildings but minimal view distance for NPCs, set this to higher values while keeping EnvironmentQuality at lower values. This makes the two a particularly powerful option for screenshots.
ParticlesQuality: A subset of Level of Detail. Handles the quality of particle effects. The best way to see real-world change from this setting is to observe a grate or pipe emitting steam.
TerrainQuality: Changes the view distance of terrain elements. More LOD settings.
VegetationQuality: Changes plant life presence, detail, and view distance. Decrease this value if plant realism is unimportant to you, but performance is required.
PhysicConfig QualitySetting: Another subset of LOD. This one adjusts soft body physics of cloth, water, and wind-affected elements. Lowering this will improve framerate, though you'll lose some effects -- like Aiden's overcoat movement when riding on a motorcycle or jumping around.
PostFxQuality: This changes the quality with which Visual FX are drawn. Lower this setting for performance gains.
ParaboloidReflectionQuality: A subset of graphics settings. This one controls reflection quality and can be tweaked through the interface in-game.
MaxPrerenderedFrames and MaxDriverBufferedFrames: These settings aid in working with VSync to reduce latency and improve responsiveness of frame delivery to the display. Increasing the count of prebuffered frames will aid in reducing frame stuttering with VSync, but requires more GPU power and a larger framebuffer since the video card will store these in memory until delivered.
RenderRain: This one will toggle the rendering of rain. Setting this to 0 will entirely disable rain rendering, which will improve performance and change the overall atmospheric feeling of Watch Dogs. Could be useful for screenshots.
RenderSplashes: Similar to the above. Set this to 0 to remove splashes when objects interact with water. Disabling this will improve performance.
GameProfile Settings: These settings allow you to toggle things like sprinting, the minimap visibility, waypoint visibility, notifications from the PDA or mobile device, dynamic missions and rewards, mission updates, difficulty level, friendly fire, camera speed, and HUD elements. These settings are very useful for those of you who'd like to take high-fidelity screenshots without a UI or HUD overlaid on top of it. Toggling the HUD elements with GameProfile XML settings will remove them from the interface until re-enabled.
NetworkProfile Settings: These give you the active ports for Watch Dogs -- which are 9000 to 9005 -- and can be useful for manual port forwarding on your router.
That's all for this guide. Stay tuned to the YouTube channel for further content.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.