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  1. #1

    Performance Guide and Stuttering Analysis


    Performance Guide


    UPDATE 05/2019 - Due to the new 64-bit client releasing shortly, it is important to note that all the testing performed in this article was conducted with 32-bit client as of February 2017. Updated benchmarks are going to be added and compared once the 64-bit client goes live

    Here is a video preview of the performance of new 64-bit client, with some basic benchmarks

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    As you probably already know, LOTRO is suffering from heavy performance issues regardless of hardware used. This mostly what keeps me out of the game for over a year now. But recently I started to miss the game so I decided to take a look at LOTRO performance and see if there is any way to improve performance and make the game playable, especially in newer areas like Rohan and Gondor where the issue are the most extreme.

    Here you will find full analysis of LOTRO's performance. The source of performance issues, benchmarks for different graphics settings, stuttering analysis with frametime graphs and expectedly not a very positive conclusion.

    For detailed description on what each setting does visually, visit my Graphics Settings Breakdown.
    If you are curious about the difference in playing LOTRO on SSD, HDD and through Pendrive, loading times vise, check Hard Drive Comparison More in depth performance/stuttering comparisons between different storages are going to be included later in current thread


    Introduction


    So first here are some explanations about everything you are going to see in this guide. Test system, testing places, how benchmarks are made and etc.


    Testing Locations

    For benchmarking I've chosen two demanding places of different characteristics.

    First one is Harwick in Rohan, a mid-sized city with a lot of water around it which makes it very demanding place due to a lot of objects and reflections to render. This place is known for especially heavy stuttering and performance issues.

    Second one are Eaves of Fangorn, very dense forest filled with with foliage, shadows and atmospheric details like a lot of fog, making it demanding for the GPU.

    With those two places both CPU and GPU bound scenarios are tested to give you full insight on LOTRO performance.


    Testing Methodology

    There is nothing too complex here. I am using FRAPS to measure Frames Per Second and Frametimes while making sure that benchmarking runs are exactly the same, on the same settings, the same time of a in-game day and etc.

    For basic comparisons between different levels of individual settings I will use simple average and minimum framerate metrics made with FRAPS.

    For more in depth look at performance and especially this heavy stuttering that bother players the most, I will use frametimes. Frametime is the time between one frame to another. This is much more complex and precise way of benchmarking that allows to precisely detect all issues that are not detected by simple average and minimum framerate tests.

    Here is how it is going to look:



    This is an example of perfect and smooth frametime delivery. Any spikes on the graph are unwanted and are representing more or less significant stuttering, depending on how big and frequent those spikes are.

    For example, with 60 frames per second target we want a frame every 16.6 ms (one second is 1000 ms, so 1000/60=16.6). The more stable and even the frame delivery is, the smoother the gameplay.

    To avoid confusion I will quickly point out lower frametimes mean more frames per second (shorter time between frames = more frames fit in a second). So in this case lower in better, the opposite to the typical frame per second measurements, so keep that in mind.

    You can search the web for more information about frametimes and how performance in games should be measured, this topic was widely discussed in recent years and frametime measuring is now a standard for game benchmarking, replacing simple FPS measurements.



    Testing Platform

    For testing I was using my PC with following specs:

    LG 34UC98-W
    i7 4820K 4.7 GHz
    2x MSI GTX 1080 Gaming 8G 2076/5500 SLI (only one GPU used for testing)
    MSI X79A GD65 8D
    2x4 GB 2400 MHz CL10 DDR3 RAM
    Crucial BX100/MX100 SSDs

    As you can see GPU performance of this PC is very strong, but I am using only one GPU for this testing for multiple reasons.
    CPU performance is relatively strong, but substantially behind newest CPUs, which combined with 5 GHz overclock and high speed RAM can beat this CPU's single threaded performance by up to 30%. And this is what matters for LOTRO since it can use only one CPU core.

    For some tests I am going to use different CPU and GPU frequencies which is going to help me determine where the performance limitations lie. Everything is going to be explained as we go.
    Last edited by Unthariel; May 31 2019 at 04:56 PM.

  2. #2

    So what's wrong?


    The first thing to do when you encounter performance issues is to determine the source. This way you will know what is causing those issues, for example if it is the insufficient performance of your hardware (and which part of it) or whether the game/application you are trying to use is simply unoptimized.

    We will begin with very simple test in Harwick. Here are I am benchmarking the game using my GPU on three different levels of performance. Clocked at 2076 MHz which is my overclock (100% performance), 1911 MHz which is my factory default (88% performance), and 1101 MHz which is the lowest possible I could achieve with available tools (61,3% performance). If the GPU is my limitation, there are going to be very clear differences between these three setups. If not, then the GPU is not the limitation.



    And as you can see there no differences between those 3 very different levels of GPU performance, which means that GPU is not my limitation here.

    So let's look at CPU performance now. In this test I am Setting Affinity for lotroclient.exe process in Task Manager to different number of CPU cores. If CPU was my limitation, I would see a decrease in performance from decreasing the maximum number of cores that game can use.



    As you can my CPU is not the limitation here, since using 4 cores provides the same performance as using only 2 cores. This means that limitation lies in the application because it is unable to utilize your resources fully. LOTRO's very old game engine is using only one core which is reported at 100% usage at all times during gameplay, meaning that the game's performance is entirely limited by what this one core is capable of doing.

    This is already a very bad sing, because we are entirely limited by the outdated software and we cannot do anything about it. This is very typical for old MMOs and in general games, like LOTRO or WOW, or newer games build on outdated engines, like TESO or Grim Dawn, where you can observe exactly the same behavior.

    All right, so maybe decreasing graphics settings will help? Let's see:



    As you can see there are differences. But why not significant differences? You only need to downgrade your settings to High to get over 60 FPS, right? Well, no. Here is why:



    As you can see, frametime delivery is horrible. All the spikes on the graph are representing stutters. Bigger spike = bigger stutter. The biggest one is exceeding 120 ms, which means that our actual minimal framerate is not much higher than 8 FPS (1000/120=8,333).

    Stuttering is not solved even with Low settings:



    Here we are much closer to the target framerate, but still the minimum is around 50 ms, which means that actual minimum framerate is 20, not 65 like basic framerate measurement was showing. This is exacly why frametimes are important.

    You can see the depressing graph made on Ultra settings here.

    As you can see, the stuttering is very substantial and this unfortunately is the story of this game. And while other games of this type are also very limited by inability to use CPU resources properly, there is no other game that would stutter so much.
    Last edited by Unthariel; Apr 13 2019 at 01:23 PM.

  3. #3


    Now it's time for some testing in Fangorn. Just like before, let's look at GPU performance scaling first:



    As you can see this time we get clear difference between high clocked profiles and downclocked one. 1101 MHz profile is showing 76,6% performance of 2076 MHz setting, so still not 61,3% like it should in perfectly GPU bound scenario, but at least we are not completely engine limited here.

    Let's look at quality presets:



    As you can see situation is looking much more positive here than in Harwick. We are getting very good scaling between settings and we are able to achieve very high average framerates, as well as minimal ones.

    But we already know that basic measurements are not showing the truth about performance, so let's look at frametimes:



    As you can see this graph is looking way better than one from Harwick. On High settings vast majority of measurements is meeting our 60 FPS target. Still there are some spikes up to 25 ms, so minimal framerate is around 40, not 79 like basic measurement is saying, but those spikes are rare and general performance is acceptable.



    On Ultra settings there are so more spikes and the performance is getting a bit clunky, but this is still far better than Harwick.



    On Low settings graph is looking almost perfect.

    Okay, so there may be some hope after all. We have determined the source of our performance issues and made few detailed benchmarks on general graphics quality presets, not it's time for benchmarking individual graphics settings.

    Last edited by Unthariel; Apr 14 2019 at 12:02 PM.

  4. #4

    Graphics Settings Benchmarks


    This section is going to show performance impact of different graphics settings using a basic FPS measurements, just to provide a baseline. You can use these numbers to tweak your settings to increase framerate. For further frametime and stuttering analysis, you can skip to Stuttering Analysis section.

    So let's start benchmarking individual settings. I have chosen the most impactful settings based on initial tests and my experience with the game.


    Object Draw Distance

    This is one of the most demanding settings in the game, in both CPU and GPU bound scenarios.



    As you can see this setting has very significant impact on performance in Harwick. Decreasing it will be essential for improving performance there.



    Fangorn sees relatively smaller performance gains. Also decreasing this setting in wooded areas will result in low quality pixelized imposter trees in your close viewing distance, so this is not where you should look for extra performance unless you are really desperate.


    Surface Reflections

    This is another very demanding setting, especially for CPU bound scenarios.



    Another setting to watch out for in Harwick. In general in many settlements disabling this setting is essential for improving performance. Reflections have very high cost in performance regardless of how many of them are in your view. Even small puddle or two in Bree Town can cause huge performance drop.



    Again Fangorn gains less. Visually this is also not a setting you want to disable because disabling Reflections in dark areas or during the night makes deeper waters look like black holes.

    Optimal setting for both Object Draw Distance and Surface Reflections is High, as long as you are outside of CPU bound scenarios. Unfortunately those two settings are practically the only ones that can affect your performance in CPU bound scenarios in significant manner. Decreasing others is much less effective. Visually it is hard to notice the difference between High and Ultra High for Surface Reflections. Visit Graphics Settings Breakdown for details. Object Draw Distance is the most essential in wooded areas, but for settlements and typical landscape you are not loosing all that much by keeping it on High.


    Antialiasing

    This is purely GPU bound setting.

    If you are CPU bound like in Harwick, you can use it freely if your GPU can handle it. It is not stressing for CPU.

    For Fangorn, where GPU matters, this setting has huge impact on performance:



    If your GPU is struggling, this is the first thing to decrease. For game graphics enthusiast who is looking at smaller details the difference from using antialiasing is huge, but for average MMO player it may not be that visible. Decreasing it shouldn't hurt. Also keep in mind that this setting will completely slaughter the performance on slow PCs and non-gaming laptops, so you shouldn't use it on such setups.
    Last edited by Unthariel; Apr 13 2019 at 01:29 PM.

  5. #5

    Landscape Draw Distance

    This is third and basically last setting that can help you in CPU bound scenarios:



    As you can see there is a lot to gain from decreasing this setting to Very Low in CPU bound scenarios like Harwick. Unfortunately this setting is very essential for visuals. One of the best things in LOTRO are those huge open landscapes that really make you feel the size of the world and decreasing Landscape Draw Distance means huge hit to your visuals. However, in settlements, during instances, raids or Epic Battles where you are focusing on your closest surroundings anyway, you can decrease this setting without a huge hit to visuals to gain so desperately needed CPU performance.



    Gains in Fangorn are minimal which only proves that this setting is purely CPU intensive. Also there you are surrounded by trees and you cannot see distant landscape anyway, so if you are desperate for those 2-3 FPS, you can probably decrease this setting without any hit to visuals.


    Texture Detail

    Another purely GPU bound setting.

    There were no differences from changing this setting in Harwick. It is not affecting CPU, so if your GPU is good enough, max it out freely.

    However in Fangorn there are significant differences:



    Texture quality is obviously essential for visual quality anywhere you go and you shouldn't decrease it unless you have to. Some small decrease may not be too painful if you have small screen, but in general decreasing texture quality should be the very last desperate move.


    Texture Filtering

    Same as Texture Detail, this is setting that is relying on your GPU.

    There were no differences from changing this setting in Harwick. It is not affecting CPU, so if your GPU is good enough, max it out freely.

    In Fangorn there are few frames to gain:



    Differences between all of those filtering options are easily detectable by enthusiast eye, but not really by average player. Sharp and Very Sharp are visibly better than Bilinear and Trilinear and this should be visible to anyone, but superiority of Anisotropic Filtering is not so easy to see. On low resolution screens Very Sharp may even look better.

    One important thing to keep in mind is that Anisotropic Filtering is handled much worse by AMD cards than Nvidia ones, so you should see much bigger gains from decreasing Texture Filtering to Sharp or Very Sharp on AMD GPUs.


    DX10 Dynamic Shadows

    Same as before, GPU thing.

    There were no differences from changing this setting in Harwick. It is not affecting CPU, so if your GPU is good enough, max it out freely.

    Fangorn is showing some gains:



    Normally this setting is essential, especially in wooded areas, but Fangorn is so dense that the surface there is basically one big shadow, which means that you won't be able to see those dynamic shadows for most of the time. On lower spec PCs and laptops this setting will be very taxing so use it with caution.
    Last edited by Unthariel; May 28 2019 at 01:18 AM.

  6. #6

    High Quality Lighting

    Another GPU bound setting.

    There were no differences from changing this setting in Harwick. It is not affecting CPU, so if your GPU is good enough, max it out freely.

    In Fangorn this setting requires some power from your GPU:



    You will have to visit Graphics Settings Breakdown for details but High Quality Lighting is enabling Specular Lighting and Landscape Lighting Quality and all of them combined are giving very significant boost to visual quality and you should look for extra performance elsewhere.


    Material Detail

    This setting in GPU oriented.

    There were no differences from changing this setting in Harwick. It is not affecting CPU, so if your GPU is good enough, max it out freely.

    In Fangorn this setting is not very demanding:



    Again Graphics Settings Breakdown for details, but this setting is very essential for the look of trees and should never be decreased.


    Frill Distance

    Apparently GPU bound setting, however it affects loading times quite significantly and it may take few seconds until you get proper framerate after logging in (until frills are loaded).

    There were no differences from changing this setting in Harwick. It is not affecting CPU, so if your GPU is good enough, max it out freely.

    Even in Fangorn costs of this settings are rather marginal:



    Only turning this setting off gives any sensible gains, but this means turning off the grass completely and having blank ground as a surface which you obviously don't want. Keep it as high as you can and disable only in the biggest desperation.

    I saw many posts on this setting increasing stuttering while riding war-steed and generally in Rohan and Gondor, more on that in movement stuttering analysis.


    Post Processing

    Last settings on the list, also GPU intensive..

    There were no differences from changing this setting in Harwick. It is not affecting CPU, so if your GPU is good enough, max it out freely.

    In Fangorn this settings has massive impact on performance:



    I find it hard to explain what happened here. This setting enables Surface Reflections, but I already had them turned off for testing in Fangorn to move CPU bottleneck a bit further with framerate. It enables Bloom and Blur, but I already tested those and they were giving no differences, also you can see that those affects are not heavily used in Fangorn. But anyways, this setting is very important visually as you can see in Graphics Settings Breakdown but definitely something to turn off on very low spec machines that are desperate for any performance.



    So that's it for Graphics Settings Benchmarks. The most impactful settings have been tested for both CPU and GPU intensive scenarios to fully investigate what you can do to improve performance.
    Other settings were showing very small differences in performance so benchmarking them was pointless. Although keep in mind that it may vary depending on your hardware.

    If you are struggling for CPU performance in settlements or during instances, which we all are because there is no CPU available in the world with so much single-threaded performance to fix all of those extreme performance issues in LOTRO in CPU bound scenarios, you should look at Object Draw Distance, Surface Reflections and Landscape Draw Distance. But don't expect miracles, even high-end CPUs overclocked to the maximum are falling short badly here, no exceptions. Or rather I should say that LOTRO's engine is falling short in delivering acceptable performance even on high-end systems.

    If you are lacking GPU performance, options for decreasing settings are almost countless. There are many impactful settings that can be decreased without huge hit to visuals. You should start from Object Draw Distance, Texture Filtering and Antialiasing.

  7. #7

    Stuttering Analysis


    One thing that can drive anyone crazy in games, even those who do not have any expectations or standards for framerate and smoothness, is stuttering. Low but consistent framerate is somewhat bearable and can be used to with time if necessary, but stuttering is simply makes games unplayable.

    So in this part of a guide we are going to take a look at stuttering specifically with frametime only analysis to see if there are any particular settings that are causing or at least increasing stuttering in intensity or frequency. Also there will be some tests on movement speed, if it is increasing this unwanted effect.


    Movement Speed

    First let's look at on foot movement speed, walking and running through Harwick:



    As you can see, graphs are looking similar, with slightly more spikes when running. This means that vast majority of stuttering is happening regardless of movement speed.

    Now let's look at how movement speed in affecting performance on War-steed:



    Again, moving faster causes some more spikes in certain places, but majority of stutters happen anyway even when moving very slow.

    As you will see later, stutters are mostly happening always in the same places, meaning that whether you are walking or running, you are going to get this stutter anyway. This also means that walking slower can reduce perceived stuttering frequency because it will take much longer to get from one stutter point to another. So not galloping through the city like an idiot and hitting everything on the way is recommended, for more reasons that just stuttering, but this is by no means fixing anything, more like changing the point of view.



    Stuttery Settings?

    Thanks to previous test we already know that stuttering is happening in the same places regardless of your movement speed. So now it is time to check if you can affect stuttering with graphics settings while maintaining the same movement speed.

    Settings that have a lot to do with object/landscape loading are Object Draw Distance, Landscape Draw Distance and Frill Distance. Also Model Detail, but this one is not showing any changes to performance.

    So here are few tests, also from around Harwick, first on Ultra with Object Draw Distance and Surface Reflections on High, then three tests with three settings mentioned above reduced to minimum individually, and at the end final test with all three settings reduced to minimum at the same time:



    As you can see the graphs are very repeatable even despite drastically different level of quality settings used. I have to say that the consistency of those graphs is very satisfying and reinforcing the credibility of the testing, but this is unfortunately a bad news. All major stutters are happening in exactly the same moment, regardless of settings used. Only decreasing all three settings at once gave marginal difference and few of out many major stutters are now inside the scale and around 50-60 ms. Not like it changes something, those are still heavy stutters and the game's performance is below any acceptable standard, making it unplayable.



    Slow Hard Drive?

    Here I a took a ride from West to South Bree Gate on SSD and HDD to check if there is any difference in stuttering between two drives.



    As you can see the difference is very significant. On HDD there are over 3 times more major stutters than on SSD. This is a huge difference.

    Unfortunately I don't have anything faster than typical SSD to test it further, but the results are rather surprising. SSDs are know to lessen the stuttering a bit compared to HDD, but the difference is never that significant. This means that the game utilizes the storage more than any other, and this is where you can get the most significant improvement to your performance in LOTRO.

    Explaining why is that is going to be a lot of speculation, since I am not an expert and I am judging and measuring things as an experienced gaming enthusiast from user standpoint (which is arguably far more useful for the end user than all the excuses developers and experts would give instead). Since the amount of memory the game can use is limited by it's 32-bit architecture, the game has to use your storage to compensate. This is not as uncommon, in Windows there is actually a special feature for that called Page File, which is using your storage as a video or system memory when you run out of RAM or VRAM (at a huge decrease of speed and latency of course). LOTRO however doesn't report any Page File usage, so maybe it is inherently using a lot of storage. And since SSD is drastically faster than HDD in both speed and latency, there is much less stuttering happening.

    Framerate is of course limited by a single CPU core power like I've already shown, but stuttering doesn't get any smaller with faster CPU. Low framerate is caused by the singlethreaded characteristics of the game's engine, like with many other games, but these many other games don't stutter nearly as much and don't show such a huge difference between SSD and HDD. This points to memory issues, and the game relying on the storage far too much, probably due to the limitations of the amount of system memory (RAM) it can use due to 32-bit architecture. There is a 64-bit client coming out and I will test it extensively as soon as it gets out in Beta.

    In summary, I don't think that framerate is every going to be increased, since there is only so much a single CPU core can do, and this is not uncommon for games overall. The crazy amount of stuttering however is uncommon and specific to LOTRO, and should be fixed because it makes the game unplayable. 64-bit client is certainly a good step in this direction, and like the first real attempt to improve performance since I started to play this game, but how it is going to turn out is unknown.



    FPS Lock

    Just a quick test to check if locking your FPS can help:



    And as you can see it doesn't help at all.

    Last edited by Unthariel; Apr 14 2019 at 12:04 PM.

  8. #8

    Fixing The Performance


    Now it is time to sum everything up and use it in practice.



    Maximizing CPU Performance

    As we learned at the beginning, LOTRO cannot utilize your CPU resources properly and is not using much more than single CPU core.

    If your hardware cannot be fully utilized, you should maximize the performance of the part of hardware that can be used. In this case you need to overclock your CPU:



    As you can see, in LOTRO gains from CPU overclocking are enormous. Gains in performance are almost linear to increase in frequency. For example by increasing CPU frequency from 3.5 GHz to 4.7 GHz, by 34%, we gained over 27% of average performance. Minimum framerate is improved by 50%. We already know that gain in minimum framerate doesn't mean much because stuttering is happening regardless of you hardware and settings used, but CPU overclocking is definitely essential for achieving good performance in LOTRO.

    RAM frequency is also very important:



    As always additional memory frequency comes in handy during CPU intensive scenarios, in this case giving us over 16% increase in performance, despite the myths spread around the web that memory frequency has little to no difference which misinforms players and make them choose inferior components that are limiting potential of their PCs.

    Now final graph on this matter showing the difference between non-overclocked CPU with basic frequency on RAM and overclocked CPU with high frequency on RAM:



    You can see that the difference is just as huge as any difference from overclocking can be. Overclocked CPU paired with fast RAM is performing 42% better than stock clocked CPU paired with slow RAM.

    Important: Keep in mind that memory timings are very important too. This memory frequency comparison was made on the same timings, so only frequency was changed.

    Of course if you are GPU limited you can also overclock your GPU. Gains won't be that huge, usually from 5 to 20% depending on GPU architecture used, but it is recommended to take the most out your hardware.

    If CPU overclocking is not available to you, still you should make sure that you are taking the most of your machine. Search the web for any ideas how to improve CPU performance on your particular PC, turn off any power saving features and set all power options for maximum performance, close unnecessary applications that may take CPU performance away from you if you own CPU with only two cores, check your temperatures and see if there is any thermal throttling, especially if you own a laptop, and if there are any issues with temperatures then give your laptop to service for cleaning and replacing thermal paste.



    Tweaking Graphics Settings

    Once your hardware performance is maximized, you can start tweaking graphics settings.

    The most impactful settings were already mentioned and explained, so here is just a short summary.

    The most CPU intensive settings are:

    Object Draw Distance
    Surface Reflections
    Landscape Draw Distance


    Decrease them if you are suffering from performance issues in settlements or during instances.

    The most GPU intensive settings are:

    Object Draw Distance
    Surface Reflections
    Antialiasing
    Post Processing Effects
    Texture Detail
    Texture Filtering
    DX10 Dynamic Shadows
    High Quality Lighting
    Material Detail


    Decrease them if you are suffering from performance issues in graphically dense areas, like forests.


    Decreasing Movement Speed

    As we learned in stuttering analysis part of this guide, heavy stuttering is happening regardless of settings or hardware used, but stutters are always happening in the same places. If you move slower, it will take more time to get from one stuttering point to another, which will make the game visually smoother because of reduced stuttering frequency. Again, this is not a fix to stuttering, just decreasing negative effects of something that cannot be changed anyway. So slowing the movement down, especially in bigger settlements and CPU bound areas, is recommended.


    Using Fast Storage


    As you saw in testing, SSD reduces stuttering very significantly, over 3 times. For LOTRO specifically, upgrading from HDD to SSD is a true game changer. With a recent drops in price, SSDs are cheaper than ever, and getting a 128/256 GB SATA or NVMe (preferably) SSD shouldn't be overly expensive. Search the web to learn more about storage and what solutions are compatible with your system.
    Alternatively you can install a game on a pendrive. Fast pendrive is going to still be way faster than HDD, and is going to compatible with every PC.


    Conclusion

    So here it is, detailed analysis on LOTRO performance and on what you can do to improve it.

    LOTRO is really an extreme example of poor performance, especially in newer ares like Rohan and Gondor. Framerates are low and stuttering is close to unbearable. As you saw at the beginning of this guide I am using two GPUs in SLI, so I am dealing with not the most consistent framtime delivery and some rare microstuttering on the daily basis, and this was the compromise I was willing to take to be able to play my games at their full visual potential, so it is not like I am requiring perfect smoothness, especially that 60 FPS is not even a high target these days in the first place, rather a minimum acceptable. But what is happening in LOTRO is really, really extreme.

    Limitations of the engine are obvious, and while framerate limitations caused by singlethreaded characteristics of the game are somewhat common for games in general, the massive stuttering issues in LOTRO are specific to this game and so extreme that nobody should really ask money for a product in such technical state, unusable by any modern standards, even most basic ones.

    Another issue is what this game actually requires from your hardware. If you read system requirements for LOTRO, you will find a list of old and slow components that are supposed to be able to play this game well. While in fact you need an expensive modern overclocked system, and even that won't provide acceptable performance.

    So can you make LOTRO run well? No, regardless of hardware and settings used. There are a lot of myths going around, like the ones about the game running much better on older hardware, but this is all just an uneducated nonsense. In the current state it is impossible to make the game run well, since all the major issues are inherent to the game and outside of player's influence.

    Can you make it playable? It's relative. I've started to play this game when I was still a low-spec gamer, so my standards were much lower, so I managed to get 1500+ amazingly spent hours into the game, but if I discovered this game today, I would have abandoned it within minutes, simply because the performance it is below any acceptable standard and is unplayable for someone used to at least a decent smoothness. And I don't even have super high standards for performance, my target is only 60 FPS, and I am constantly making compromises on performance in favor of visual quality in games. But what is happening in LOTRO is just far over the line.

    Can you improve performance? Yes, in many ways, but effects are limited and all major issues still persist.



    So what PC do you need?

    At the end I will leave a short guide for building PC for LOTRO specifically. What is important, what to choose and why.

    CPU: Intel's Kaby Lake of Coffe Lake, overclocked to 5 GHz+
    For CPU you need to focus on single-threaded performance. My old 4.7 GHz overclocked 4820K you saw in testing is achieving around 165 points in single-thread test in Cinebench benchmark. My current i7 6900K achieves 185 points. The latest and fastest CPU's from Intel's Kaby Lake and Coffe Lake family can achieve over 210 when overclocked to 5 GHz+. For LOTRO, or any other MMO, this is your choice. Buy an overclockable CPU from Intel's Kaby Lake and Coffe Lake family, according to your budget. LOTRO, or any MMOs, are not using a lot of cores, so even i3 class CPU is going to be okay.

    GPU: Adequate to your screen resolution
    GPU power needed is dependent on your resolution. LOTRO is not using a lot of VRAM so any 2-4 GB card will be very enough. Performance wise, you should make a typical choice for your resolution based on reviews and recommendations from reviewing/benchmarking sites and channels. From my experience maxed out LOTRO is anywhere from 2,5 to 4 times less GPU demanding than modern AAA games, depending on the area.

    RAM: As fast as you can
    Get the fastest DDR4 memory you can afford, upwards of 3200 MHz. Get at least 8 GB (2x4) kit. It is critical to get a memory kit with two memory sticks instead of one, to run a memory in dual channel. So if you want 8 GB, you get 2x4 kit, if you want 16 GB, you get 2x8 kit.

    Motherboard: Z270 motherboard with support for RAM frequency of your choice
    Z170 motherboards may require BIOS update for which you will need previous generation CPU, so better stick to Z270. Make sure that it supports RAM frequency that you choose.

    Hard Drive: SSD or Pendrive
    Check Hard Drive Comparison for more, but switching from HDD to SSD will give you considerable boost to comfort of playing thanks to much faster loading times and first of all hugely reduced stuttering frequency in LOTRO specifically. Fast Pendrive is also a good and easy alternative that performs very similarly to SSD when in comes to in-game loading times. Running the game on HDD is not recommended because of much more stuttering than on faster hard drives. This is by far the biggest improvement you can make for this game, and there is essentially no point on even attempting to fix game's performance before you get SSD.

    Full Recommended Specs
    Intel Core i3-8350K or better, overclocked to 5 GHz
    Minimum of 8 DDR4 memory with frequency of 3200 MHz or higher (dual channel)
    Z270 motherboard with a support for high memory frequencies and M.2 drives
    128/256 GB NVMe (M.2) SSD, or SATA SSD if you don't have M.2 slot on your motherboard
    Graphics card adequate for your display resolution

    Last edited by Unthariel; Oct 29 2019 at 01:06 PM.

  9. #9
    Updated with SSD vs HDD and FPS lock stuttering analysis.

  10. #10
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    It would be interesting to try the game from RAM Disk, but I have only 8 GB of RAM right now and I will be upgrading my platform once Intel X299 is out, probably late summer 2017.
    I once tried LotRO in a RAM drive. Though I did not benchmark, to my eye there was no noticeable difference between running it from RAM and running it from SSD. I was surprised.

    I think the sub-1ms access time of just about any SSD has done about all that is possible to do where stuttering/hitching are concerned.

    Incidentally, I didn't notice any difference when moving from a SATA SSD to a PCI-E NVMe SSD either.

    As always, thanks for taking the time to put numbers to all our guesswork and shenanigans.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Hurin View Post
    I once tried LotRO in a RAM drive. Though I did not benchmark, to my eye there was no noticeable difference between running it from RAM and running it from SSD. I was surprised.

    I think the sub-1ms access time of just about any SSD has done about all that is possible to do where stuttering/hitching are concerned.

    Incidentally, I didn't notice any difference when moving from a SATA SSD to a PCI-E NVMe SSD either.

    As always, thanks for taking the time to put numbers to all our guesswork and shenanigans.
    Thanks for reply, I was really curious about that. I have to say that I am quite surprised with how much of a difference in stuttering frequency there is with SSD vs HDD, I didn't expect over 3x difference.

    As for the rest, I am not reading much of this forum, I have been out of here for months now, but I know how many myths are going around, so busting all of this with numbers is certainly useful, at least in theory, because I don't really believe that people will now suddenly listen to reason. I really don't like this word, but performance in games and tech in general is a closed world with definitive rules, there are certain metrics that have certain effects and there are strict standards to fulfill, if something is not performing then it is not performing, period, it's not like in the real world where everything is relative and nothing is true.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unthariel View Post
    As for the rest, I am not reading much of this forum, I have been out of here for months now, but I know how many myths are going around, so busting all of this with numbers is certainly useful, at least in theory, because I don't really believe that people will now suddenly listen to reason. I really don't like this word, but performance in games and tech in general is a closed world with definitive rules, there are certain metrics that have certain effects and there are strict standards to fulfill, if something is not performing then it is not performing, period, it's not like in the real world where everything is relative and nothing is true.
    "Oh but I never, ever lag! The game performs just fine in Ultra!!!" -forum poster who has never gotten past Dunland/Rohan.
    Chromite/Grumbletocks/Grumbletunes/Schrade on Landroval, Chromite on Arkenstone, Appendage on Brandywine

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by ChromiteSwiftpaw View Post
    "Oh but I never, ever lag! The game performs just fine in Ultra!!!" -forum poster who has never gotten past Dunland/Rohan.
    That's not the worst thing, theoretically you cannot blame them that they haven't been to Rohan and Gondor yet, at least as long as they are not making definitive statements about how the game is running without testing it throughout. All of this stuttering talk may be hard to understand for someone who is in for example Evendim or somewhere else where performance is almost perfect. The worst thing is when people with no clue are starting spread their reasonless assumptions around, I don't mean guessing or such, but making definitive statements with no proof and no testing whatsoever.

  14. #14
    Thread disappeared from forum again, refresh.

  15. #15
    A few things:

    1 Was wondering about effect of changing priority of LOTRO to "high' in Windows task manager.
    2 SSD or RAM disks are nice but-- I thought this is primarily what Texture Cache Size is supposed to help with. Putting more helpful stuff in RAM for fast access...? I've seen guides where people set it to zero ==> perhaps because HDD loads texture *more often* leading to increased stuttering...??? I'd love to see a little bit about this.
    3 I've also seen guides which recommend switching to DX10 or DX9 to improve performance. Would be interesting to see if that is a red herring.

    Windows 7
    AMD Phenom dual core 3.2ghz
    8gb RAM 800mhz
    Radeon 6950 1gb <== faster than CPU
    1Tb SATA drive
    Last edited by MagicVoice; Jul 09 2017 at 11:01 PM.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by MagicVoice View Post
    A few things:

    1 Was wondering about effect of changing priority of LOTRO to "high' in Windows task manager.
    2 SSD or RAM disks are nice but-- I thought this is primarily what Texture Cache Size is supposed to help with. Putting more helpful stuff in RAM for fast access...? I've seen guides where people set it to zero ==> perhaps because HDD loads texture *more often* leading to increased stuttering...??? I'd love to see a little bit about this.
    3 I've also seen guides which recommend switching to DX10 or DX9 to improve performance. Would be interesting to see if that is a red herring.

    Windows 7
    AMD Phenom dual core 3.2ghz
    8gb RAM 800mhz
    Radeon 6950 1gb <== faster than CPU
    1Tb SATA drive
    1. Honestly, I was trying to use this option since forever, on different PCs, from complete potatos to current monsters, and with different games. I haven't seen any benefit of that in my life, not even once.
    2. Maybe it does something. Problem is that it is not giving immediate effect and testing over time introduces too many variables. But it doesn't seem to have any affect on visual quality so maybe it is good to keep it at 0 just in case.
    3. There is no difference in performance between DX9, 10 or 11 on the same settings. The difference comes from settings available. DX10 doesn't have DX11 Interactive Water and DX11 Ambient Occlusion, and DX9 doesn't have DX10 Dynamic Shadows, DX10 Distant Landscape Lighting and something else I don't remember, and of course it doesn't have anything from DX11. So if you set for example Ultra preset on all three APIs, you are not getting the same settings. But those settings that are missing in DX10 and DX9 are GPU oriented, disabling them can help only on PC with slow GPU. It won't help with the major flaws of the game described in this guide, as it is proved that major stutters are occuring in exact the same moments regardless of settings used.

  17. #17
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    The only cpu related option that works ( a bit) is outside of the game; setting the game to use a specific core or pair of cores; you get to pick whichever cores the OS and background tasks arent using, which gives you an extra 5-15% cpu time, a slightly reduced amount of cpu induced stutter and slightly smoother game-play. However most stutter is server connectivity issues, so the improvement is minor, subjective, and only apparent when the cpu core is running at 80% or above.

    As mentioned above, DX9 makes the game slightly smoother, at the cost of some eye candy; TBH, the only place I notice the lack of DX11 is in Mirkwood, where the distant trees are awful blocks of green; for some reason the tree in Lothlorien dont suffer the same awful effect.

    The server situation is the cause of 99% of all issues, the "new" servers dont run the game very well, and the fact they are all in the same physical location means that 90% of players have a sub-optimal amount of lag in reaching them, which magnifies the server induced lag.

    As long as this is true, there is going to be no real improvement in how the average player experiences the game; it might run perfectly well for a dev sat in an office next to the server farm, but they want to ship them 4,000 miles away, so they can see what it is like for the rest of us.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicVoice View Post
    A few things:

    1 Was wondering about effect of changing priority of LOTRO to "high' in Windows task manager.
    2 SSD or RAM disks are nice but-- I thought this is primarily what Texture Cache Size is supposed to help with. Putting more helpful stuff in RAM for fast access...? I've seen guides where people set it to zero ==> perhaps because HDD loads texture *more often* leading to increased stuttering...??? I'd love to see a little bit about this.
    3 I've also seen guides which recommend switching to DX10 or DX9 to improve performance. Would be interesting to see if that is a red herring.

    Windows 7
    AMD Phenom dual core 3.2ghz
    8gb RAM 800mhz
    Radeon 6950 1gb <== faster than CPU
    1Tb SATA drive
    Texture cache size is exactly what it says it is. There is a fixed minimum size. There is a fixed maximum size. Set to zero, the size is fixed. This may help some people with crashing due to memory usage at the expense of more disk accesses that happen more frequently. The game default for this is 0.5, which lets the cache grow from the minimum size to half-again its minimum size. If you have enough RAM, this increased memory usage lets you hit the disk less. So if you have a slow disk and a lot of memory, you may get better performance.
    "No sadder words of tongue or pen are the words: 'Might have been'." -- John Greenleaf Whittier
    "Do or do not. There is no try." -- Yoda
    On planet Earth, there is a try.
    Indeed, in a world and life full of change, the only constant is human nature (A is A, after all :P).
    We old vets need to keep in mind those who come after us.

  19. #19

    Game Engine Speed

    Thanks for all replies.

    Does decreasing game engine speed (i'm guessing this is a CPU load), improve performance / reduce stuttering?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicVoice View Post
    Thanks for all replies.

    Does decreasing game engine speed (i'm guessing this is a CPU load), improve performance / reduce stuttering?
    At least it won't improve your FPS, it gets worse when you lower game engine speed so imho make sure your game engine speed is maxed.

    What bothers me most, I just upgraded my GFX card to Vega 56 and it just basicly cruising at idle when all the settings are maxed because this game is so CPU bound. GPU clock is staying at 300-400MHz and usage tops sometimes to 60% with thouse clocks MAx clock with this card at stock is around 1400MHz so there is lot of resources available. Only place where I see 100% usage is in character selection screen.

    So what this game needs is really really high overclocked CPU. My i5 4670K is runnning at 4,3GHz so 900MHz OC and it cannot provide studder free gaming experience with lotro. When I was running stock 3,4GHz it was lot worse ofcourse.
    Thing is that there ain't any CPU what this game would require to give you good gaming experience and utilize your expensive GFX card.

    Game engine would require serious rewrite at this point to fix all performance issues it currently has and I'm afraid this is not gonna happen for lotro.

  21. #21
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    In my thread (quite a while back now), I suggested the reason LOTRO is so bad on "newer" cpu's is the changes in cpu architecture, and highlighted the physical differences between the AMD Phenom 2 range and the AMD FX range to explain why the FX sucks at LOTRO.

    I have found out something else; in fact I am a bit embarrassed at how I missed it; the Phenom 2 has HUGE L1 and L2 cache sizes compared to the FX, which severely restrict how much data you can cram through it; no wonder you need a 1GHz over clock to get anywhere near the equivalent P2 performance!!

    This might also explain how another forum members experiments "disproved" my theory; by underclocking his i7, he wasnt really comparing like for like, the i7 cache memory access speed would have stayed the same, so wouldnt have hit any limits on how fast it fed the data to the cores. (His average frame rate results were also skewed by the fact his huge gfx card gave a huge max fps, but the minimum was exactly the same - so of course his average was higher).

    I havent had much time to read up, but comparing Core 2 Duo and current "i" series architecture may throw some extra light on the subject.

    Ré huge gfx card idling while running LOTRO at max, the ONLY difference between an ancient Radeon 1GB 6670 and the latest cards is peak speed, and that is more likely down the the increased amount of VRAM; the minimum speed blips stay almost exactly the same, so 1GB 6670, 4GB R7265 and 8GB RX470 OC all give the same minimum frame rate +/- 2fps in the not-spots around Bree; while max fps is 70, 120, 160+ respectively.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yarbro View Post
    so 1GB 6670, 4GB R7265 and 8GB RX470 OC all give the same minimum frame rate +/- 2fps in the not-spots around Bree; while max fps is 70, 120, 160+ respectively.
    They all give same minimum because game is so CPU bound. My example where GFX was cruising idle was from Minas Tirith. When I dropped object draw distance and some other CPU intensive setting, my GFX card came also alive and it started to run around 1200MHz and load around 50%.

    Also it differs alot where you are how game performs. Inside runs much better than outside.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by JiiPee View Post
    They all give same minimum because game is so CPU bound. My example where GFX was cruising idle was from Minas Tirith. When I dropped object draw distance and some other CPU intensive setting, my GFX card came also alive and it started to run around 1200MHz and load around 50%.

    Also it differs alot where you are how game performs. Inside runs much better than outside.
    I am not so sure cpu GHz makes a difference to the minimums, I have an overclocked 4.6GHz hexacore AMD FX chip with 1866Mhz DDR3 RAM, and my daughter has a quad core 3GHz Xeon chip with ancient 800MHz DDR2 RAM, yet they give the same* minimums in the hotspots around Bree, even her previous set-up, a stone age 2.2Ghz Core2 with 533Mhz DDR2 gave the same minimums. In fact, I have run several chips from stock 3.2-3.4Ghz speeds right up to 5.1GHz overclocks, and the minimums have stayed the same, even when the core LOTRO is using only shows 60-80% usage.

    * +4 fps is the most I have seen, and usually no more than +2.

    I agree with the last part though, inside is ALWAYS OK; you can be inside a building in Bree with 160+ fps showing, then go through the doorway and it is like running into cold treacle - from 45 down to 18fps.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yarbro View Post
    I am not so sure cpu GHz makes a difference to the minimums, I have an overclocked 4.6GHz hexacore AMD FX chip with 1866Mhz DDR3 RAM, and my daughter has a quad core 3GHz Xeon chip with ancient 800MHz DDR2 RAM, yet they give the same* minimums in the hotspots around Bree, even her previous set-up, a stone age 2.2Ghz Core2 with 533Mhz DDR2 gave the same minimums. In fact, I have run several chips from stock 3.2-3.4Ghz speeds right up to 5.1GHz overclocks, and the minimums have stayed the same, even when the core LOTRO is using only shows 60-80% usage.

    * +4 fps is the most I have seen, and usually no more than +2.

    I agree with the last part though, inside is ALWAYS OK; you can be inside a building in Bree with 160+ fps showing, then go through the doorway and it is like running into cold treacle - from 45 down to 18fps.
    Well i know in fact that game is very CPU bound. I had MSI Afterburner pushing overlay data about GPU and CPU usage and I saw CPU usage around 30-40% which means one of my 4 cores was hitting 100% and I confirmed that when I manually assigned affinity for lotroclient 1 core and it got hit 100%.
    So lotro client ain't really using more than 1 core. I do get little better performance when I set affinity to 2 cores, even setting affinity to 3 cores may give little more performance but when I assing 2 cores, thouse cores never hit 100% what reveals that client just use one core. Reason why performance does increase when 2 or more cores are assigned is that windows is swapping tasks to different cores depending of core load, but most of the time it's not doing that good job and assign jobs for core that core where lotro is running and if affinity is locked, windows won't swap lotroclient to some other core.
    Or maybe it's just by design that scheduler likes to cycle tasks to all cores.

    And here is screenshot what I took when I locked lotroclient affinity to cores 3 and 4



    As you can see:
    - Vram is not an issue, only little over 1GB in use
    - GPU is not an issue, 10-30% ping pong usage
    - System memory ain't no issue, I have 16GB and lotro client is using like 2-3GB max

    Only issue is lotro client doesn't support more than 1 CPU cores, so only way to boost client performance is to get CPU what clocks like crazy.

  25. #25
    It seems like there was some improvement made in recent months in terms of performance. There is no improvement to sheer framerate and game is still as CPU limited as it was, but stuttering seems to be less frequent and all of those violent stutters are reduced.

 

 
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