Diablo III Beta: How Low Can It Go?

The Diablo III beta runs on just about anything!

Get your mousing fingers ready: the Diablo III beta is upon us. Its predecessors didn't require much of a computer to play on; however, games tend to get more demanding as time goes by. But as we found while testing with the Diablo III beta, you don't need to run out and upgrade aging rigs to powerhouses to get the most out of the upcoming game. If we haven't mentioned the word "beta" enough yet - keep in mind that performance can change between this version of the game and the final.

Graphics

Blizzard kept the number of settings you can adjust to a minimum in the Diablo III beta. We could adjust textures, shadows, and physics settings. A pair of bars at the bottom of the settings page let you adjust draw distances for clutter, but they didn't seem to affect performance much. FSAA, while available in the menu, was nonfunctional--again, keep in mind, this is a beta, and these settings may change in the future.

We've taken a video to demonstrate how the various settings look. We noticed that high-quality settings have soft shadows that closely match the shape of characters. High-resolution textures have more detail in them, something that's easier to notice in the screenshot rollovers. High-quality physics change the way objects that get tossed around, like exploding barrels and crumbling structures.

Shadow Quality

High Medium Low Disabled

Texture Quality

High Medium

When we switch over to medium-quality settings, the textures lose some detail, and the shadows become a little less accurate. Lowering the quality of the shadows is a great place to reclaim some performance, but we wouldn't move the textures down unless it were absolutely necessary. Low-quality shadows look amorphous and blobby. Disabling shadows entirely isn't recommended, because playing without them is jarring.

Performance

We tried the Diablo III beta on a variety of machines, and what surprised us the most was how low we could keep going. Our first experiences with the game were on the Windows 8 preview using a Phenom X3 and a Radeon HD 5770. The game ran fine at maximum settings and at a resolution of 1920x1080. We experienced some slowdowns, but the frame rate drops had more to do with a lack of proper drivers for the operating system than actual game-related demands.

Hopping onto our test beds, we thought we'd limbo down a bit and pair up an Intel Core i3 with a practically ancient GeForce 9800 GT. Frame rates ended up pegged at 60, the maximum the monitor allowed with V-sync enabled, and we were still running with everything cranked at 1920. Clearly, we were still overestimating the game's demands.

Off we went to our dusty 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo paired with a GeForce 8800 GT. This has to be the bottom, right? Wrong. We maxed out everything and still ended up with a machine that could output 60 frames per second under normal conditions and in average battles.

We finally got the game to chunk up when we dropped the video card down to a GeForce 8600 GTS, a midrange card that was released in 2007. At 1920x1080, with maximum settings, the game was playable if a bit jerky. Dropping the resolution down to 1280x720 resulted in smooth gameplay at 51 frames per second.

Diablo III Beta Performance

Take Away

In practice, only the weakest computers will need to have their graphical settings adjusted. Any modern computer built in the past two years will be able to run the Diablo III beta with everything maxed out, and at extremely high resolutions, provided it doesn't have onboard graphics or a bargain-bin video card. In our performance tests, we could still run with maximum settings, although at slightly lower resolutions, on four-year-old computers outfitted with the slowest of Core 2 Duos and a middling-for-its-time GeForce 8600 GTS.

Again, these performance stats apply only to the beta version of the game and are subject to change. However, if the performance of the final version of the game doesn't deviate much from the beta, it's possible that the game could run extremely well at high settings on computers that are a few years old. Maybe not surprising coming from Blizzard, a company that typically makes sure its game scale well to a variety of different hardware setups, but good news nonetheless.

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Discussion

103 comments
jbond1616
jbond1616

I'm so excited for this game! I own the first two so this one is a pretty big deal to me. I hope to be able to afford it as soon as it comes out and not have to wait for it. Though I will have to get a better laptop because mine can barely run the games that I have! I hope to get an Alienware or maybe a custom built one.

John Bond | http://www.milopetersonford.com/ 

siuol112
siuol112

So, here are a million people talking about how Diablo is great because it's very polished, and has a great story. Well, after playing through Act 1 and the beginning of act 2, let me say the story is pure shit. I'm assuming most of the last 3 years has been balancing, but they could have figured that out earlier by doing extended betas. I loved Diablo I and II, but this one just sucks. I can't believe I payed $60 to be frustrated (hello 32 hours of launch day problems, not to mention LAG ISSUES IN SINGLE PLAYER).

vadagar1
vadagar1

so the 550 Ti will work !!?? BAH who Am I kidding it will run this b****h with ultra settings LULZ

da_chub
da_chub

its almost like fate. my pc just died. so im limping along with an old ibm with xp until may when im buying a new laptop at the same time i get diablo 3.

Jimi_13
Jimi_13

well, that's lower than my gforce 9400, and some parts sure were choppy

stbays
stbays

I'm curious about the texture settings. It's got high and medium. Will there be an option to set it to low? My laptop (A Dell Precision M65 2.17ghz, 4gb ram, and a Quadro 350m) runs it in with almost a playable frame rate and I bet would be smooth if I could turn that setting down one more notch.

bgres077
bgres077

8800 GT still rockin 5 years later.

Glassy
Glassy

I have a geforce 7800gt. Test that one.

t_biggin
t_biggin

I'm all for "graphics don't make a game" but after this long in development and the size of Blizzard it had better look nice. It also has to deal with Torchlight 2 (& maybe 3 if it keeps getting pushed) and you know that's going to look better with each PC iteration. Good on Blizzard for making a nice looking game run smoothly on a laptop but I've got a desktop PC and there're expectations you either meet, exceed, or fail. I'll wait on the release, whenever that is, before judging.

RossRichard
RossRichard

If anything, performance might improve with the release. Betas aren't usually fully optimized.

sean0331
sean0331

That means my laptop can run it! oh yeah!!

McTabish
McTabish

I just ran this beta on a 486 with 8mb of Ram and a 166mhz processor and it plays amazings... the hardest part was saving all the files onto 3.5 floppy disks to install it! ;-)

mickeypopa
mickeypopa

@ Mitch-F & pcostix: Agreed. People need to stop drooling over graphics. It doesn't make a game. Good story, replay value and bug-free gameplay do.

KidX13
KidX13

i don't care what this article says, I can GUARANTEE that it will not run on my crappy PC :P

dtmmaxx
dtmmaxx

I wonder how far back they will push the game in 2012

Anatholos
Anatholos

I'm so tired of waiting for this game... I used to be exited if there was diablo 3 news, lol.

pcostix
pcostix

@Mitch-F I completely agree with you. People worry too much about graphics, a bug free game with a good story and nice gameplay, its all i want for Diablo 3. Wish there was a offline version of the auction house (its gonna ruin it for me)

Mitch-F
Mitch-F

Graphics are great... but its game play/story quality that mean the most to me and Blizzard has rarely disappointed. Some of the greatest games in my collection have the worst graphics...

Kastigador
Kastigador

@Magic924 The signature element of Blizzard games is polish and balance, not graphics card melting sheen. Sure, it'd be awesome if the textures were photorealistic on top of the game being polished gameplay wise, but this is point and click 3rd person RPG we're talking about, not an FPS. Gotta scale back somewhere. Frankly, you should really save your killer gaming rig money for the next console gen leap when the only games released on PC are poorly optimized ports that strain all but the most high end rig. Not that I don't admire a screaming machine every day of the week that ends with Y, it's just functionally overkill for most people these days.

h3rb
h3rb

@Magic924 There is nothing horrible about the graphics here. It's Diablo, not CoD. And thank the maker for that! Diablo gamers (the bulk of them) aren't looking for a flashy game that takes 1.5 hours to complete, and bends you over on the price. Nay, they're looking for quality gameplay and lengthy content. It's probably safe to say that a large number of the people buying this game don't bother with top end computers, and are likely on average, around 30+ years of age. Call the graphics horrible if you like, but you only serve to display your own foolishness.

chechak7
chechak7

i will wait for full game

Magic924
Magic924

A 2012 game with horrible graphics so that ActivisionBlizzard can sell millions of copies and make a profit. (good for them, bad for us) Don't get me wrong, the art is fantastic from a distance. The engine however, is outdated and zooming in will only prove me right. Guess my Xfire cards will be sitting on the sideline if I decide to buy this. Time will tell when they release the amount of content they don't have.

pawns186
pawns186

@ sal_gado An 8600gts is to high? My friend you can pick up an 8600gts for 30-60 bucks lol. That is great news....

pawns186
pawns186

@ sal_gado An 8600gts is to high? My friend you can pick up an 8600gts for 30-60 bucks lol. That is great news....

ninjabuch
ninjabuch

I really want to test Diablo 3 Beta with my Nvidia GTS 250!!! Tell me how i can get the Beta version.....

ninjabuch
ninjabuch

Hello friends.... how can i get a Beta version of diablo 3? is there any prerequisites for a person to get the Beta version to test?

Hurvl
Hurvl

"Disabling shadows entirely isn't recommended, because playing without them is jarring." Lol, I always disable shadows, grass, sky and whatnot that doesn't lend much to the visual experience. I dont spend much time looking uppwards or downwards, the characters and the overall environment is more important .

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

@FkThisName What are you saying, man? 5-10 yrs behind technology? Are you mad? Lol, look at the trailers and screenshots, it's not old. Actually, it's the other way around, Diablo 3, like Starcraft 2, looks very well. Take a look at those textures, those shadows, not to mention the destructible environments and physics! That is hard to find even a shooter with those levels of flying bodies and limbs in real time! Let's name a game that tries to push limits: Rage... Has anyone seen how that "massive high textures" runs on a PC? What about all that dilema about drivers and textures just poping before your eyes? That is not a push limit game; it's a freak one; a shame. And take a look at its system requirements to play (not so) well.

Brakkyn
Brakkyn

I was shocked when the StarCraft 2 beta ran on my system, and later, so did the demo. Althrough all the detail settings had to be reduced to the lowest levels, it didn't matter--I could play. Here's hoping Diablo III will give me and my system the same deal.

p1k3n
p1k3n

if it will be like starcraft 2 you have 2 games in 1 High & low quality games :D Awesome and cartoon like ;D still wondering what the other graphic settings are mhh

FkThisName
FkThisName

When you stay 5-10 years behind technology, its easy to make your games run on old computers. If it works for blizzard, then I having nothing against it. But we shouldnt compare them to games that push the limits. Its easy to stay behind the times.

GabrielOnuris
GabrielOnuris

That's why I like Blizzard: it is not because their games has poor graphics (and it doesn't); but because they polish their games very well, to play beautifully on almost any computer. That's the way pc games are meant to be played.

sal_gado
sal_gado

What do you mean "How Low Can It Go?"? You stopped on an 8600GTS? Seriously? What about a Radeon 3200 that plays Dirt 2/3 in low resolutions? What about Geforce 9400 that comes in many notebooks? And what about AMD's A8*** APU's? What about i3's graphics card? An 8600GTS is high for notebook and tight-budget gamers, please go lower, as low as you can!

gino_pachino
gino_pachino

@GONtheSKYLORD totatly agreed whit you there...you can have amazing graphic and a good game:uncharted and metal gears4 is an great exambple..BUT it rare you hyave the both most of the time they work hard ass hell on the graphic and then they do a normal gameplay(when i say normal gameplay it mean nothing new nohting special).....and it funny that you say i am defeding the game cuz i am hating many fact of diablo 3 like the aution house and i dont realy like the class(i will wait before to buy)..i am defending the fact that diablo is not a game serie for graphics :P

foiduenigma
foiduenigma

Part of what makes a game's requirements lower is eloquent code. Most companies sacrifice good coding for faster release. But since Blizzard is Blizzard they have the time to make sure everything is efficient on a script level. Hopefully the Beta will help make everything even more streamlined. Although I'm sure it would become even better if I got into the Beta :P

GONtheSKYLORD
GONtheSKYLORD

@gino_pachino I dont know where this idea comes from that it has to be one or the other. You can have both great graphics and gameplay in the same game, and with the amount of time they've been working on this, they've certainly had more than enough time. It was their choice and they weren't making a comprimise, so no need to defend them.

gino_pachino
gino_pachino

honestly.....who play diablo 3 for graphic.....kids and dump gamers ?:P...diablo and blizzard game are suposed to be all about the gameplay ...that explain why all their game is masterpiece....when I play a game whit epic graphic it allway make me feels like this game is so amazing....then after 1 week I get bored of the gameplay(offer nothing specialor new...but graphics)

justin01
justin01

Nice to know I can run it smoothly on my old laptop. Now I know what I'll be doing during lectures.

fabiosmartini
fabiosmartini

It certainly doesn't surprise me you can run that game on a low specs computer. After all, the game started to be produced back in '05 (or earlier).

Doomrul
Doomrul

i don't know how low you can go performance wise but i can tell you one thing , Blizzard can go very low to fork money out of unsuspecting fanboys ... Oh boy yes they can go really low , low enough to win any Limbo contest...

Rooten
Rooten

blizzard is blizzard...they always did there games so that everyone can run them

Jimi_13
Jimi_13

the thing that kills it for me is the damage text, it's so lame and makes me feel even more nerdy than I did yesterday

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

No kidding it doesn't take much to run it...its outdated and honestly doesn't look that great.Torchlight looked better... I loved Diablo 1 and 2 but im skipping this.I have been waiting many years and was excited.But the class choices,the terrible models,the cash auction house, and the DRM has killed it for me. Just like Dungeon Siege 3 was the death of the Dungeon Siege franchise, this may be the beginning of the end for Diablo.It already is for me.

drokmore
drokmore

great to hear, I dont really want to upgrade my cpu for one game as I many play on consoles and hope to get the most life out of this rig.

jmrwacko
jmrwacko

It's sort of funny that I could run this game on my computer I bought in 2003.

Flavorysoup
Flavorysoup

well this does't really matter unless you got into the beta.. and Notch didn't get in so what chance do we have :P

andyslaker
andyslaker

Good to know I won't have to upgrade my 285. Finally some good news about this game.