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Thief: Deadly Shadows Tweak Guide

[Page 5] In-Game Settings

In this section we go through all the Thief: Deadly Shadows settings which can be accessed within the game. The Advanced Tweaking section will cover the settings which are accessible outside the game in the various .ini files.

The precise performance impact of a setting will depend on the particular hardware combination you are running. Also keep in mind that everyone has different performance vs image quality preferences, so I can't give hard and fast settings rules for everyone to follow, however my recommendations should be appropriate for most people.

To access the in-game settings, start up T:DS and click on Options in the main menu screen. You can also access these settings during a game by pressing ESC, clicking on the Title Menu button at the bottom right of the screen, then the Options button on the main menu screen.

There are three main sections for the In-Game settings, and various settings underneath each. All are covered in detail below. Just a quick note that to access all of these settings, do not click on the up/down arrows on the scroll bar. This will jump straight to the top/bottom of the settings screen. Instead manually click and hold down on the ball in the scroll bar and slowly shift it up or down.

Click to enlarge

A/V (Audio/Visual)

Brightness: Click the small sphere next to the word 'Brightness...' to adjust the brightness of in-game graphics. This is extremely important in T:DS because the entire game centers around sneaking in the shadows. If you raise the brightness too high the graphics will appear washed out and you will not be able to accurately determine when the visibility gem is dark enough for you to be hidden, or where the darkest shadows are. Not to mention that too high a brightness will detract from the game's realism. Note that if you access the Brightness setting during a game, it will take you back to a screenshot of your current in-game surroundings and lets you adjust the brightness there - very handy for instantly seeing what looks best.

Resolution: This setting determines how many pixels (the individual dots which make up a computer image) are displayed on the screen. For example a resolution of 800x600 implies 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels high on your monitor. The higher the resolution, the more detailed and clearer the game image, but it takes more graphics card and CPU power and hence you will see less FPS (Frames Per Second - See the 'Using FRAPS to Measure Framerate' section on Page 8). The resolution has the greatest impact on framerates in Thief: Deadly Shadows. If you are experiencing stuttering or slow graphics then you may have to lower your resolution. Note that resolutions above 1024x768 should only be enabled on graphics cards with 128MB or more of Video RAM for optimal performance.

Shadow Detail: This setting affects the quality of the shadows cast from the many dynamic light sources in the game. Moving the slider to the right improves shadow quality but reduces FPS, however the difference in shadow quality and performance is virtually unnoticeable. The performance drop from lowest to highest shadow quality settings is around 5%, but it may be higher for older graphics cards. If you want the fastest performance for no discernable drop in image quality, move the slider to the far left.

Bloom: Also called 'Light Bloom', when ticked this option gives everything a slightly hazy, glowing look. This can be quite attractive, however it can reduce FPS slightly, especially on machines with older graphics cards. Disabling Bloom can increase FPS and make the graphics appear slightly sharper and clearer. If enabled, Bloom may result in some additional flickering of light sources (some lights are meant to flicker though) and will provide more noticeable color banding around the light sources. If you notice a lot of lighting anomalies, or simply don't like the effect, disable Bloom. Note that Bloom and Multisampling are incompatible - that is if Bloom is enabled, Multisampling cannot be set above 1x (See Multisampling below). Alternatively if you raise Multisampling above 1x, Bloom will automatically be forced off. I personally recommend enabling Bloom and not Multisampling since Bloom has far less of a performance hit, but achieves a more 'atmospheric' result in my opinion.

Light Cutoff: Moving the slider to the right increases lighting quality ever so slightly but also decreases FPS. The performance impact of changing this setting appears minimal (around 5%), and the visual impact is virtually unnoticeable, but this can vary depending on your graphics card. If you want the fastest performance move the slider to the far left for no discernable drop in lighting quality.

Multisampling: This setting controls a form of Antialiasing which basically makes the jagged edges of objects seem smoother (See my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide). The base level of Multisampling is 1x and it cannot be reduced. Higher values of 2, 3, and 4 progressively smooth jagged edges but impact quite noticeably on performance. At the highest setting the performance impact can be well over a 50% reduction in FPS. Note that if you have Antialiasing enabled in your graphics card's control panel it may conflict with or override this setting, so set it to 'Application Preference' if you want to use Multisampling in T:DS, or set Multisampling to 1x and enable Antialiasing in your graphics card's control panel - but not both. Importantly, T:DS' Multisampling currently has a bug whereby at the start of each map it reverts back to 1x, even if it says it is set higher than 1x (See Advanced Tweaking section for a workaround to this issue).

Level of Detail: Moving this slider to the right increases the detail on characters, particularly those in the distance, at the expense of FPS. This setting appears to have minimal impact on both image quality and performance. At the most there is around 5% FPS drop from having the highest level of detail, although this may be higher for older graphics cards. If you want the fastest performance move the slider to the far left for no discernable drop in character detail.

Low Quality Textures: Ticking this option makes T:DS use lower quality textures. Textures are the images which cover surfaces in the game, so using low quality textures improves FPS, reduces loading times and uses less RAM, at the expense of reduced image quality. Graphics cards with less than 128MB of memory see the most improvement in FPS from using low quality textures. However if you have a better graphics card I recommend leaving this option unticked as T:DS' textures are already relatively less complex, and the FPS gain is not major (10% or more). Note you have to restart the game to implement a change in this setting.

VSynch: Vertical Synchronisation (VSynch) is the synchronization of your graphics card and monitor's abilities to redraw the screen a number of times each second (measured in FPS or Hz). If VSync is disabled (unticked), your FPS will improve however you may see some image "tearing" as your monitor and graphics card go slightly out of synchronization when the refresh rate exceeds the monitor's abilities. I recommend you turn off VSynch for maximum graphics performance in T:DS. Also make sure that in your graphics card's control panel the 'Wait for Vertical Sync' (or similar) option for Direct3D is set to 'Application Preference' or 'Off', otherwise it will override this setting and enable VSynch. For more details see my Gamer's Graphics & Display Settings Guide.

Subtitles: If ticked, all dialog in the game will have text subtitles. This can help if you are finding it hard to comprehend what is being said. The subtitles are a bit buggy, sometimes appearing a fair bit after the actual spoken words, sometimes not at all if beyond a set distance, and sometimes even after a character has just died. There may be a slight performance impact from using this setting, although I recommend unticking this option purely because it detracts heavily from the game's realism.

Sound Effects Volume, Music Volume: Adjust these sliders to suit your taste. There is no performance impact for various settings. I recommend keeping the sound effects volume at a reasonably high level, since Thief is very much an audio-based game. At the same time a reduction in the music volume will help you hear noises and conversations better, so lower it relative to the sound effects volume.

Audio Hardware Mixing: If selected, this option uses your sound card hardware to produce improved 3D audio. This option also enables full surround sound support for people with surround speaker setups (e.g. 5.1 speakers). The performance impact depends on your sound card, but for the most part appears negligible. If you are using the audio hardware built into your motherboard you may experience audio anomalies if hardware mixing (or EAX) is enabled, so the developers recommended that you do not enable any of these options unless you have an add-in sound card. If you do have an add-in sound card I strongly recommend you enable this option, since audio is a very important element of the Thief series.

EAX Advanced HD: EAX is Creative's proprietary Environmental Audio standard. This option is only available to sound cards which support EAX 3.0 or above. That basically means only the Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 1 and 2 range of sound cards. Hardware mixing must first be enabled before this option can be selected. When turned on, EAX Advanced HD enables "reverb", which creates more realistic echoes and reverberations in the game. If you have an Audigy sound card I strongly recommend that you enable this option, as the performance impact is negligible but the audio improvement and added realism is excellent.

EAX Multiple Environments: This option is only available to sound cards which support EAX 4.0, which is again only the Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 1 and 2 range of sound cards, and requires the latest Audigy drivers (available from the Creative SoundBlaster Site). When enabled, this option allows "multiple simultaneous reverb environments", which basically means even more of an improvement in realistic audio over Advanced HD. Once again if you have an Audigy card, I strongly recommend enabling this option as the performance impact appears negligible but the audio improvement is well worth it.


Invert Mouse-Look: Ticking this option means that pushing your mouse forward will make you look down, and pulling your mouse backward will make your view tilt upward. Has no impact on performance, set according to your taste.

Look Spring: When selected your view will keep returning to the center of the screen after each movement. Has no impact on performance, set according to your taste.

Auto Bow Zoom: Ticking this option means that when using your bow, after a few moments the view will automatically zoom in on the targeting scope. You can still zoom in much sooner if you press your Zoom key. If unselected you can zoom in at any time while using the bow by pressing your Zoom key, however it will not zoom unless you do. Has no impact on performance, set according to your taste.

See the Advanced Tweaking section for details on how to adjust the Mouse sensitivity settings, as they cannot be changed from within the in-game menus.


You can select the keys and buttons to assign to various commands here. To assign a new key/button to an existing command, click once on the key you wish to change, then press the new key or button you wish to assign to it. See the Advanced Tweaking section for ways of changing certain key assignments not able to be altered here, such as changing the fact that Garrett runs by default.

Note also that if you press the SHIFT key 5 times in a row during T:DS Windows will activate the 'Stickykeys' feature which can disrupt the game. To disable this feature go to Control Panel>Accessibility Options and under the Keyboard tab, click the first Settings button and untick 'Use shortcut'. While you're there, click the remaining Settings buttons and untick 'Use shortcut' for FilterKeys and ToggleKeys as well.

Also note that there are known issues with certain keyboards and gamepads which are covered in the Readme.rtf file in your \Thief Deadly Shadows\ directory.

That covers all the in-game settings. You will notice there are not as many in-game settings as in other games, and that is mainly due to Thief: Deadly Shadows' console heritage. However in the next section we look at ways of altering many settings not available in-game.