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Settings, let's talk about TGC Quality Settings!

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  • Settings, let's talk about TGC Quality Settings!

    With all the people buying expensive hardware in order to get super-duper image quality in TGC I thought it was time for a thread discussing how to actually achieve this!

    It would be nice to buy a top-end graphics card and turn all the settings to the max but in TGC that's a sure fire way to get terrible results. There are actually 9 quality related settings in TGC and one needs to understand them all for the best results.

    I spent one looong evening once playing with the settings. After all that work I thought it would be good to post so others wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel. There's actually a lot to cover so it will be uber long but hopefully it covers all the basic information needed to optimize the video quality settings.

    Since it's long, I'll split it into multiple posts. They'll cover:

    1) What to look for when adjusting image quality
    2a) TGC settings that affect quality - the easy ones
    2b) TGC settings that affect quality - the tricky ones
    3) How to tune HQ Tree Count, HQ Tree Distance and Object Detail
    4) Quick tip for seeing the effect of Tree Count, Tree Distance and Object Detail visually
    5) Suggested TGC settings

    If you have something to add or I've gone horribly wrong somewhere please feel free to post up!

    Posts to follow...

  • #2
    What to look for when adjusting image quality

    A lot of people start fiddling with settings without understanding what they are trying to change/improve. But in the end there are basically only three areas we can affect.

    1) Smoothness - fluid motion without stuttering

    2) Graphic Texture/Detail - the actual detail and realism of objects in the image including the amount of objects in the image at any given time.

    3) Absence of (annoying) artifacts - The most common are objects morphing from low quality to high quality, objects suddenly popping into the scene, frame stuttering, image streaking or tearing and object flickering.

    The goal is to get smooth flowing video with good detail and the absence of annoying artifacts.

    Typically one decides on a desired level of smoothness and then adjusts the quality settings to hold that level while maximizing image detail and minimize artifacts. In TGC the settings inter-act and some are even mutually exclusive so you can't just "turn it to the max" and get good results.

    Most people think of quality only in terms of detail in objects. But TGC doesn't actually have a setting for this. Detail is baked in once you launch the program. The settings control all the other factors which can add up to a significantly better or worse viewing experience. So it's important to keep them in mind when discussing TGC quality settings.

    In any case, the complete list (I hope) of TGC settings affecting image quality is listed here:

    The Easy Ones:
    • Resolution
    • Launch Quality (Low, Med, High)
    • Anti-Aliasing
    • Depth of Field
    • Vsync
    • Water Quality

    The Tricky Ones:
    • HQ Tree Count
    • HQ Tree Distance
    • Object Detail
    They will be discussed in the next two posts.
    Last edited by FaultyClubs; 10-09-2016, 09:21 PM.


    • #3
      TGC settings that affect quality - the easy ones

      These are:
      • Resolution
      • Launch Quality (Low, Med, High)
      • Anti-Aliasing
      • Depth of Field
      • Vsync
      • Water Quality

      Resolution - This is the number of pixels in the image. It directly affects image detail. Until 4k displays become common 1920x1080p is the high quality standard.

      Note that resolution affects frame rate (ie smoothness) so on weaker cards dropping the resolution will free up horsepower that can be better used to improve smoothness and/or image artifacts.

      Also, for the same visual quality, smaller screen requires lower resolution than larger screen. If you can't see a difference then use the lower resolution. Otherwise you are wasting horsepower than can be better spent on smoothness or other image quality factors.

      Launch Quality (Low, Med, High) - HB claims this sets the overall quality of the image and should be set to High for maximum quality. This seems to pre-bake a range of internal parameters including setting the amount of detail used for objects. I can't say how the different levels compare since I've only used High. If someone has figured out what specifically is different between these settings feel free to chime in.

      Having said that, I did try Medium once and I didn't see much, if any, difference in terms of actual object detail. Mainly I saw issues with shadows and objects morphing or popping into view, and some missing objects as well. Turning the OD setting up make it look strangely identical to the High setting.

      This setting affects horsepower so Medium might be worth a try for people using weaker cards.

      Anti-Aliasing - ON makes the image soft, OFF makes it sharp and crisp. There is no right or wrong. Use the one you like. Most people prefer ON. There may be a horsepower hit with older cards so watch out for that.

      Depth of Field - This tries to simulate depth by blurring more distance objects. It isn't wll implemented in TGC, looks bad and consumes horsepower so just leave it OFF.

      VSync - This setting affects a number of things and is handled differently depending whether one has Vsync ON or OFF. It is intended to affect smoothness and related artifacts.

      When OFF the graphics card will operate at its maximum frame rate (constantly varying). There is no visual benefit going faster than 60 fps. If your card is running significantly faster than 60 then it isn't working hard enough on image quality and you should increase your image quality settings for a better image. A good rule of thumb is to have it holding 60 fps about 95+% of the time and not let it drop below 50 or so.

      When set to ON the graphics card frame rate will sync to the monitor frame rate (typically 60 fps). This only works if the card can keep up. If the card can't run at 60 fps then it will drop out of VSync and behave as if Vsync was OFF. This happens automatically behind the scene. On modern cards (970/1060 and up) spare horsepower should be applied to improving image qualilty settings. The same tuning rule of thumb applies, set your quality settings so 95+% of the time you're are holding 60 fps and don't let it drop much below 50.

      On modern cards there is often little smoothness difference between these settings. There is no right or wrong -- pick the one with the least artifacts. The artifacts typically are jerkiness, stuttering and lines tearing across the screen. If you see no difference then leave it ON.

      Water Quality - This significantly improves the look of water and should be set to MAX for top quality. However the MAX setting consumes quite a bit of horsepower so lesser cards may have to make a trade-off against smoothness.
      Last edited by FaultyClubs; 10-09-2016, 09:28 PM.


      • #4
        TGC settings that affect quality - the tricky ones

        These are:
        • HQ Tree Count
        • HQ Tree Distance
        • Object Detail

        HQ Tree Count - This controls the maximum number of trees that will be rendered in HQ.

        Only trees within the HQ Tree Distance will be rendered in HQ. If there are more trees than the Tree Count number within the HQ Tree Distance not all of them will be rendered in HQ and you may see some trees/shadows morphing from low quality into HQ as you move closer.

        Course and holes vary in their tree density so if this is set too high your frame rate can really take a nose-dive. Use this number to protect the low end of your frame rate (ie keep it above 50 fps or so). In my experience it is better to preserve smoothness than worry about the occasional tree morphing from low quality to HQ within your field of view. You don't want a poorly designed course driving your overall settings.

        Higher HQ Tree Distance requires higher Tree Count to avoid random morphing of HQ Trees within the FOV. Tree Distance has a larger effect on horsepower than Tree Count due to being an area function versus linear.

        HQ Tree Distance - This sets the radius within which HQ Trees will be rendered. Set too close and you will see artifacts such as low quality trees and shadows popping into HQ trees as you move forward. Typically these effects occur at edge of your FOV. If set too far you will be sacrificing smoothness due to wasting graphics power rendering HQ trees that will never be seen and/or you will need dramatically higher Tree Count to prevent trees randomly morphing into HQ.

        I'm very careful about setting Tree Distance any higher than necessary since it has a non-linear effect on the number of HQ trees rendered and the minimum acceptable HQ Tree Count.

        Object Detail - This setting is the source of much angst, grief and confusion with TGC. It doesn't help that it is mis-named since it doesn't actually affect detail in an object. Rather it controls how close you have to be in order to see certain objects. As the setting is increased objects are visible from further away. So it would be better called Object View Distance.

        This setting controls objects popping into the scene as you move (typically plantable objects such as grass, markers, building features etc). On the lowest setting some objects are not visible and only become visible as you get closer. Increasing this value makes these objects visible from further away so they won't "pop in" as you get closer.

        Object Detail also has the wicked side-effect of multiplying HQ Tree Count and HQ Tree Distance by the Object Detail setting! For example Object Detail = 5 will multiple your Tree Count and Tree Distance settings by 5.

        E.g. If your Tree Count and Tree Distance were set correctly at OD=1 then they will be way off if you raise OD. This results in ridiculous numbers where you are rendering every tree on the golf course whether you can see it or not causing stuttering and lack of smoothness. So it is important to remember when increasing Object Detail you need to re-normalize your HQ Tree Count/HQ Distance.

        Bottomline: Object Detail doesn't actually change an objects detail. Instead it acts as a multiplier to view settings for both tree and certain non-tree objects. It effectively changes the overall number of HQ objects in the image. In other words it controls the presence or absence of these objects not their actual detail. Raise it only if you are being bothered by objects popping into your field of view as you get closer and remember to re-adjust your Tree settings.
        Last edited by FaultyClubs; 10-09-2016, 10:00 PM.


        • #5
          Tuning Tree Count, Tree Distance and Object Detail

          These three settings are unique to TGC and pretty confusing until you can wrap your mind around them.

          There are probably lots of ways to do it, but the algorithm I use to tune these settings is as follows:

          a) If VSYNC is on, then temporarily set VSYNC=OFF in order to monitor the actual frame rate.

          b) Set Object Detail first because it affects Tree Count/Tree distance. Choose a course with random objects teleporting into the scene and select the OD setting to fix that problem. Keither5150 was the first to suggest using OD=3 for that purpose and in my experience most of the courses work well with OD=3.

          c) Next adjust Tree Distance. Initially set the Tree Count to maximum. Then, starting with a safe Tree Distance, lower Tree Distance until trees/shadows pop into into HQ when doing a Flyover (J key). Ignore frame rate.

          d) Once the Tree Distance is set, reduce Tree Count until trees/shadows randomly morph into HQ. At that point check the frame rate. If it is above 50 fps or so it's a good number IMO. If it is too low then reduce Tree Count until the frame rate becomes acceptable. For me it is better to have a smooth image than a perfect image.

          e) Finally, verify settings on a number of courses. Find a Tree Count and Tree Distance setting that works for a wide variety of courses. Since Tree Distance has a large effect on horsepower and the subsequent Tree Count setting, keep it to the minimum that works. In the end I'll find a setting that works for 95% of the courses. I don't worry about 100% because there are just some poorly designed courses out there and I don't want them driving my parameters.
          Last edited by FaultyClubs; 10-09-2016, 10:01 PM.


          • #6
            Here's a quick tip if you want to see the inter-relationship between TreeCount, TreeDistance, and ObjectDetail visually.

            Go on course and hit the Q Scout key. Let it go to the end of its travel and then scroll to maximum altitude and look down on the golf course. With this view you can see the radius boundary where HQ trees are no longer rendered in HQ. (Use the right mouse button to tilt the land a little if needed.) Play with the three parameters and observe what happens.

            One picture is worth a thousand words so I've attached pictures of Crooked Stick (Protee) course showing the view from above where you can see the HQ radius line. In one picture the HQ Tree Distance is at 200 and the other it is at 400. Both are using OD=3.

            It's harder to see the line on a low density course so pick ones that have a reasonable tree density. Those are the ones you want the numbers to fit anyway.

            HQ Tree Distance=200 (OD=3)Click image for larger version

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            HQ Tree Distance=400 (OD=3)
            Click image for larger version

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            Last edited by FaultyClubs; 10-09-2016, 09:47 PM.


            • #7
              Suggested Settings

              So given all that what settings to use?

              Well, some settings are pure personal choice so you decide on those. Re-read the post on TGC settings and check off each one.

              Other settings will depend on your video card coupled with your desire to see all possible objects on a course with or without artifacts. I'd suggest there are three natural levels to choose from.

              1) Protee's recommended settings listed here including Water=MAX.

              Protee knows their product better than any of us so it seems a good place to start. Also this is a well-documented baseline for troubleshooting.

              2) There is no way to actually increase the level of detail in objects. That seems to be fixed by internal TGC parameters set when launching on HIGH. So the next level is only for people who are bothered by visual artifacts.

              In my case I was bothered by trees and shadows morphing into HQ. IMO both Protee's HQ Tree Distance and HQ Tree Count seem too low given the recommended card of gtx 970. A Tree Count=2000 and Tree Distance = 1200 worked much better for me and I still have good frame rates with my gtx 970.

              3) The final level addresses objects popping into view as you get closer. A lot of people don't even notice this phenomenon so if you don't care then don't bother. But if you do then increase the Object Detail setting until the artifacts go away. Object Detail 3 with Tree Count=2000 and Tree Distance=300 seems about right for me with the gtx 970.

              If I had a stronger card than my gtx 970 I'd significantly increase Tree Count since I occasionally see trees/shadows morph into HQ. Anomalies with Tree Distance or Object Detail are so rare that I probably wouldn't change those. If I had horsepower left over I'd probably let the frame rate increase a bit to help protect from the occasional stutter.

              And if I had a weaker card...well I'd probably sell it and buy at least a gtx 1060.

              Anyway, that's it. Hopefully it was worth the effort to write up.

              Feel free to post if you have anything to add!
              Last edited by FaultyClubs; 10-09-2016, 09:56 PM.


              • #8
                Great article! Thanks for taking the time. I know you saved me some time.


                • #9
                  Great job Faulty , really appreciate all that work you put into this I will need to read it a couple times to digest this but will definitely use this information and execute this into my setup before I sign on today and play a game... Thanks again great write up..

                  This should be put to a sticky as to not lose this in the threads for others to find easily....
                  Last edited by aeroburner; 10-09-2016, 10:50 PM.


                  • #10
                    Click image for larger version

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                    Set my setting to below my FPS at this detail was 45 with sync off but if you spin 90 degrees it shoots up to 94 must be the houses water etc. causing the 42 but this is same hole same view that you had up

                    Faulty so lets say we are all pushing a 1060 or better do you have a setting that you would say would be the best, I am running 1080 and have plenty of horsepower but lets say 1060 and up would you put
                    object detail to 3
                    water to max
                    tree count to 2000
                    tree distance to 1000
                    VSync ON or I set to OFF as you said for testing but leave to off and let the FPS have a little breathing room
                    Depth of field OFF
                    Anti Aliasing ON
                    or am I going in wrong direction...
                    thanks for the help
                    Last edited by aeroburner; 10-10-2016, 12:05 AM.


                    • FaultyClubs
                      FaultyClubs commented
                      Editing a comment
                      >>>> tree distance to 1000

                      Yes, but this setting would not be right. It may be fine on OD=1 but, due to the multiplier effect, it is far too much for OD=3.

                      There is no benefit to having a Tree Distance more than needed. In fact it is a negative even with ultra fast cards because there is an increased tendency of stuttering and likelihood of seeing random low quality trees in the field of view (FOV).

                      You can actually see in your picture that it is far too much. The HQ tree distance is way beyond the hole #2 boundaries. Please note however the aerial picture is for getting a feel for how the parameters behave it is not the best way to set them. Best to use the tuning algorithm described in post #5 because that's what you see when you are actually on the course and it converges to very precise numbers.

                      I recommended 300 and just tried it on this hole. It worked perfectly so no benefit to going higher. If you find a hole that needs more then I would be interested (assuming it isn't a goofy course).

                  • #11
                    got it thank you


                    • #12
                      FC...... Fantastic read and very informative. This is a must read for everyone. Usually, when it comes to computer or video game talk, I will have something to add. But I think you have covered all the bases quite well. At the end of the day, each person will have to set it up how they like it best. For me.... smoothness is much more important than image quality. The next guy may think differently.
                      Thanks for taking the time to put all of this down in one place.

                      Wait a second.... I have one thing to add...... if you use a saved replay to test your settings....... you will have the exact same conditions each and every time.
                      That's it ... that's all I have to add.
                      Last edited by keither5150; 10-10-2016, 03:09 AM.


                      • #13
                        This is the most complete and informative thread I have seen. Thank you very much for all your efforts.


                        • #14
                          Fantastic post. Never really took the time to optimize this and will after reading this. Awesome addition to the forum!


                          • #15
                            Thank you faulty.