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Neverwinter Nights 2 Tweak Guide

[Page 9] Neat Stuff & Conclusion



This section brings the guide to a conclusion, but has some important tips and tweaks, so it should not be skipped.



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Speeding Up Startup


The first step to speeding up the startup time for Neverwinter Nights 2 is to disable the introductory movies which play each time you launch the game. There are two methods, with the first being relatively straightforward - go to your \Program Files\Atari\Neverwinter Nights 2\Movies directory, and either rename all the .bik files there to something else (don't delete them), or alternatively create a new sub-directory there and move all the movie files to that folder.


However the simplest method involves opening the nwn2.ini file found under your \Documents and Settings\[Username]\My Documents\Neverwinter Nights 2 directory, and under the [Display Options] section insert the following:


Disable Intro Movies=1


This will prevent only the introductory movies from playing, and will not interfere with the in-game cutscenes or movies.


The next step to speeding up startup time is to change the shortcut you use to launch the game, so that it points to the game's main executable and not the launcher menu which loads up first. To do this, go to your \Program Files\Atari\Neverwinter Nights 2 directory, right-click on the file nwn2main.exe and select 'Send To >Desktop'. This will create a new icon which you can now use to launch the game, and which bypasses the launcher menu, thereby speeding up startup time.


Note that if you want to use the launcher at any time, either use the original launch icon for the game, or go to the \Program Files\Atari\Neverwinter Nights 2 directory and run the NWN2Launcher.exe file. If you just want to run the automatic updater, you can run the nwupdate.exe file instead.



Framerate Boost - VSync & Triple Buffering


One of the problems with Neverwinter Nights 2 is that the game has Vertical Synchronization (VSync) enabled by default, and it cannot be disabled from within the game, or even by using the relevant .ini setting. This is strange because by forcing VSync On, Obisidian has ensured that most systems will experience reduced framerates with no real increase in image quality. In fact in some cases VSync On can reduce FPS by as much as 50% (without exaggeration). The impact of VSync is very noticeable in NWN2, since if you look at your framerates in any area, you will notice it is often capped at a value like 15, 20 or 30FPS exactly. If you're not sure why VSync can not only cap framerates, but also reduce them significantly, read the plain english description of VSync on this page of my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide.


Since Obsidian have not yet incorporated a working VSync On/Off function for the game, there are two ways you can overcome the FPS reduction due to VSync. The first involves forcing VSync Off in your graphics card control panel. For ATI users, you can do this as detailed on this page of my ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide. For Nvidia users you can do this as detailed near the bottom of this page of my Nvidia Forceware Tweak Guide. If you don't want to force VSync off globally, Nvidia users can just force VSync Off for Neverwinter Nights 2 using the game profiles in the control panel, however the existing game profile for Neverwinter Nights 2 in the latest Forceware drivers incorrectly points to the game's launcher, not the main nwn2main.exe file. Create a new profile, call it something other than 'Neverwinter Nights 2' (e.g. call it NWN 2), and point it to \Program Files\Atari\Neverwinter Nights 2\nwn2main.exe.


If you don't wish to disable VSync due to tearing (again, refer to the description of tearing here), you can instead enable Triple Buffering to increase FPS in a similar manner. Triple Buffering is explained clearly on this page, and the procedure to enable it for ATI and Nvidia users is also explained on that page. It is important to note that because Triple Buffering uses additional Video RAM, it can actually cause problems for people with older/lower-end graphics cards, including slowdowns and input lag. So the first method above is the one which is the easiest and most successful to use.


The bottom line is that disabling VSync can see you increase framerates anywhere from 10-20% right up to 100% (i.e. double your existing FPS) without any noticeable decline in image quality whatsoever, so it is strongly recommended for all users.


Update: As of the 1.05 patch onwards a new 'Wait for Vertical Sync' option is available under the Graphics section of the Options menus. This option allows you to enable or disable Vertical Sync from within NWN2 - see the In-Game Settings section for more details.



Dual Core Issues


Neverwinter Nights 2's engine is not optimized ('multithreaded') for dual core CPUs. As such the game only uses the equivalent of one CPU at any time, and can't be forced to fully utilize both for better performance. Worse still, the developers have stated that the game may experience issues or reduced performance on dual core CPUs (See the game's Readme.rtf file). To prevent this, I firstly recommend that all AMD dual core CPU users install the AMD Dual Core Optimizer Utility which fixes a potential timing conflict in some games. For both AMD and Intel users who still feel like their dual core CPU could be the cause of problems in NWN2, you can run the game in single core mode by changing its affinity. Note that the game's Toolset can utilize dual cores efficiently, just not the main game engine itself.


Full details of how to do this are in the Task Manager chapter of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion, but basically to do it temporarily (perhaps to test to see if it makes any difference), first launch the game, then ALT+TAB back to the desktop, press CTRL+ALT+DEL to open the Task Manager, go to the Processes tab and right-click on the game's process name (usually nwn2main.exe), select 'Set Affinity' and then untick CPU1, so that only CPU0 is ticked. If you want to apply this fix permanently, create a backup copy of nwn2main.exe first, then follow the instructions here.



Measuring FPS, Taking Screenshots & Capturing Movies


If you want to measure FPS or take screenshots in Neverwinter Nights 2, both functions are already built into the game. To measure your framerate, simply use the showfps console command to toggle the FPS counter on/off - see the previous page for details. To take a screenshot of the game at any time, press the PRINT SCREEN key and it will be saved in JPG format by default in your \Documents and Settings\[Username]\My Documents\Neverwinter Nights 2 directory. Note that you can change both the key used to take screenshots under the in-game options, as well as the format the screenshot is taken in as explained under the Advanced Tweaking section.


Capturing movies in Neverwinter Nights 2 requires a third party utility, and FRAPS is the one I use, as it is free (with some limitations), makes the process simple, and also has an accurate FPS counter and screen capturing functionality built in.



Conclusion


That brings this guide to a conclusion, and hopefully it contains all the information you need to get Neverwinter Nights 2 running smoothly and without any problems. Obviously since the game is relatively complex, it will require further patches to resolve issues on certain system configurations, as well as the inevitable quest and game bugs. However for the most part I found that once the game was tweaked it ran quite well, at least as of the 1.03 Patch.


If you believe there are any significant tips or tweaks missing from this guide, please Email Me with the details and I will look into it further, updating the guide as required. Unfortunately I can't provide personal tech/tweak support and I also don't provide permission for the guide to be reproduced elsewhere for several reasons.



In any case, thanks for taking the time to read the guide, and until next time take care!