Doom 3 Tweak Guide

[Page 3] Troubleshooting Tips

This section contains specific troubleshooting tips which address many of the most common problems experienced by Doom 3 players. Several of the tips below are drawn from my guides mentioned in the Essential Optimization section. This is no coincidence, since many common Doom 3 problems are not game bugs, but general sub-optimal system conditions which lead to problems. Doom 3 is very elegantly coded, but is quite system intensive in a unique way and uses many advanced features. This brings out instability and problems on most systems, so I can't stress enough the importance of taking the time to go through the checklist of advice below, as well as the rest of this guide, if you're having a problem with the game.

Click to enlarge

Official Support: If you have a problem with the game, the first place to visit is the Activision Doom 3 Support Site. There are also several official documents you should read for more gameplay information and answers to common questions. The first one is in your \Doom 3\Docs\ directory, and is called Help.htm. You can also view an electronic version of the game's Manual by clicking on Manual.htm in your \Doom 3\Docs\ directory. Finally, if you still can't find the answer to your question, you can visit one of the many Doom 3 support forums, such as the PlanetDOOM Forums, where other players may be able to help you out.

Recommended System Requirements: The system recommended system requirements for Doom 3 are actually not terribly steep, and for reasonable performance you should try to meet them. The Minimum and Recommended system requirements are listed in the Help.htm document under your \Doom 3\Docs\ directory. Luckily, the Doom 3 engine looks great even at the lowest settings, so as long as you meet these minimum requirements you can run the game and enjoy the experience.

Running Doom 3 on Windows9x: Doom 3 is only officially supported on Windows XP/Windows 2000 and more recently on Windows Vista. It normally only installs on systems using these operating systems. However if you want to run it on an older Windows, try this tweak: Running Doom 3 on Windows 98. If you want to run it on Vista make sure to use the very latest patch (See page 4 for details).

Windows Vista Users: If you're having problems running this game under Windows Vista, first make sure that you're using the latest Vista graphics and audio drivers for your hardware, and the latest version of this game (see page 4 for patch details). Next, make sure you don't change your UAC settings after the game has been installed, as due to Virtualization this can change the location of the game files and settings. If you can't launch the game successfully when UAC is enabled, you will need to run the game with full Admin privileges. To do this either right-click on the launch icon and select 'Run as Administrator', or right-click on the launch icon, select Properties and under the Compatibility tab tick 'Run this program as an administrator' then click OK. I strongly recommend that you refer to the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion for Windows Vista for more information - in particular check the 'Gaming in Vista' section of the Graphics & Interface chapter; the UAC section of the PC Security chapter; and the 'Personal Folders' and 'Directory Junctions & Symbolic Links' sections of the Windows Explorer chapter. These will tell you how you can fix game-related issues and also explain the relevant differences of Vista.

Installation/Loading Problems: Many users report that they have difficulty installing or launching Doom 3. It is important to understand that Doom 3 uses a copy protection system which objects to the presence of CloneCD, Alcohol, Daemon Tools and even Nero Burning Rom (in rare cases). So if you are experiencing these problems make sure you disable and even uninstall any such software if you want Doom 3 to run. Don't tell me this isn't cool, I agree with you.

Audio Problems: Many users, especially those with Nvidia chipsets, report audio problems with their audio skipping or cutting out. Firstly, make sure you have the latest drivers for both your sound card and also your motherboard. Next, check your audio settings under Control Panel>Sound and Audio Devices and make sure they are set correctly. If all else fails though, go to Control Panel>Sounds and Audio Devices>Advanced and click the Performance tab, and move the Hardware Acceleration slider one or two notches to the left. This should resolve most audio issues, at least until a patch comes out.

CD Key Problems: The Doom 3 CD Key is found on a sticker in your Doom 3 CD case, or on the back of the game's manual. Once you enter this CD Key during installation, it is also placed in a file called doomkey in your \Doom 3\base\ directory. It is vital that you do not share your CD Key or lose it, since Activision will not provide you with a replacement key. Treat it like your Bank PIN number and stash it away somewhere safe. Also make sure that you don't allow your \Doom 3\ directories to be shared as part of any P2P program (like Kazaa or Emule), and that you don't ever include the CD Key in any emails, since Activision will never ask for your CD Key. If at any time you want to see/edit your CD Key, you can do this by going to the Multiplayer Settings screen from your Doom 3 Main Menu (See In-Game Settings section).

Virus Scan: Do a full scan of all your files using a virus scanner such as the following excellent (and free) tools: AVG Virus Cleaner for viruses, A-Squared for trojans, and Ad-aware for spyware. Viruses, trojans and spyware can cause unexplained behavior, general file corruption and system slowdown, and can also (in some cases) steal your CD Key. So it's best to make sure your system isn't infected before moving on to other measures. However make sure to disable any background scanning programs once you're done (See below).

Background Programs: Disable all background applications, especially virus, trojan and spyware scanners and messaging utilities. These applications can and do use up valuable CPU resources, take up precious RAM, cause memory conflicts and crashes to desktop, and lag online play, but most importantly they interfere with read/writes to your hard drive effectively slowing it down and causing more in-game freezes and loading pauses. Full instructions on how to identify your startup programs and services and how to correctly disable unnecessary ones are in my TweakGuide Tweaking Companion. This is an important step you should not miss.

Overclocking: Doom 3's engine is extremely sensitive to overclocking. If you have overclocked any components on your system and are having problems such as crashes and reboots, or 'artifacting' (graphical anomalies) set everything back to default speeds and try running the game. If you don't experience the same problems at default speed then your overclock is the primary culprit. Don't assume that because other games run with stability at a particular speed that Doom 3 will do the same. The Doom 3 engine is new and unique, and stresses hitherto less-used aspects of your hardware. Most users are reporting that they have had to clock back to default speeds or dramatically drop their overclocks in order to play the game without problems.

Graphics Card and CPU: Doom 3 is very reliant on advanced graphical techniques, and needs a lot of graphics power for optimal performance. However your CPU also plays a role in how well Doom 3 performs, and a high-end card with a lower-end CPU will suffer, just as a powerful CPU with a low-powered graphics card will also see low FPS in Doom 3. If you want to see how CPU and graphics power combine in Doom 3, read this interesting: AnandTech Doom 3 Article. If you're looking to upgrade, but have a limited budget (don't we all), this article may help you decide whether to upgrade your CPU or Video Card first.

Memory Subset: It is highly recommended that you run Doom 3 with 1GB of RAM for smooth gameplay. Doom 3 is highly reliant on your system RAM and video RAM for its performance. Regardless of RAM size however, you must ensure that you optimize your Virtual Memory settings by following the step-by-step instructions in my TweakGuides Tweaking Companion. Combined with the tweaks covered later in this guide, this should help resolve many issues. A lack of RAM and sub-optimal virtual memory settings, especially when combined with overclocked memory (and/or aggressive RAM timings), can lead to lots of small in-game loading pauses, longer loading times and memory conflicts leading to freezes, crashes to desktop, and even sudden reboots.

Defragging: Another vital tip is to make sure that after you have installed Doom 3 you run through the system maintenance procedures detailed in my TweakGuides Tweaking Companion. If you only do one thing on that list though, make sure you run the Windows Defragmentation utility after installing Doom 3. It is a very large game (over 3GB of data), and defragging ensures that the game's files are all on the same place on your hard drive, greatly reducing loading pauses/freezes and loading times. It may take a little while but it is well worth it.

Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filtering: If you have mysteriously low frames per second despite being certain that your hardware is capable of more, then one place to check would be your graphics card's Antialiasing and Anisotropic Filtering settings. These are explained in detail in my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide. I strongly recommend that you set any forced Antialiasing and/or Anisotropic Filtering in your graphics card's control panel to 'Application Preference', and use Doom 3's in-game and/or config settings to determine the levels of these (See In-Game Settings and Advanced Tweaking sections below). Forcing AA or AF in the control panel may conflict with Doom 3's settings and cause slowdowns.

That's just a basic rundown of troubleshooting tips. Read the remainder of this guide for more specific settings and tweaks which can help improve your performance and resolve any problems.