Fallout 3 Tweak Guide
[Page 13] Neat Stuff & Conclusion
This section brings the guide to a close with some useful information and advice. You've made it this far, so don't skip the last page.
To speed up the time it takes to get into the Fallout 3 main menu, there are a couple of things you can do. To start with, the biggest tip is to avoid using the game's Launcher and use the game's main executable instead. This does two things - it reduces loadup time, and it also bypasses the need to keep your game DVD in the drive. Full details of this method are under the Copy Protection section on page 4 of the guide, but the quick way to do this is to go to your \Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Fallout 3 directory, right-click on the Fallout3.exe file and select Send To>Desktop. This will create a new shortcut on your desktop which you can use to launch Fallout 3 more quickly and minus the disk check.
Next up, fortunately Fallout 3 doesn't have any long fancy introductory movies or screens. There are however four title 'slides' which will play before you reach the main menu. Unfortunately at the moment there is no easy way to simply skip all these slides. One method of speeding things up using .ini variables is covered under Interface area of the Advanced Tweaking section. However in practice the easiest and quickest method is just to click your mouse or press a key during these slides. There is no other method to properly bypass these slides at the moment, and really, the difference is only a few seconds in practice.
Max Frames to Render Ahead
This tweak became popular when Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion first came out. The setting in question was originally called 'Max Frames to Render Ahead', and it is now accessible in the main graphics control panel of the Forceware drivers for Nvidia users (Force 174 series and newer) as a setting called 'Maximum Pre-rendered frames'. For ATI users, you can adjust the 'Flip Queue' setting in the free ATI Tray Tools to do the same thing. The same advice below applies to both methods.
Basically, the Gamebryo engine may have issues with noticeable mouse and/or keyboard lag, even when your FPS is reasonably high enough not to usually suffer from this (e.g. 25+ FPS). By reducing the maximum number of frames to render in advance, you can help reduce mouse lag, although make sure to also see the VSync setting under the In-Game Settings section as that has a major impact on mouse/control lag regardless of this setting. In any case, this tweak is not about improving performance, it simply reduces mouse/control lag, so if you're not suffering from these then don't apply it. The general recommendation is to set 'Maximum Pre-rendered frames' (Nvidia) or 'Flip Queue' (ATI) from its default of 3 down to a value of 2 or 1. If this doesn't work in reducing lag, then try a value of 0, but remember that lowering this setting can actually reduce your FPS. If these changes don't work in reducing lag, then again, keep in mind that most mouse and control lag in virtually any game is due to low framerates and/or VSync. If you've noticed by measuring your FPS that it dips down into the low 20s or below when you suffer the most lag, then you will have to consider reducing your graphics settings to increase overall FPS.
Fallout 3 is a massive and often complex game. Certain quests may be very difficult to complete, and indeed some features of the game may also annoy or confuse you at first. I stress that first and foremost you should make every effort to read the game's manual, as it contains a lot of valuable information and tips on how to best use all of Fallout 3's features. Steam users can access the online version of the manual here by clicking the 'View the manual' link at the bottom right.
However for those who need even more help, there are several free guides you can use to get assistance with quests and general game features, as well as more background information:
Use these guides with caution as certain sections of them will obviously contain major spoilers which could ruin various surprises and hence your enjoyment of the game.
Measuring Framerate & Capturing Gameplay Videos
In Oblivion you could check your FPS by using the TDT console command; in Fallout 3, this doesn't appear to work in bringing up an FPS counter. However there's an easy way to check FPS, and that's to use the free Fraps utility. Fraps also has video recording functionality, although the free version is restricted to 30 seconds of video, allowing you to capture in-game footage in high quality .AVI format, such as this video I recorded earlier. Note however that while using Fraps to measure FPS has no performance impact, using it to record videos will have a noticeable performance impact.
The Woes of PC Gaming
Upon its release, Fallout 3 has received much praise, and paradoxically, also much damnation and anger. The praise is understandable, however the anger is not. It appears that a lot of people are having problems running the game, experiencing a range of problems, and in some ways, this is very unfortunate and I can sympathize. Nothing is more frustrating than buying a game you really want to play, only to be confronted with lots of crashes and issues which prevent you from enjoying it. However as someone who has been gaming for over 20 years, over half of that on the PC, as a person who has been tweaking and tinkering with computers for equally as long, and having written over 40 game guides, I feel I have to point out certain facts to some people.
No game is completely optimal or bug free. Virtually every game in existence has some bugs or quirks, many of which may never be resolved. However in the many hours I've been playing and testing Fallout 3 while writing this guide, changing every setting in the game, sometimes many times over, starting and restarting it literally hundreds of times, I have not yet experienced more than a handful of crashes. Of these, several were crashes on exit which is a known issue with the game, and was recently patched; all the others were 'expected' crashes due to changes I made to certain .ini variables as part of my testing. Otherwise, the game has performed flawlessly on my very modest system. In fact my longest session of Fallout 3 has lasted for over 2 hours without a single glitch; I've not had a single crash during normal gameplay, and it plays very smoothly at maximum settings - here's the Video proof. Now before you get all upset and start yelling that just because one person has no problems, doesn't mean a game is problem-free, take a look at this Performance Review of Fallout 3 over at Techspot, where the author specifically states: "I am yet to encounter a single crash while playing Fallout 3, and more remarkable was the fact that we were able to vigorously test 18 different graphics cards without a single glitch."
While Fallout 3 is not perfect by any means, and there are indeed some known issues with the game which will require patching (e.g. the 'micro-stuttering'/skipping bug), it is nowhere near as buggy or crash-prone as people are claiming it to be. Indeed every single major game which is released these days is labelled as being the "buggiest game ever", with hundreds of people flooding the game's forums to complain about how shoddy that particular game is, demanding patches and refunds in angry post after angry post. I'm not exaggerating either, it's now occurring for every single major game released, and quite frankly, it's become somewhat of a joke in my opinion. When I play every single one of these games, and write guides for them, testing them for hours and hours, I'm thoroughly confused as to how people can claim they are so buggy when I see no evidence of it. Either I'm the luckiest person alive, or there's something else at work here.
The simple truth of the matter is that PC gaming is a dual-edged sword. The very fact that a PC allows us so much freedom of choice as to what type of hardware we use, and what type of software we install on it, also results in much greater potential for a wide range of problems. PCs are not a 'plug and play' gaming machine, and never have been. If you want to just pop your game in the drive and play without a second thought, you'll need to do your gaming on a console. As a PC owner you need to be under no illusion that a PC requires regular optimization, maintenance and great care as to what you install on it. That's where I've tried as much as possible to give PC users the resources to do exactly that through my free guides. Ultimately however, as a gamer you have two choices: complain endlessly, blame the 'greedy developers', constantly beg for help and keep scratching your head over 'mysterious' crashes and issues. Or bite the bullet, learn more about your PC, learn how to configure, optimize and troubleshoot it properly, and wave goodbye to your PC gaming woes.
Well that brings us to the end of a very long and hopefully comprehensive guide for Fallout 3. I will keep the guide updated with all of the major changes which occur for this game. I believe I've included all the major tested and verified tweaks in the guide, so if an .ini variable is missing for example, it's because I tested it and it had no impact, rather than because I somehow didn't see it. Again, keep in mind that a lot of the tweaks people spread around for this (and other) games is often simply based on false information and a complete lack of testing. A lot of the.ini variables, tempting as they may sound, are actually completely non-functional. Still, if you see anything important that's missing from the guide, or something is incorrect, and you have tested and confirmed that this is the case, you can Email Me with the details and I'll update the guide accordingly. I should also mention that as always, I can't provide any tech support or tweaking advice under any circumstances, so please don't write to me for that purpose.
In any case, I hope you've found the guide useful, and I thank you for reading it.