Single page Print

Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 has a snazzy new game engine that will stress even the latest graphics cards, and I think we can get reasonably reliable results if we're careful, even if it is an MMO. My test run consisted of a simple stroll through the countryside, which is reasonably repeatable. I didn't join any parties, fight any bandits, or try anything elaborate like that, as you can see in the video below. Also, all of my testing was conducted in daytime, since this game's day/night cycle seems to have an effect on performance.

Yes, we are testing with a single large monitor, and we are "only" testing a single-card Titan config today. Inexplicably, I ran out of Red Bull and wasn't extreme enough to test triple-Titan SLI across three displays. I have several kegs of energy drink on order, though, and am hoping to test Titan SLI in the near future. In the meantime, it turns out you can stress these high-end GPU configs with just a single monitor using the latest games at their highest image quality settings. Even an MMO like this one.

Frame time
in milliseconds
FPS rate
8.3 120
16.7 60
20 50
25 40
33.3 30
50 20

We'll start with plots of the frame rendering times from one of our five test runs. These plots visually represent the time needed to render each frame of animation during the gameplay session. Because these are rendering times, lower numbers on the plot are better—and higher numbers can be very bad indeed.

You can see some really intriguing things in these plots. Generally, the GTX Titan performs quite well, rendering the vast majority of frames in easily less than 20 ms. The table on the right will tell you that works out to over 50 FPS, on average. There are occasional spikes to around 40 ms or so, but that's not so bad—except for the cluster of high frame times near the end of the test run on each GeForce. Subjectively, there is a very noticeable slowdown in this same spot each time, where we're rounding a corner and taking in a new view. The Radeon HD 7970 single- and dual-card configs produce fewer frames at generally higher latencies than the Titan, but they don't have the same problem when rounding that corner. (You'll recall that AMD recently updated its drivers to reduce frame latencies in GW2.) You don't feel the slowdown at all on the Radeons.

Interestingly, both the traditional FPS average and our proposed replacement for it, the 99th percentile frame time, tend to agree that the Titan and GTX 690 perform about the same here and that both are generally faster than the 7970 GHz configs. That one iffy spot on the GeForces is very much an outlier.

The 99th percentile numbers also say something good about how all of these solutions perform. They all render 99% of the animation frames in under 33 milliseconds, so they spend the vast majority of the time during the test run cranking out frames at a rate better than 30 FPS.

We can show the frame latency picture as a curve, to get a broader sense of things. The Titan tracks very closely with the GeForce GTX 690 throughout. Generally, these two cards are the best performers here, offering the smoothest animation. The shape of the curve offers no evidence that multi-GPU microstuttering is an issue on either the dual 7970s or the GTX 690.

However, we know about that one trouble spot at the end of the test run on the GeForces, and it shows up in our measure of "badness," which considers the amount of time spent working on truly long latency frames. (For instance, if our threshold is 50 ms, then a frame that takes 80 ms to render contributes 30 ms to the total time beyond the threshold.) As you can see, that slowdown at the end pushes the three GeForce configs over 50 milliseconds for a little while.

As I've said, you'll notice the problem while playing. Trouble is, you'll also notice that animation is generally smoother on the GeForce cards otherwise, as our other metrics indicate. Lower the "badness" threshold to 16.7 ms—equivalent to 60 FPS—and the Titan and GTX 690 spend the least time above that mark.

So, I'm not sure how one would pick between the performance of the various cards in this one case. It's pretty unusual. I'm happy to be able to show you more precisely how they perform, though. Totally geeking out over that. Let's move on to something hopefully more definitive.