Assassin's Creed Tweak Guide

[Page 5] In-Game Settings

This section contains full descriptions and recommendations for all of Assassin's Creeds major in-game settings. You can use these to get a good balance between image quality and performance on your machine, however I can't give you precise performance impacts or specific instructions on what to turn on or off. It all depends on your particular hardware combination, and more importantly your personal taste for the trade-off between performance and image quality.

To access all the in-game settings, during an active game press ESC and select Options, then refer to the relevant sections below. Make sure to click the Apply button any time you change a setting if it is available.

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Profiles: Before changing any settings, you will have to create a new profile, or select an existing one to continue with. It is important to understand that the game automatically saves your progress regularly as you reach certain points and achieve certain tasks, and this is saved against your profile. By default your profile and saved games are found under the Documents and Settings\Username\Application Data\Ubisoft\Assassin's Creed\Saved Games directory in Windows XP, and \Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Ubisoft\Assassin's Creed\Saved Games in Windows Vista. Each set of profile files is identified by a string of numbers - to see which set of numbers relates to which profile, open a file ending in .hdr with a text editor like Notepad, and the name of the profile which corresponds to that numberical string will be shown. Note that the profiles/saved games are interchangable with all modes of Assassin's Creed; you can move them between XP and Vista, and also use the same profile in either DX9 or DX10 mode within Vista.


Resolution: This option lets you choose the resolution of the game image, measured in pixels wide by pixels high. The higher the resolution, the more detailed the image on screen, but the lower your performance. For more details see the Resolution section of my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide. The number of resolutions available here are limited by what both your graphics card and monitor can handle. There are some important things to note about Resolution in Assassin's Creed:

  • The main graphics output screen is designed to run in 16:9 aspect ratio - that means depending on the aspect ratio of your monitor, you will see black bars of varying size above and below the main image. Fortunately you can use this Aspect Ratio Fix (in DX9 mode only) to fix the problem. To use the tool, place it in any folder and run it (Run as Administrator in Vista), input your Assassin's Creed resolution and .exe version, then leave it running in the background and start Assassin's Creed. You can then use the Numpad * key to activate the fix, and use the Numpad + and - keys to scale the image until it looks right. Note that HUD elements may appear stretched - this is normal. You may also get some glitches at times - use the Numpad / key to temporarily disable the fix. This is the best solution available so far, at least until Ubisoft decides to officially fix this issue in a patch.
  • Because of the fixed 16:9 aspect ratio for the graphics output, people using particular resolutions may notice strange pixellation or other scaling artifacts on parts of the game image. This is due to the game trying to maintain its strict 16:9 aspect ratio. If this occurs, try changing the resolution and/or change the scaling options in your graphics card's control panel, or use the fix above.
  • At high resolutions (typically above 1600x) the game automatically disables access to Multisampling. The reason for this is likely because a high resolution combined with Multisampling Anti-Aliasing would greatly increase the amount of Video RAM required to maintain smooth performance and causes problems, so support for it has been disabled. See the Multisampling option further below for more details.

  • You will also notice that each resolution has a particular Refresh Rate shown (a number in Hz), and this is described in more detail in the Refresh Rate section of my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide. Note: If you wish to set a different resolution and/or refresh rate than is allowed here, you can do so by changing the DisplayHeight, DisplayWidth and RefreshRate .ini variables covered in the Advanced Tweaking section.

    Vertical Sync: This option controls whether Vertical Synchronization (VSync) is enabled or disabled in Assassin's Creed, and is described in more detail in the VSync section of my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide. It is strongly recommended that you set VSync to Off for the highest performance, however if you find that 'tearing' is annoying you too much, you can enable it, but you should then also enable Triple Buffering as described here to offset the negative performance impact.

    Brightness: This slider simply controls the overall level of brightness in the game. Set it to suit your taste, it has no performance impact.

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    Graphic Quality: This option controls the overall level of graphics quality in the game. There are four levels available, with higher values providing better image quality at the cost of performance. A screenshot comparison of each of the four levels is provided above, and the significant differences are described below:

  • Level 4 - All possible effects are enabled, and Shadow Map resolution is at maximum of 1024x.
  • Level 3 - Anisotropic Filtering is disabled, making textures blurrier as they recede into the distance. Shadow Map resolution is lowered to 768x, making shadows less crisp. Note also that the blending of Level of Detail transitions is also disabled, which means additional details such as those on buildings will suddenly popup as you get closer to them.
  • Level 2 - In addition to the above changes, minor details are removed from the scene, such as the tile divider on the ground in the screenshot. Particle effects are disabled, removing moving clouds, dust and smoke for example. Shadow Map resolution is lowered further to 640x, making shadows even less distinct.
  • Level 1 - Additionally, Advanced Dynamic Lighting is disabled, making a dramatic difference to the appearance of the game world - all shadows and additional lighting effects are removed. All surface effects are removed, making surface textures seem quite poor. The rough blending/streaming of distant textures and details also becomes very obvious, especially when moving quickly. Shadow Map resolution is at its lowest of 512x, though there are no shadows to be seen anyway. Note that at this level, the Shadows and PostFX graphic options (covered on the next page) are both disabled and inaccessible in the in-game options.

  • Obviously, unless you're absolutely struggling for performance, Level 1 is not recommend whatsoever. Even though it provides a significant jump in performance over Level 2, it also significantly reduces the atmosphere and visual quality of the game. Note that you can individually customize which effects are used by using the Particle, LODBlend, Clutter, Layers, Anisotropic, AlphaTest, AdvancedDynamicLighting, and ShadowMapSize .ini variables in the Advanced Tweaking section if you want to come up with a custom blend of graphics and performance for yourself.

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    Level of Detail: This setting controls the overal Level of Detail (LOD) in the game, particularly with regards to the way NPCs appear, both the detail in their features and the number which are visible in the distance. As this setting is lowered, more details are removed, but performance will improve. A screenshot comparison of each of the four levels is provided above, and the significant differences are described below:

  • Level 4 - Maximum possible level of detail is visible.
  • Level 3 - Some small objects will have reduced complexity, NPCs have minor reduction in detail. In general the visible difference between Level 3 and Level 4 is difficult to tell.
  • Level 2 - In addition to the above changes, some non-critical objects in the distance will be removed, such as trees. The number of NPCs visible in the distance is reduced - in the screenshot comparison above for example, you can see that at Level 3 two guards are visible at the entrance to the mosque on the left; at Level 2 only one is visible. This is most noticeable when moving around, as NPCs will suddenly pop up out of thin air at closer range. Furthermore, at Level 2 the complexity and features on all NPCs (whether near or far) is visibly reduced in detail - you can see an animated comparison which demonstrates this clearly by clicking here: AC_LODCloseUp.gif (979KB) - note the drop in detail in the NPC's face and body, and also see how this setting doesn't affect Altair himself.
  • Level 1 - Additionally, a few more objects in the distance as well as some small objects nearby will be removed. The draw distance for NPCs is further reduced, effectively reducing the total number of NPCs visible in medium to long distance views, and making the popup issue worse. The level of detail on all NPCs whether near or far is also greatly reduced, making NPCs look quite ugly, polygonal and unrealistic.

  • In general, changing the Level of Detail slider by itself will not dramatically affect the overall draw distance on Assassin's Creed. In large outdoor areas, even when looking into the far distance at LOD Level 1, you will still see most of the same objects and details as at LOD Level 4, with the exception of a few distant trees and bushes. The most significant impact of this slider actually comes in reducing the visible number and complexity of other characters, which in turn can noticeably boost performance in crowded areas, at the cost of visual quality and atmosphere. The .ini variables the Level of Detail slider affects include DistanceLOD, MaxNPCLODLevel, SmallObjectsCullDistanceModifier, MediumObjectsCullDistanceModifier, DistanceLODEnabled and ProcessBoneModifiers - see the Advanced Tweaking section for more details.

    The next page continues the In-Game Settings descriptions.