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What exactly is meant by foreground and background FPS? How does it work?

Cropped screenshot of FG FPS set to 150 and BG FPS set to 8

I have adjusted them and tested the different options, but it seems to have no effect on the game itself. I am also wondering what the background really is.

Is it everything that is not my character and other NPCs or is it some sort of background layer?

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It's useful when you have dual-screen like me. Another useful option to set is the fullscreen windowed mode. With this enabled, you can switch in and out of the game by simply moving your mouse in and out of your current screen instead of having to alt-tab, while still maintaining fullscreen in the game! Assuming you have a reasonably powerful machine. –  deutschZuid May 28 '12 at 22:58
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Max foreground fps is when diablo 3 is your active / focused application you can set this at anything but recommended is 60 or higher. Basically it limits the fps to that number while you are playing the game (setting it at 60 is not the same as vsync though)/

Max background fps is when the game is not focused / active for example when you alt tabbed to a webpage. I recommend setting this between 8 and 20 depending on how good your cpu and gpu are. Basically it is usefull for lowering your cpu usage while the game is alt tabbed / not active

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If you have a very good computer you can set the background FPS a little higher so you don't notice a little stuttering when returning focus to the game as there is no big difference in spinning up the FPS. At least for me that made the experience more pleasant as it was not "smooth" after re-focusing the game –  Tigraine May 28 '12 at 22:31
    
@Tigraine Fair enough its pretty much a personal preference anyway just recommended something i found working pretty well –  Serge Bekenkamp May 28 '12 at 23:00
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It depends on a lot of factors, for example if your screen only runs at 70 Hertz, you will only notice up to 70 frames per second. While some sources say 60 fps is the highest the human eye can notice.

Personally, I keep it to 60 fps for the foreground, and 16 fps for the background.

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Background FPS is used when the game is not the main focus (ie: you're in your browser, or on the Windows desktop). –  Allov May 28 '12 at 20:07
    
Interesting, removed it from my post. –  lefke123 May 28 '12 at 20:23
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