Over the past 8 years or so I’ve owned 3D accelerator video cards of varying performance, each supporting antialiasing but rarely capable of implementing it at an acceptable frame rate. Even my two recent powerhouse video cards, the Sapphire Atlantis 9800pro and the Asus GeForce 6600GT, were forced to sacrifice antialiasing in favour of 1280×1024 resolution for the new games of the time. This is no longer the case thanks to my uber-beefy BFG 7900GT â€“ I play even the 0-day warez (not literally, of course) with antialiasing now.
Just how much has this silicon Jezebel spoiled me?
Isn’t it just fitting that I’m playing a game on Steam immediately following the recent break-in fiasco and subsequent denial thereof by Valve? Dreadful fear of my identity being pilfered aside, I’m having loads of fun playing Vampire: The Masquerade â€“ Bloodlines by the now defunct Troika Games. Now that I get the chance to replay after a few much needed patches it’s easier to see what a well-crafted and open-ended RPG it is. Despite it being the first licensed Source Engine game the eerily lifelike character design and motion-captured animations, plus the carefully crafted architecture combined with a sunglasses-at-night take on modern Los Angeles do a great job of obscuring the age of the framework.
It’s the game’s enormous yet sharp textures that left me wanting more. I was getting just about 60 frames solid at my monitor’s max resolution with the “setting cranked” (the only option in video preferences is a toggle for bump mapping) so before even watching the entire opening sequence I quit, forced 4x antialiasing at the driver level using the NVidia Control Panel, and started it back up. The result was quite pleasing.
And yet, it wasn’t good enough! Frame rates were still excellent at 4xAA so I decided to traverse the final frontier â€“ 8xS antialiasing with 16x anisotropic filtering!! You’re positively melting as you read these words, I know.
Here’s an illustration of the difference between “vanilla” 4x antialiasing (left) and 8xS antialiasing with 16x anisotropic filtering (right). I recommend opening these screenshots in separate tabs or windows so that you can compare them fullscreen, switching from one to the other. The difference is quite dramatic:
It’s interesting to note that the screenshot at the left is a half-megabyte smaller than the one on the right, so one can imagine how much more work it must be to render in real time!