30 March 2008

nVidia 8800 Frustrations

We've had several EQ2 players complaining about stuttering issues with their nVidia GeForce 8800s. Enough that I requested a machine with the card in it from our Compatibility Lab so that we could diagnose the problem. We were able to reproduce the problem right away. The programmer who looked into the problem used MS PIX to isolate the cause and discovered that some Release() calls were taking over 100ms! So, it appears that sometimes when lots of dynamic allocation (and freeing) is happening, returning resources to Direct3D can take WAY too long.

It seems EQ2 isn't the only game affected. UT2003 and UT2004 and Team Fortress 2 as well as Test Drive Unlimited have people reporting problems. Even a Mac user reports issues using applications. Curiously, however, some games seem to be largely unaffected but I don't know why.

With so many games affected but comparable- and lower-end cards not having issues, I suspect the card and/or the drivers. The data we collected from PIX regarding Release() supports this theory. Furthermore, we've been able to adapt one of the Direct3D sample apps to demonstrate this issue. The fact that newer cards seem to work better and some people flat out don't have the issue suggest that it might be hardware, but I'm just speculating. nVidia is usually hailed as one of the better hardware/driver providers, but recently reports are surfacing that paint a different picture (pun only slightly intended).

So, assuming nVidia doesn't (or can't) fix this problem, where do we go from here? If the problem is specifically limited to Release() calls, we could cache textures and vertex and index buffers instead of releasing them, but this has its own set of problems. We've tried to open contact with nVidia, but so far have been unable to get a response (update).

If you're using a GeForce 8800-series card with EQ2 and have stuttering problems, my apologies. We're working on the problem.

Update 4/4/2008: See post
Update 4/16/2008: See post
Update 7/1/2008: See post
Posts tagged "nVidia"


Anonymous said...

It's nice to know someone is looking into this. I love playing EQ2 but sometimes the issues with the stuttering (I have an 8800gtx), crazy shadows, and color profile issues get a little tedious :(

I wonder why nvidia is ignoring this issue as it seems to be pretty wide spread (the way it was meant to be played!).

I'll have to think about the next card I buy. Unfortunately there aren't many better alternatives on the market than an 8800GTX right now for high resolution anti aliasing due to the large memory bus and amount of memory. Even the 9800GTX only has 512 megs of mem so its an awful sidegrade. Other SLI solutions are overly costly or disable the second monitor when using SLI.

Anonymous said...

Very useful Slashdot link... I'm relieved that these nVidia problems are finally building up to customer breaking point. I thought these stuttering problems and crashes would doom me for the rest of my existence.

Anonymous said...

One question... are the Release() calls something you can queue to a worker thread or do they lock the whole subsystem?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful news that the problem has been found. I have always noticed that the stutters seems to be linked to texture unloads. You can see this in the fact that upon loading a zone there is little stutter but after a while - you get it ONLY as you move. Neriak especially by the bridge and bank; those are nightmare examples of this. What is it with Neriak and textures.. heh

Question: Has this issue been confirmed with all types of drivers or only the standard Nvidia ones?

Anonymous said...

just tested 174.74 and it doesn't help anything

Elementalistly said...

I have been following this issue myself, as I also experienced this with LOTRO...(but found out in LOTRO it happens on ANY card...not just Nvidia's)

I actually purchased a 2900pro for my wifes system and a ATI 3870 for mine.
EQ2 was our game of choice, and after adding these cards, the stutters went away...it was beautiful..
Then I subscribed to Vanguard, and the performance was dismal.
I swapped back to my 8800, and decided to live with it...for now. I figure I can talk with my scrip if it is not fixed anyways.

But, my question is...I can be in Thundering Steppes or Antonica, and have ZERO issues.
Then I go to Rivervale, and holy smokes...massive stutter and freeze ups...even when I am not moving...it is even worse than Neriak or Kelethin.
Why is this zone so prone to the issue more than other zones?

Anonymous said...

The same "frustrations" with stuttering and EQ2 date back to the launch of the game in 2004. Sad to say , this is nothing new as I had the same exact issues with a 6800GT as Im having with 8800GTS. I recently returned to the game after a very long break expecting performance improvements, considering my PC is now 3 years into the future :)

Anonymous said...

Ashu Rege is coming this February to India's first and independent annual summit for the game development ecosystem - India Game Developer Summit (http://www.gamedevelopersummit.com/) to talk about the novel uses of GPU computing for solving a variety of problems in game computing including game physics, artificial intelligence, animation, post-processing effects and others.