The Stuttering of Ethan Carter

I mentioned before that my i3-2100 had just been updated to an i5-2400 (still from the Sandy Bridge family, what a progress). While this is going to save my bun in some future games for sure, I’m not out of the woods yet. My CPU was excusable because I had bought it way back in 2011, when The Witcher 2 was still not out yet. It was a pretty big reason for upgrading from my previous Pentium Dual Core E5200.

What is a bit less excusable is the GPU. I bought my HD 7850 back in April 2013, so it’s only been two years and half since then. Now let’s face it, 30 months is not that much, even in computer terms. But in my infinite wisdom, I assumed that 1GB of memory would be enough. Of course, I could have seen it coming. The PS4 had been already announced after all. I should have known it wasn’t going to be enough at all. So now the result is that I need to play essentially any new games at Low or Medium texture settings. Everything else may be set to even High, now that the CPU can handle it, but textures are still the bottleneck point. And I have a 1366×768 monitor, if it were FullHD then I’d be stuck to Low on everything. And again, the 7850 itself is no powerhouse to begin with. So in the end, while I wait for a good deal on at least a GTX 960 or something like that, I have to make do.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux
Impressive, most impressive. But less impressive because of how it runs.

But one interesting thing about the new consoles is that they are often stuck to 30fps, and their architectures are more similar to the PC than before. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but many games we see today will sometimes have framerate control built directly into them. The Crew was one, but The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Redux also allows you to choose between 30fps, 60fps and unlimited framerate. I haven’t seen this option in the original game, so I guess they added it for the UE4 port, which was itself done for the new PS4 version. Many thanks.

While the i5 now lets me run at 60fps much better than before, there are still some areas where the 7850 struggles. So being able to just run at 30fps all the time would be great, right? Well, if only it worked properly. The 30fps lock in the game results in ridiculously bad, constant stuttering.

Entering a dilapidated house is always hazardous, but fortunately, videogame characters don't need to care.
Entering a dilapidated house is always hazardous, but fortunately, videogame characters don’t need to care.

I haven’t heard anyone else complaining, though that may be simply because very few PC gamers are going to care about a 30fps limiter (master race, etc) . Either way, it meant I had to do some tests myself. A simple framerate check via RadeonPro shows that the game is actually running at 31-32fps throughout. Now that is a really really bad idea, and explains everything. I had a similar issue with Half-Life 2, which was also running at 61fps for whatever reason. And I remember never being able to reliably fix the stuttering in the classic Serious Sam games (a pretty good part of why I play the HD versions now).

In itself, it’s no big deal. While in-game built framerate limiters are horrible, just about any tool will do it better for you. But AMD is somewhat behind on these terms, I think. The Catalyst control panel only lets you limit the framerate to 30fps for all appications when active, not just any. And while RadeonPro works very well (and fixed my problem indeed), having to use a third-party tool is still somewhat disheartening. AMD should be caring about this stuff themselves.

This is a really good tool. Lets you control a bunch of things that the Catalyst doesn't even want you to know about. As you can see from the list, it has helped me several times before.
This is a really good tool. Lets you control a bunch of things that the Catalyst doesn’t even want you to know about. As you can see from the list, it has helped me several times before.

With some luck, the upcoming Crimson software will be a little more hands-on. After all, even if I do buy a new GPU eventually, I’m still bound to run into some issues, especially with the trouble of some recent PC ports. But in the meanwhile, as I look for astronauts and magicians and a disappeared boy, I have to do so with yet another program running in the tray.

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