WoW pre-Shadowlands hardware news
We got some WoW and hardware related news and tips that showed up recently as well as some generic changes on the hardware market that may affect people purchase decisions in preparation for Shadowlands (or The Burning Crusade).
It seems that some AGESA versions newer than 220.127.116.11abb/18.104.22.168ab can cause system instability related to memory (Error 132 in WoW). This can crash the game or the whole system. The solution is to downgrade the BIOS version of the motherboard to a older version with older AGESA. You can check the blue post as well as some reports not related to WoW with same problem on reddit.
Hardware Numb3rs did a series of tests on the new quad core Ryzen 3 3300X and in the memory scaling talk you can see how 3300X is keeping in line with 9900K.
Even though average FPS is lower the 1% and 0.1% lows are much better - and that affects perceived fluidity of the gameplay. 1% low means that from the benchmark run 1% of slowest frame times is taken and averaged. If the value is low it can be perceived as stutter or non-smooth transitions/animations in the game even when the average FPS looks good. All Ryzen 3000 CPUs show that better than Intel 1%/0.1% low performance, most likely due to bigger cache on the CPU.
The Shadowlands alpha has some references to new features that may come with Shadowlands (it's still alpha so it may not happen). Variable Rate Shading is a technique that allows developers to define shading rates of different objects or regions of the screen. VRS allows setting lower
resolution shading for areas that aren't the main focus of the player limiting the amount of work the GPU has to do - and thus increasing the game performance. If you aren't looking or can't distinguish low from high quality due to motion blur - that's where VRS can come in.
At the time of writing VRS is supported by Nvidia Turing GPUs (tier 2) and Intel Gen 11 graphics in Ice Lake (tier 1) or newer. AMD is expected to support VRS with the upcoming Navi2 architecture.
As the game is often CPU limited it's curious to see how VRS would help with performance. It's likely that Intel iGPU users will benefit more. VRS could help with drawing complex cities like Boralus or previously Legion Dalaran.
Second new technology that may end up in Shadowlands are ray traced shadows. It's an optional feature and we still don't know to what degree it will be used in the next expansion. It could be some minor effects or really impressive lighting effects.
Note that you can find
ray traced clips on YouTube - those were made with the help of Reshade modifying game look in post-processing.
DXR is supported by Nvidia Turing graphics cards from the RTX series. It will also be supported by Navi2 AMD GPUs. Both vendors use Microsoft DXR API present in Windows 10. Upcoming Nvidia Ampere architecture is expected to provide even better ray tracing performance.
As WoW is often limited by the CPU, especially with multiple actors present adding ray traced shadows could pose a smaller performance impact then for GPU-bound games. But it's still to early to tell.
Some will say World of Warcraft is a 15-years old game and needs 2.0 version of the engine. The truth is the DX12 version of the engine is pretty bleeding edge. Having even the ability to add DXR or VRS support means they are really strong in this department... but those servers... and RNGMMORPG complexity (as showcased by Preach).
In 2020 we will see few new hardware releases that may affect your purchase decisions:
- Nvidia Ampere: next generation of GPUs with improved performance, ray tracing and other features. Can cause discounts on existing graphics cards.
- AMD Radeon Navi 2: next generation of AMD GPUs with ray tracing and VRS support. Still little is known in terms of performance and pricing but changes are expected to be big.
- 3rd gen Ryzen (4000 series): expected to arrive late 2020 next generation of Ryzen CPUs could provide even better performance in WoW as well as bring down prices of existing generation. B550 or X570 chipset required (may change).
- Ryzen 4000 mobile CPUs: launching now, including also some budget oriented laptops (4700U and lower) those chips offer great CPU performance and integrated graphics capable of running WoW with good performance. If you want a somewhat cheap laptop yet still play WoW this may be the option.
- Ryzen desktop APUs: Similar to mobile APUs we will get desktop variants allowing for WoW gaming and other tasks without a dedicated GPU which could limit the price of a new PC.
- Intel Tiger Lake CPUs: Intel response to current AMD chips is expected soon. This generation will feature even better iGPU so just like with AMD APUs WoW gaming on laptops and cheap PCs without a dedicated graphics should be possible.
As Shadowlands is slated for Q4 2020 release we can wait with purchasing decisions. Right now shops like mindfactory.de list AMD Ryzen CPUs as those totally dominating CPU sales and even with the launch of 3rd gen they still will be good.
On the GPU side things will change a lot this year. Depending how better Ampere will be and how many unique features it gets it may devalue existing GPUs by a lot. If you are into raytracing you will likely want Ampere or maybe Navi2 if it will have enough performance. Right now RTX 2070 Super is the hot seller - offers really good raster performance and quite good raytracing performance for this generation (although not as strong as games would want it to be). RX 5700XT and lower SKUs are cheaper and still do sell on some level but those also will be
affected by new generations of cards from both companies.
Among laptops we are getting reviews of the 4000U series Ryzens as wells as 4000H in gaming laptops. Some Tiger Lake leaks place it as a competitor to those chips although there is no clear winner. The 4700U and 4600U can be found in some cheaper laptops as well as in ultra-portable devices that still should allow good WoW experience.