Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

SupCom & Intel Core 2 Quad Gameplay Advantages

Supreme Commander is one of the first games to feature out-of-the-box multi-core processor support. Will a quad-core CPU really show better gameplay? Real world gameplay results plus Vista versus XP performance findings with SupCom.

Introduction

We all want the best gaming experience possible in the games we play. There are two primary hardware factors which attribute to improving the gameplay experience; the video card (GPU) and the processor (CPU) in your system. The most current and powerful video cards that exist today for gamers, are the NVIDIA GeForce 8 series of GPUs, most notably the flagship GeForce 8800 GTX video card. The GeForce 8800 GTX supports the new DirectX 10 API native to Windows Vista. It also produces the best performance we have ever seen in computer video games to date. This is only bested by configuring two 8800 GTX in SLI. The GeForce 8800 series GPU power will allow you to increase in-game quality settings as well as resolution, antialiasing (AA) and anisotropic filtering (AF) which improves visual quality creating a more immersive gaming experience. As such, the video card has the potential to greatly affect your gameplay experience.

However, that potential is only realized when another component of your computer is fast enough to allow the video card to work at its peak efficiency, that is your CPU. The CPU controls several aspects of the game including geometry setup to varying degrees, physics, artificial intelligence (AI), and sound. It is also responsible for keeping the rest of your system running while you are playing the game. If it is not fast or powerful enough, it will choke the video card and become a bottleneck, disallowing the video card to meet its potential in your game. The CPU therefore does carry a great burden for the overall gameplay experience. Today though most games are GPU-limited, meaning that we very rarely seeing gameplay inhibited by todayآ’s more power desktop processors.

With the introduction of multi-core processors, the CPU is evolving into a powerhouse capable to do more tasks at once then it has ever done. There are applications which benefit from multi-core CPUs, and up until now most of those have been mostly related to server tasks or specialized desktop applications. Desktop multi-core CPU advantages havenآ’t been realized until the last couple of years as more people are doing more activities on their computer at one time instead of simply doing a single task. While the advantages of multi-core processors are showing themselves for desktop use now, gaming support for multi-core processors has been severely lacking.

Up until now games have been mostly single-threaded. This means that they are only capable of taking advantage of a single-core on the CPU. If you have dual or quad-core processors the game will not utilize those extra cores efficiently to provide any gameplay experience improvements. Therefore multi-core CPUs have been pointless for gaming. Times are changing though, and we are finally seeing the evolution of gaming take on the advantages that can be had from utilizing multi-core CPUs.

Supreme Commander Multi-Core CPU Support

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There are several games planned this year that will utilize multi-core CPUs and one of those games was just recently released, Supreme Commander. Supreme Commander, a real time strategy (RTS) game, is one of the first games that fully supports out of the box dual and quad-core CPUs. This is taken directly from the readme file:

Dual Core and Performance - Supreme Commander will utilize your dual and quad core processor natively and automatically. Running a dual or quad core processor is one of the best ways to improve performance in Supreme Commander.

We are happy to finally see a game acknowledge the importance of multi-core processors and the potential they can bring to gaming. In this article we are going to play Supreme Commander and compare the gameplay experience on an Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 quad core processor. This processor along our EVGA 680i motherboard gives us the option to disable each core in the BIOS. This will allow us to disable two cores so that we can play SupCom using a آ“Dual-Coreآ” CPU, and also disable three cores to give us a آ“Single-Coreآ” CPU on the same exact system configuration.

We will directly compare single-core, dual-core and quad-core gameplay in Supreme Commander. We will also run several آ“apples-to-applesآ” tests and look at CPU utilization in this game. In our testing we found some interesting performance differences between Windows Vista and Windows XP which will also be explored on each page.