Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Tweak Guide
[Page 7] Advanced Tweaking
This section covers a range of things you can do outside of the in-game settings to further customize the game. This is actually quite important given that the developers have prevented certain settings from being enabled using the in-game settings.
To access the main advanced settings for GRAW, you will need to go to your \Program Files\Ubisoft\Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter\ base directory. There, under the \Data\Settings subdirectory is renderer_settings.xml, the major file containing your Video-related settings. Under the \Data\Sound subdirectory is the settings.xml file which holds your tweakable Audio settings. And finally, under the \Settings\profiles\graw_profile_default directory is your character's profile, saved games and key bindings. To edit these XML files, open them with Windows Notepad or a similar text editor. Don't just double-click on them as they will open in your Internet Browser where you cannot alter them; right-click on them and select 'Open With>Notepad'.
Before making any alterations to these XML files, make a backup of each. Furthermore, note that settings which can be fully altered from the in-game settings are not covered below. Each major XML file is covered separately below:
resolution = "1280 1024"
This line determines your resolution as per the Resolution setting in the in-game Video options. However if you want to set a custom resolution - as long as you know it is supported by your display - then enter it here in "width height" format.
refresh_rate = "60"
This line determines the refresh rate for your particular resolution. The default is 60Hz, however you can choose a higher one as long as you are absolutely certain your display device supports that particular refresh rate at your chosen resolution. Setting a refresh rate which is too high for your display will result in a black screen on loadup and can cause damage to the display.
<variable name="post_effect_quality" value="false"/>
You can set the Post Effects quality within the game, whether Low, Medium or High (See In-Game Settings section). However if you want to disable Post Effects completely, then set the value field to ="false" here, as shown above. This will remove the special lighting effects, giving starkly different visuals to that normally seen, in return for a significant performance boost. However note that using this tweak still does not allow you to force antialiasing. Further note that a side effect of this change is that Night Vision will not work properly, and the 2D tactical map will look different. The game was clearly designed with post effects as a central element.
<variable name="texture_managed_backdrop" value="true"/>
This setting appears to control the way in which texture data is managed between System RAM and Video RAM. The upshot of it is that for those with large amounts of System RAM (typically 1GB or more), setting all the "texture_managed" lines to have a value of ="true" seems to noticeably improve performance without reducing visual quality or increasing stuttering. Experiment on your system, but again note that if you have less System RAM (e.g. 512MB) you will likely get greatly increased stuttering from enabling this option. You may like to experiment with it anyway to see the impact on your machine.
<variable name="texture_quality" value="high"/>
By default within the game, people running graphics cards with less than 512MB of Video RAM cannot select High Texture Quality. However by editing this section of the .XML file, you can force high texture quality in the game for any video card. Simply edit every line starting at the one shown above down to the one just above the </render_settings> tag to "=high" for its value. That is, replace the words "low" or "medium" on each line to "high". This guarantees High Texture Quality, the impacts of which you can see in the animated .gif for Texture Quality in the In-Game Settings section. Importantly, as noted in that section, forcing high quality textures on graphics cards with less than 512MB of VRAM can result in slowdowns, constant hitches as textures are swapped out of Video RAM and mouse lag. The difference between Medium and High is not major, so unless you have a high-end system I don't recommend doing this. On a 256MB 7800GTX I can run full High Texture Quality without any problems, so you don't have to have a 512MB graphics card to use this setting.
Of course if you're smart, you can selectively set particular objects to High quality, such as those which are more noticeable (e.g. "texture_quality_characters"), and set others to Low or Medium if they're less noticeable. This will help reduce the Video Memory overload while still giving improved visuals.
Importantly: If you have changed the settings above, particularly by forcing High quality textures, do not go back into the Video options menu and select the Texture Quality dropdown box - this will reset the textures back to Medium or Low.
<device name="Generic Hardware" min_voices="25" max_voices="128" require_eax="true"/>
<device name="Generic Software" min_voices="0" max_voices="32"/>
If you are not using a defined Sound Card in your Audio Renderer option (See In-Game Settings section), and instead are using the 'Generic Hardware' or 'Generic Software' option, you can customize them further here. For example, the min_voices item indicates the minimum sound channels used by the game, while the max_voices shows the maximum channels which can be used by GRAW. If you reduce the maximum number of channels you can improve performance at the cost of audio quality (e.g. reduce the max voices to 16 for Generic Software). However note that you cannot increase the number of maximum channels/voices beyond that which your sound device supports.
Furthermore, if your sound card is prevented from using the Generic Hardware profile due to lack of EAX support (i.e. a non-Creative sound card), then edit the require_eax line to require_eax="false". This should allow you to then use the Generic Hardware profile in the Renderer setting under Audio options.
<quality_setting name="high" min_voices="33" max_voices="64"/>
These quality_settings lines correspond to the options available in the Quality setting under Audio options in the game (See In-Game Settings section). For example, the line above shows that if I select High for the Quality setting under Audio, I will have a minimum of 33 channels and a maximum of 64 channels. If I want to further customize this, I could reduce the maximum number of channels and/or raise the minimum number of channels, until I arrive a good compromise of audio quality and performance. This is up to your personal preference: in general the less channels you have the less rich the audio quality in the game, and some sounds may be missing, but you may get slightly better FPS and/or less loading hitches.
Note again that you cannot force a sound mode which your sound card doesn't physically support. For example, you can't force your sound card to accept the Extreme quality unless you have a card which supports 128 separate channels of output, such as the Creative X-Fi series. Most older sound cards support up to 32 channels without a problem (equal to the Medium setting), and Audigy 2 cards with the latest drivers for example support 64 Channels (High setting). To ensure you're getting the most channels possible out of your sound card, install the latest audio drivers for it.
Under the \settings\profile\ subdirectory there will be a specific subdirectory for each of your profiles. This is where your saved games and character details are kept, including your key bindings. If you only have one profile, it will be under the graw_profile_default subdirectory. Open the Profile.xml file in there to edit these settings:
<hardware_cursor value="true" />
If you are experiencing serious problems with your mouse cursor movements, you can set this value to ="false" as it can resolve such problems for certain types of input hardware.
<button id="action" binding="left ctrl" device="keyboard"/>
All your key/mouse control bindings are held in this section, with the action, the key bound and the device using it shown on each line. You can alter these within the game, so you shouldn't have to change them here. However if you find a particular key is not binding properly, or if you want to clear a binding, you can do so here. If anyone has details of a simple, clear and thorough guide for advanced keybinding advice, please Email Me and I will link to it here.
The next page concludes the guide with some neat stuff which can help improve performance.