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A TF2 performance question: Do you guys have any ideas for how to improve TF2 performance? I'm running on a native 1900x1200 monitor and find that the game is really CPU limited. I'm running on a Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 CPU, which is pretty darn good for performance per http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/48 . Also have a new GTX 460 768 MB graphics card.

I find that in firefights with a lot of people (the number of people on the server makes a huge difference) my FPS will drop to 10-25 FPS for small but significant periods of time.

Things I've tried so far

  • Removing all unnecessary startup processes from Windows XP to see if performance would improve
  • Buying a new graphics card (a dumb decision, as soon after I realized the game was CPU
  • Decreasing the resolution of the game to 1600x1050 with "medium" detail for all the graphical options

None of this stuff seems to seriously help the situation. Do other people run into a similar situation here? I'm seriously thinking of buying another better processor, but its an expensive proposition as I pretty much would buy a completely new rig - CPU/ Mobo/Ram/ HDD, OS (Win 7) etc.

Any additional recommendations?

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Are you sure it's the CPU? If you're running off an external hard drive, you might get similar spikes of lag (or FPS dropping). Speaking of, how is your connection? If you've got a spotty connection, maybe you're bandwidth limited instead of (or in addition to) your observed CPU issues. –  Raven Dreamer Nov 21 '10 at 2:12
    
I play SC2 with a slower CPU than you, so I'm not sure it's really your CPU. Have you tried a system benchmark like Sysmark? –  Ivo Flipse Nov 21 '10 at 9:14
    
Are you looking to increase your FPS at the cost of graphics? Or do you want to get better FPS without sacrificing graphics? –  Malabarba Dec 9 '10 at 17:50
    
Ideally I was looking to increase my FPS with minimal sacrifices to graphics. I could play the game at 800x600 with all settings on low and I'm sure it'd be faster, but not much fun to play. –  CrimsonX Dec 9 '10 at 19:02
    
My PC has configs very similar to yours. By setting a resolution of 1680x1050, and everything else to minimum I get around 50 fps, with occasional drops when when all 24 players are on screen. Is it the same for you? Make sure you disable HDR in the graphics options. –  Malabarba Dec 9 '10 at 20:01

6 Answers 6

My first piece of advice would be to go into the video options and enable Multicore Processing. It's been my experience that this is disabled by default, and enabling it usually results in a performance boost. Despite being in the video settings, this is actually a CPU option.

My second piece of advice would be to make sure you have recent nVidia drivers installed.

Note: My system is a Core 2 Quad 6600 with an nVidia GT240 512MB GDDR5, so yours should outperform mine in anything that's not using a lot of CPU cores.

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1  
The multicore processing option has a history of causing crashes for some users, but it can result in a massive performance gain. –  Jamie Schembri Nov 21 '10 at 11:46
    
NB however, there is (or was) a known bug where the game would run smoothly then hang for a moment every so often which was fixed by turning multicore rendering OFF. So if you see this behaviour, try turning this off. –  xan Nov 29 '10 at 17:14

It's counter-intuitive, but some people have found increasing graphics quality settings helpful.

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That's true, I did some benchmark and it could happen that have anti-aliasing and HDR enabled can produce more FPS than having them disabled, on machine with medium/high graphic video card. But it is a matter of few FPS, could be 5-10 at maximum if you are very lucky. –  Drake Nov 30 '10 at 8:55
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After testing just for a little bit, this appears to be it! I cannot believe that turning on MSAA actually improved my performance. more time will tell. –  CrimsonX Dec 2 '10 at 4:42

Config Files

It happened sometimes also to me and to my friends to have sudden and strange FPS drop on medium performance PC configuration with Team Fortress 2.

We discovered that it could happens sometimes, that the frequent TF2 update "broke" in some ways the engine configuration.

My first advice is to delete or rename, config folder, inside steamapps\[username]\team fortress 2\tf\ (if I remember well, I cannot check now) and launch TF2.

This will force an auto-reconfiguration of graphics/physics settings that could have been corrupted during a TF2 Patch/Update.

CPU Upgrade

I upgraded recently my CPU from an AMD 5600+ dual-core to an AMD X3 720 tri-core and with an ATI Radeon HD 4770 (low budged) I can play full details at 1680x1050 and never go under 35 FPS. The improvement of changing CPU with multi-core option enabled was a solid +10 over the minimum FPS.

I have friends that upgraded to a 4-core CPU like AMD X4 Phenom II 945 and the improvement was even better.

So definitively I would suggest you to think about an upgrade to any 4-core CPU. TF2 will benefit a lot, but also all modern games are now implemented with multi-core in mind.

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Lots of suggestions

Cooling

Especially if you are on a laptop, the GPU becoming too heated can be a big problem. Try acquiring a temperature monitoring software to see if this is your issue. Some of these softwares can also manually turn on your fans for you so that you can run them the whole time you are playing, not just when things start to get too hot. Look into a cooling pad if you have a laptop, in my experience, this was the best improvement I could make, +10-+15 FPS. This is going to sound very silly, but another thing that you can do is not turn your computer on except to play your game. For some people this is not an option, I understand.

Scripts

There are different game optimization scripts available. I've tinkered around with many myself and found the FPS gains to be minimal, perhaps you'll have better luck.

Lower Player Server

No one likes leaving their favorite server, but the facts are that a server with less people on it is nicer to your FPS.

Update Your Drivers

Especially your GPU. If you have a laptop, you might need to acquire MobilityModder or something similar that will enable you to install the latest graphics updates on your GPU.

Launch Options

You can also try tinkering with the TF2 launch options. Dxlevel and Heapsize might help you.

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This thread explains how to make stop your antivirus sucking up CPU

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This is a good suggestion, but I first tried using this trick with my Antivirus prior to disabling Antivirus all together –  CrimsonX Nov 30 '10 at 1:55

Ok, if none of the other answers helped, here's what you'll have to do.
Let me tell you a secret, minimizing the options you find on the in-game Options>Video window is not all you can do.

First I'll suggest using DirectX 8.1. Here are the steps:

  1. Navigate to your steam Library.
  2. Right click the Team Fortress 2 entry and choose "Properties".
  3. Click on "Set Launch Options".
  4. Type in -dxlevel 81, and click "OK".

Now, you can still go much lower than that with console commands and scripts. The same will usually be true for most Source engine games.

It's remarkably easy. All you have to do is download one of the high-FPS config files that can be found on forums and such. This config file is just a plain text file containing settings that can only be tweaked from the console.

In order to use a High-FPS config:

  1. Download one. m0re's config got me 30 FPS on a really weak laptop.
  2. Extract it if needed. Copy the autoexec.cfg file to your cfg folder. That folder is usually:
    C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\<YOUR USERNAME>\team fortress 2\tf\cfg\
  3. Run the game and you're done.

If your RAM is at least 2GB you can keep your resolution at 1600x1050. To me, the resolution is the setting that most improves enjoyability.

Once you join a game, you'll immediately notice your settings are unbelievably low. Don't panic yet, truth is: this config is certainly overkill for you, but it will get you there. After playing a match (just to verify the config works), open up that autoexec.cfg file in notepad and start reading it. It is reasonably self explanatory, and it's really not that big. Just go through it and start changing the values you feel are important. When you're done, you should have great performance and totally enjoyable graphics.

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