How Immortals of Aveum wants to rethink PC optimization

Jak winds up his magic fist in Immortals of Aveum.
EA

Immortals of Aveum is introducing a new way to think about optimizing your games on PC. It’s called the Performance Budget Tool, and it’s meant to help guide players through the dense graphics menu to understand how settings impact their performance.

Games have hinted at this type of feature in the past, offering a general sense of how each setting impacts your GPU and CPU with a slider (Resident Evil 4 and The Last of Us Part One, for example). Immortals of Aveum assigns a CPU and GPU number to each setting that increases as you turn the option up.

This is fed into an overall number for your CPU and GPU. When you first load the game, it will take stock of your configuration and run a short, internal benchmark to find out how powerful your system is. It’ll then apply settings it thinks will allow your components to reach 60 frames per second (fps). From there, you can tweak anything you want, and see how you add or remove from your performance budget in real time.

A player blasts an enemy with magic spells in Immortals of Aveum.
EA

Mark Maratea, technical director on Immortals of Aveum, says, “At the end of the day, the reality is we have a lot of different video cards, a lot of different capabilities. And it’s always been difficult to match [performance and image quality] to a given video card.” That’s where the Performance Budget Tool came from.

The developer also described it as somewhat of a personal passion project — “this is my little baby,” the developer said. The hope was that people like Maratea who liked to tweak their system and overclock their components could see how their fiddling impacted the game. “As someone who likes to overclock all of his machines, I actually like to know if that matters for a game. And you can come into our game and benchmark your system and get your numbers up, flip over to whatever your favorite overclocking tool is … and you’ll actually see whether or not there’s a delta coming out as far as the game is concerned.”

A lot of modern PC releases come with some benchmark tool, allowing you to see how the game is adjusting to the settings you tweak. The work that went into the Performance Budget Tool sounds far deeper, though. “We exposed a whole lot of settings that Unreal doesn’t normally expose to consumers. We ran them through a variety of hardware and discovered roughly what the impact on performance is of those,” Maratea said. “Now we have a tool that runs the Unreal Benchmarking program, gives you a rating of your system, and then allows you to understand what you’re spending.”

A tool like this will likely be important to Immortals of Aveum, too. This is the first major Unreal Engine 5 game we’ve seen, and developer Ascendent Studios says it’s leveraging the full capabilities of the new game engine. I asked Dave Bogan, art director on Immortals, about using UE5, and he jokingly said it “was like the clouds parted and the sun rays just shone down on us.”

Lumen in Unreal Engine 5.
This is how Lumen reacts in Unreal Engine 5. Epic Games

The developer said it picked up new updates to Unreal Engine 5 almost as soon as they were released. And throughout my talk with the developers, they reiterated how important Unreal Engine 5’s Nanite and Lumen are to the final look of the game. “A lot of why a game runs poorly in the past is over lighting,” Bogan said. “But [with Lumen] you can use fewer lights and each of those lights does more work for you.”

Bogan also described how detailed meshes in the game are able to be with Nanite, which is Unreal Engine 5’s virtual geometry system that enables new heights of visual fidelity. In the past, according to Bogan, it wouldn’t be possible to make a mesh with 2 million polygons and have hundreds of those across your level. It wouldn’t be feasible — engineers would “knife you in the back,” Bogan said with a chuckle — but with Nanite, it’s possible.

Another feature the team highlighted was Niagara, which hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as Lumen and Nanite. Joe Hall, the visual effects lead on the game, said it made a huge difference, especially in a game based around magic. “Niagara made a huge impact for us,” Hall said. “That’s an understatement to say with how much we were able to push visually for the game … you couldn’t afford the amount of stuff that we were able to do before.”

A battlefield appears in Immortals of Aveum.
EA

All of these features meet to enable huge levels of scale. “You’ll see some of our levels where you can go almost anywhere, so you can get on top of a lot of things and look pretty far out,” Maratea said. “And you will see mountains way out in the distance. Those are actual real meshes.”

Although it’s an exciting step with the state of PC ports in 2023, it’s important to wait until Immortals of Aveum is out to see how it will perform. If the videos we’ve seen are any indication, it will likely be a very taxing game. Even with the Performance Budget Tool, there’s a chance we could see performance issues at launch.

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