Starcraft II Beta Performance and Image Preview

The Starcraft II beta has arrived! Read on to see how aspect ratio affects the game, as well as for image quality and performance comparisons.

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Blizzard's known for making games that don't demand too much from PCs. The original Starcraft and Warcraft games ran on just about any computer. Warcraft III marked the first game where gamers even needed a 3D accelerator to play a Blizzard game, which was more than half a decade after the original 3dfx Voodoo GPU was released. These days, it'd be suicide to release a AAA title without any 3D support. Blizzard has upped its minimum requirements over the years, but it's still keeping an eye out for gamers with aging rigs. The Starcraft II beta falls into that same category. Modern machines will benefit from the added horsepower, and there certainly isn't much of a barrier to entry if you just want to play.

Aspect Ratios

Compared to the original Starcraft, which didn't even feature resolution options (640x480 for everyone!), Starcraft II is chock-full of settings. We went through all the various resolution types to determine which aspect ratio provided the most viewable onscreen area. The screenshots are arranged in order from most viewable area to least. The basic trend we found was this: the wider the screen, the better. You don't need to run out and buy a monitor with a wider aspect ratio to take advantage of wider resolutions. A simple change to the graphics settings, in the driver's control panel, should allow you to run lower but wider resolutions. If you're not averse to stretched images, you don't even have to bother changing the driver settings.

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16:9 15:9 16:10 4:3 5:4

The table below summarizes some of the more popular screen resolutions and their corresponding aspect ratios.

Aspect Ratio Resolutions
16:9 1280x720 1360x768 1600x900 1920x1080
15:9 1280x768      
16:10 1280x800 1440x900 1680x1050 1920x1200
4:3 1024x768 1280x960 1600x1200  
5:4 1280x1024      

Image Comparison

The Starcraft II beta has a ton of graphical settings you can tweak. Many of them are hard to demonstrate with screenshots alone because explosions and flying debris don't translate well in static images. We've taken comparison shots of the preset quality settings and the shaders to demonstrate how much the game changes. Each of the shots might differ from actual in-game shots because many of the settings require a full restart to fully adjust. We decided to go for identical shots--rather than actual depictions--because the differing bases and random start locations would make comparisons difficult.

Preset Quality

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Ultra High Medium Low

Shaders

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Extreme Ultra High Medium Low

Performance

It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway: The game is in beta. It's not done yet. The performance we see today probably won't be representative of the final experience. Our high-end system (which isn't even all that tricked out), outfitted with a Core i7 920 and a GeForce 280 GTX ran the game with nary a hiccup. Dropping down to a triple-core Phenom paired with a GeForce 9600 GT, we could still manage ultra-quality settings at fairly high resolutions. Our dusty Pentium 4 and GeForce 7600 GT combo struggled. It ran the game, but it certainly wasn't pretty.

System Setup:
High-End System: Intel i7-920, Intel DX58S0, 3GB DDR3, 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 280 GTX, Forceware 196.21.

Mid-Range System: AMD Phenom 8750, GA-MA78GM-S2H, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT, Forceware 196.21.

Minimum Requirements System: Intel Pentium 4 3.8GHz, eVGA 680SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 750GB Seagate 7200.11 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows 7 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 7600 GT, Nvidia ForceWare 196.21.

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