DOTA 2 is one of the most popular games right now, and ranked 1 in Steam Charts, trading position against PUBG. DOTA 2 has gone a lot of changes throughout the years since 2013 and Valve still deliver gameplay updates as well as visual enhancements. Developed first on the first Source Engine, now in Source 2 Engine, Valve has made a really good job making DOTA 2 playable in older systems while those who have high end systems enjoys fantastic graphics with high framerates. In this article we will explore DOTA 2's settings and performance in pursuit of having playable framerates without losing much visual qualities.
Test System and How We Tested
Our system consists of the following components and software
Intel Core i5-3470 3.4GHz Boost
6GB (2GB + 4GB) DDR3-1600 Dual Channel
Sapphire Radeon HD 7750 DDR5 1GB with Radeon Adrenalin 19.3.3
Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit
We used FRAPS for 60 second to benchmark from a replay at 1920x1080 resolution with all the settings set to Low or Off while the Game Screen Render Quality is set to 100%. The maximum frames per seconds allowed is set to 240 and the rendering API to DX11.
But before we launch the game, we turned off visual settings and disabled the VSync through the Radeon Adrenalin Software. We also set DOTA 2 to “Do Not Disturb” mode in AVG. This is equivalent to Gaming Mode feature on other anti-virus software.
Image Quality Settings and Performance
Makes the hero's portrait animated. It doesn’t really affects the game visually but still cuts some of the frames, from 113 to 108 frames per second. We recommend turning this off.
Additive Light Pass
Additive Light Pass adds lighting affecting the creatures making them look shinier. The effect is very visible and we recommend turning this on.
World Lighting adds light reflections on objects or environment from light sources. This is less demanding than Additive Light Pass setting and we recommend turning this on.
Ambient Occlusion adds self shadows on objects, affecting almost everything, from creatures to trees, most visible on objects or environment with corners like stairs. And because this setting affects almost everything in the game, it has taken away almost 40 fps of the performance, from 113 down to 76 fps. We recommend turning this off.
Normal Maps + Ground Parallax
Normal Maps setting adds bumps and layers to surfaces visible on tree trunks, rocks, and structures. Very minimal performance hit of only 3 fps and We recommend turning this on. Ground Parallax can only be enabled when Normal Maps is on. It works the same way as Normal Maps but only affects the ground. It doesn’t really improve the visuals and we recommend turning this off.
Ambient Creatures setting adds butterflies, fireflies, bats, and other creatures depending on your location on the map. It doesn’t really affect the game visually but still takes away some fps so we recommend turning this off.
Ambient Cloth Simulation
Ambient Cloth Simulation makes the cloth to animate accordingly to the environment effects like wind or explosions. But based on our testing, turning this setting on or off didn’t matter because cloth moves the same. We recommend turning this off.
Grass Setting adds more realistic grass. The performance hit is very minimal and we recommend turning this on.
Anti-Aliasing makes the edges smoother. In DOTA 2, the anti-aliasing used looks like FXAA making the smoothed edges blurry. It takes away some fps while making the visuals not necessarily better. We recommend turning this off.
Specular add lighting in the environment near light sources, most visible on ground. This setting took away 19fps, from 113 down to 94 fps. We recommend turning this off.
Specular and Light Blooms
Light Blooms adds addition glow to objects that shines like runes. The effect visually is very minimal so we recommend turning this off.
High Quality Water
High Quality Water setting adds reflection, refraction, and lighting to water to make it looks more realistic. You won’t be spending most of your time in the waters so we recommend turning this off to save some fps.
Based on our testing, Atmospheric fog does nothing yet still diminishes the performance a little, so we recommend turning this off.
High Quality Dashboard
High Quality Dashboard improves the looks of dashboard elements and menu items. We recommend turning this off as you wouldn’t notice this during the actual game.
Tree Wind setting adds animation to the trees and leaves. Turning this on is unnoticeable unless someone told you that the tree leaves are swaying, so we recommend turning this setting off.
Based on the game’s menu description, Computer Shaders improve the performance under most most configurations. But our testing shows otherwise, so we recommend turning this off.
Texture setting makes the surfaces, ground, leaves, and almost everything looks sharper. We recommend setting this to high.
Effects setting sin other games affect smoke, explosions, and other lighting. But in DOTA 2, there are no visible difference between low to medium to high settings. We recommend setting this to low to save some fps.
When set to off, shadows are completely removed throughout the game. When set to Medium, only units and creatures have shadows. Turning this to high, structures and tree shadows starts to appear. When set to Ultra, shadows are enhanced and sharper. We recommend setting this to High.
Game Screen Render Quality
Game Screen Render Quality setting improves the overall quality of the game. Lower values makes the game looks blurred, higher values makes the game looks sharper. We recommend setting this to 100% to make the game looks good.
Rendering API setting allows you to set on how the game would render the game. The choices are DX11, DX9, Open GL, and Vulkan.
Direct X 11, for most of the time lead all the APIs, followed by Vulkan, then Direct X 9, and Open GL performed worst.
Now we have determined which setting should turned on and off, we arrived with our own Custom preset. Here are the settings for each preset and our custom preset.
Here’s what our Custom preset looks like compared to other presets.
Our Custom preset sits right between Preset 2 and 3 visually and in performance. Our Custom preset had better textures and has more details over preset 2 while Preset 3 has better lighting compared to our custom preset.
In terms of performance, at 1366x768 resolution, our Custom preset in only 5 fps behind Preset 2 and almost 30 fps faster than Preset 3 and 4. At 1920x1080 resolution, our Custom preset took 35 fps hit but still managed to average over 60 fps, while presets 1 and 2 only took minimal fps hit, and lastly presets 3 and 4 are now only down to 40 fps.
By turning off some demanding settings and settings that still takes away some of your fps even if you could not see the difference visually during the actual game, we were able to came up with our own preset that fairly looks better and perform well.
We hope that this article has helped you a lot in getting better performance without losing much of the visual features of the game. We will have more of these type of article, so stay tuned.