Windows gaming performance - is it ideal?

Hugo Artenis Rune

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Ok - this is my first topic and I really don't want to start a flame-war over anything, I would just like it if some tech-minded folk answer some questions for me..

Right, here goes.

I've got an adequate laptop which is about three years old.. It's Vista capable and does more or less everything I want it to (though a blow-job USB device would be nice). It came pre-installed with Windows XP which I used for a while and then for work reasons I installed Linux (openSuse 11.1) on it as well allowing me to use Linux for my work junk and Windows for my fun stuff.

However over time I began using Linux more and more - only because of work pressures you understand - until it ended up that I only booted into windows for gaming.

Now, my laptop isn't that great. To put it in gaming context, Far Cry, Half-life 2, Painkiller and Doom III are about the most advanced games it can run (all circa 2004ish) - which isn't a problem because they're pretty good games. Anyway, last week for a laugh I installed Dawn of War on Linux using Wine (if you don't know, Wine is a system that allows you to run Windows apps on Linux, the same as Darwine lets you run Windows apps on the Mac). What happened was a bit weird because I was a) not expecting it to install and b) expecting it to run like a pig. What actually happened was Dawn of War ran incredibly smoothly - with every option maxxed out. What was even more surprising was that I had my laptop unplugged and it was therefore running on "power save" mode (so the processor was at 1ghz and not 2). I'd also forgotten that I was running all the Linux KDE desktop effects as well so I found I could still rotate the my desktop, check my mails, and generally run all of the 3D compositing effects at the same time as running the game.

To test this further I rebooted, reinstalled XP, updated the service packs, got latest nVidia drivers etc and installed Dawn of War again, this time in native windows. And the game didn't run nearly as well as it did under Wine. In fact I had to turn down some of the options to make it playable.

I further tested this by installing Far Cry, HL2 and Doom III on both OS's (remember, they're using the exact same hardware) and in every case the "emulated" versions on Linux performed better than their native Windows counterparts (except for disk access - load times are way slower in Linux).. Further testing shows that my Genesis emulator runs faster in Linux - so does Mame.. And so does my Super Nintendo emulator.

So - I guess my question is - WTF is going on here? How come I can run admittedly old games faster on a platform that doesn't support them and is already running enough desktop eye-candy to make Vista look like Windows 95? Is it because the Linux nVidia drivers are better somehow? Or that Wine only loads the barest minimum of stuff needed to get an app running? For reference my system is a dual core 2ghz intel, 2.5gb ram, nVidia 7400 go 256mb, 80gb HD partitioned into 30GB Windows NTFS, 10gm Linux root, 10gb Linux home and 30gb FAT32 for sharing data between the two OS's.

I may be getting ahead of myself here but I think it would be nice if there was a Windows boot option that was simply for Gaming - so Windows doesn't load all of the stuff that you don't need for games and therefore runs faster...

Anyway - as I've said, I'm not dissing Windows here, I'm just wondering whats going on.. Any help or pointers would be appreciated.

Finally - sorry for the damn long boring post!

*edit - probably shouldn't have put this in the "off topic" forum. Damn. Sozz.*
 

egwidalin

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I personally dont think the os affects gaming perfermance at all (give or take a tiny bit) the thing that makes the difference is compatability, correctly installed drivers, and obviously good parts. This is why i stuck to console games, they do all this crap for me, and let me use my computer for other things =P (lol, im a console fanboi)
 

CIA

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Wine is great, but it is always a year or so behind game releases. So a new game probably wont run on wine until somebody mucks about until it does. At least that's the only drawback I can see.

Also, vista is the most aggravating OS I have ever used for the exact reasons you give. (background applications and general slowness)

egwidalin said:
I personally dont think the os affects gaming perfermance at all
It does, believe me.
 

Hugo Artenis Rune

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CIA said:
Wine is great, but it is always a year or so behind game releases. So a new game probably wont run on wine until somebody mucks about until it does. At least that's the only drawback I can see.

Also, vista is the most aggravating OS I have ever used for the exact reasons you give. (background applications and general slowness)
Yes, it is behind - but I can't complain, it's still awesome. However I really do think that Windows as a Gaming Platform really should have a boot mode that *doesn't load* the background processes - so your games can take full advantage of the hardware and not have to worry about competing with the AV software, the desktop effects etc etc etc.. Then I think that Windows would become a true platform for games - more like a console in fact.
 

johnman

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I belive Windows is also a massive reasource hog. I wish mircosoft will hurry up and implament a gaming mode as you suggested, where none of that background crap that is ever used ever (windows cardspace?!? I dont have a card reader!)is loaded. You will be able to exit and surf the web, but not alot else. (It will run steam of course)
 

CIA

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Hugo Artenis Rune said:
CIA said:
Wine is great, but it is always a year or so behind game releases. So a new game probably wont run on wine until somebody mucks about until it does. At least that's the only drawback I can see.

Also, vista is the most aggravating OS I have ever used for the exact reasons you give. (background applications and general slowness)
Yes, it is behind - but I can't complain, it's still awesome. However I really do think that Windows as a Gaming Platform really should have a boot mode that *doesn't load* the background processes - so your games can take full advantage of the hardware and not have to worry about competing with the AV software, the desktop effects etc etc etc.. Then I think that Windows would become a true platform for games - more like a console in fact.
Yeah, sounds good to me.
 

velcthulhu

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Windows is a huge resource hog, Vista triply so. I am personally of the opinion that any programmer who has his program run code in the background when the program isn't even running (looking at YOU, iTunes and Acrobat Reader) should be jailed.
 

jebbo

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Seeing as this a thread that seems to be about the OS and not the hardware...

Does anyone have any concrete info on what Win7 will be like for games? We all (hopefully) know that Vista is pile of steaming mouldy cheese and Win7 will correct this for PC users. But what will be games be like? I know that on the most basic level of understanding Win7 is FAR better at utilising system memory.

I'm not a PC gamer, but do have pretty good hardware knowledge, but very poor software knowledge, and will in the (sort of) near future be building a new PC (going on a computing uni course and just want to expand my PC credentials and usage).

I know its sort off topic so OT: this is interesting, I always thought that Linux distros were very poor for gaming - is this just the fact of incompatibility or the delay in getting patches and 'emulators' for the newest software in the freeware world?
 

Captain Picard

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jebbo said:
Seeing as this a thread that seems to be about the OS and not the hardware...

Does anyone have any concrete info on what Win7 will be like for games? We all (hopefully) know that Vista is pile of steaming mouldy cheese and Win7 will correct this for PC users. But what will be games be like? I know that on the most basic level of understanding Win7 is FAR better at utilising system memory.

I'm not a PC gamer, but do have pretty good hardware knowledge, but very poor software knowledge, and will in the (sort of) near future be building a new PC (going on a computing uni course and just want to expand my PC credentials and usage).

I know its sort off topic so OT: this is interesting, I always thought that Linux distros were very poor for gaming - is this just the fact of incompatibility or the delay in getting patches and 'emulators' for the newest software in the freeware world?
There's a reason why Vista uses a lot of memory. Also, Vista's memory management is far more sophisticated than you give it credit for.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/superfetch.aspx

Vista pre-loads all your commonly used applications into memory, so they execute quicker when you start them. When you lauch a different application that requires a lot of memory, Vista immediately reduces the superfetch cache to accommodate the new program.

No, you don't really want to run vista on your old single core P4 rig with only 512MB or 1GB of system memory if you intend on gaming. This doesn't mean Vista is a POS OS, it means your rig is a dinosaur.

As for Windows 7, it'll be just like Vista, +/- 5% game performance. You know why? Because Windows 7 is just Vista with a facelift. You know all those people giving it rave reviews? They'd probably enjoy themselves almost as much with Vista if they didn't mind Vista's UI.
 

Hugo Artenis Rune

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jebbo said:
Does anyone have any concrete info on what Win7 will be like for games? We all (hopefully) know that Vista is pile of steaming mouldy cheese and Win7 will correct this for PC users. But what will be games be like? I know that on the most basic level of understanding Win7 is FAR better at utilising system memory.
Not sure what Windows 7 is going to be like but they're certainly touting it's powers. Better system memory management would certainly be a plus - and for the love of God microsoft, please stop using the swap disk when there is RAM available! In theory if the put in better memory management then the system as a whole will be much better. In the same breath of course I have to doff my hat to MS for getting the OS to run at ALL under the plethora of different hardware specs it runs on. I know it was a ***** getting my Linux install working properly (my modem still doesn't work, my XD card reader de nada and my DVD writer and mobile 3G broadband adapter only seem to work when it suits them - on Windows they're all peachy).


jebbo said:
I know its sort off topic so OT: this is interesting, I always thought that Linux distros were very poor for gaming - is this just the fact of incompatibility or the delay in getting patches and 'emulators' for the newest software in the freeware world?
It's basically because no-one write native Linux games.. So the lovely people at Wine have to more or less install the games, see where they crash and re-write the Wine code so it behaves the way the game/app expects. They're doing this from the ground up basically - not even emulating Windows, just trying to write libraries that respond in the way that an app wants - so yes, they're behind by quite a while in some cases. If an app uses standard methods of talking to the OS then Wine can probably handle it - but other apps (such as Adobe CS3 etc) won't run on Wine without a massive fight (if at all) because they use non-standard GUI elements which the Wine folk haven't got round to writing yet. Or something :)
 

Nmil-ek

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egwidalin said:
I personally dont think the os affects gaming perfermance at all (give or take a tiny bit) the thing that makes the difference is compatability, correctly installed drivers, and obviously good parts. This is why i stuck to console games, they do all this crap for me, and let me use my computer for other things =P (lol, im a console fanboi)
If your sitting with a low amount of ram Vista can be a major pain in the ass for older gaming rigs.
 

Hugo Artenis Rune

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Captain Picard said:
There's a reason why Vista uses a lot of memory. Also, Vista's memory management is far more sophisticated than you give it credit for.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/superfetch.aspx

Vista pre-loads all your commonly used applications into memory, so they execute quicker when you start them. When you lauch a different application that requires a lot of memory, Vista immediately reduces the superfetch cache to accommodate the new program.
Is "superfetch" and better than XP's "prefetch"? I dont have much experience with Vista so am only wondering.. My own experience with memory management is that Linux will sit there and "prefetch" the apps directly into RAM - and only ever use the swap disk when the RAM is full. XP on the other hand, directly after a bootup will sit there using 500MB or so of very slow HD based "swap" space - which in my case at least is pointless because I usually have about 1-2GB of ram just sitting there doing nothing.. Bit of a pointless performance hit there. Hmm, that could be why Wine runs games a bit faster because it doesn't touch the swap at all and just uses the system RAM.. Course, I could be talking out of my arse here.
 

koichan

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Captain Picard said:
jebbo said:
As for Windows 7, it'll be just like Vista, +/- 5% game performance. You know why? Because Windows 7 is just Vista with a facelift. You know all those people giving it rave reviews? They'd probably enjoy themselves almost as much with Vista if they didn't mind Vista's UI.
Depends, i used to run Vista for quite a while on both my main PC and laptop, both are now on win7 and there is a quite a substantial difference in my experience.

My main PC is a bit more stable and a little bit faster than vista. A few games, such as fallout3, which were horrifically unstable under vista now run nicely.

Though the real difference is on my little 11" notebook (1.2ghz core duo, 2gb ram, 30GB SSD) which really struggled with the copy of vista it came with, but flies along in win7, it's like the difference between night and day.
 

jebbo

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Captain Picard said:
jebbo said:
Seeing as this a thread that seems to be about the OS and not the hardware...

Does anyone have any concrete info on what Win7 will be like for games? We all (hopefully) know that Vista is pile of steaming mouldy cheese and Win7 will correct this for PC users. But what will be games be like? I know that on the most basic level of understanding Win7 is FAR better at utilising system memory.

I'm not a PC gamer, but do have pretty good hardware knowledge, but very poor software knowledge, and will in the (sort of) near future be building a new PC (going on a computing uni course and just want to expand my PC credentials and usage).

I know its sort off topic so OT: this is interesting, I always thought that Linux distros were very poor for gaming - is this just the fact of incompatibility or the delay in getting patches and 'emulators' for the newest software in the freeware world?
There's a reason why Vista uses a lot of memory. Also, Vista's memory management is far more sophisticated than you give it credit for.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/superfetch.aspx

Vista pre-loads all your commonly used applications into memory, so they execute quicker when you start them. When you lauch a different application that requires a lot of memory, Vista immediately reduces the superfetch cache to accommodate the new program.

No, you don't really want to run vista on your old single core P4 rig with only 512MB or 1GB of system memory if you intend on gaming. This doesn't mean Vista is a POS OS, it means your rig is a dinosaur.

As for Windows 7, it'll be just like Vista, +/- 5% game performance. You know why? Because Windows 7 is just Vista with a facelift. You know all those people giving it rave reviews? They'd probably enjoy themselves almost as much with Vista if they didn't mind Vista's UI.
Hey I wasn't trying to bash Vista too much (OK the steaming mouldy cheese comment was a bit harsh), but doesn't the fact remain that a fully updated Win XP rig runs games better than a Vista rig of the same spec (to a very expensive hardware point i know).

My original question still stands - is there any concrete info on the capability of Win7 to run games? Or do we have to wait til Oct to know?
I got my mate to download the release candidate of Win7 to his new build and it's incredibly stable on everything he does except games. Is this just a driver issue because its not a true released and updated version of Windows, or can we expect similar bugs and problems to those that arose 2+ years ago with the launch of Vista?

And the OP's question is still valid - why does his Linux Emulator seem to run things more smoothly than the native OS for these games? (As I originally said I'm hardware not software based so some proper techy, albeit, well explained answers would be ideal)

EDIT @ Hugo, i see, so they just have to do trial and error until they get software to work under Linux. I can see how that would be time consuming
 

DazZ.

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Gaming is the only reason I'm restricted to Windows. From fiddling about with some friends Linux laptops which were quite old but still flowed nicely its made me wish I had more experience with it on my own machine.

I haven't tested out Windows XP vs 7. But in one of 7s builds currently available, on the same machine we got a plus 10 to 20fps in Bioshock on 7 rather than Vista. Quite interested in how the rest of the testing went. (I left, interested but not sit around waiting interested)
 

jebbo

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koichan said:
Captain Picard said:
jebbo said:
As for Windows 7, it'll be just like Vista, +/- 5% game performance. You know why? Because Windows 7 is just Vista with a facelift. You know all those people giving it rave reviews? They'd probably enjoy themselves almost as much with Vista if they didn't mind Vista's UI.
Depends, i used to run Vista for quite a while on both my main PC and laptop, both are now on win7 and there is a quite a substantial difference in my experience.

My main PC is a bit more stable and a little bit faster than vista. A few games, such as fallout3, which were horrifically unstable under vista now run nicely.

Though the real difference is on my little 11" notebook (1.2ghz core duo, 2gb ram, 30GB SSD) which really struggled with the copy of vista it came with, but flies along in win7, it's like the difference between night and day.
Vista was never designed for netbooks, due to the reliance on dual core processor architecture (someone correct me if I'm wrong) this is why all the manufactured netbooks come with XP. Microsoft specifically said that Win7 would be the OS of choice for netbooks, even hinting to a specialised netbook distro of Win7...
 

Hugo Artenis Rune

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jebbo said:
EDIT @ Hugo, i see, so they just have to do trial and error until they get software to work under Linux. I can see how that would be time consuming
yeah - I'm in awe of the people who do this work. And it takes longer for games to be addressed because the demand to get normal "productivity" apps is way higher than getting games to function. I applaud your efforts to get this topic back on, er, topic though - despite even myself derailing it somewhat.

OH - before I forget, getting some of the games to run in Linux was a complete BASTARD - Far Cry took me about 4 hours of messing about, copying DLL's from Windows to wine etc etc.. So I'm still going to keep my Windows install for gaming because, well, it's a lot bloody easier - performance gains be-damned.
 

jebbo

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Hugo Artenis Rune said:
jebbo said:
EDIT @ Hugo, i see, so they just have to do trial and error until they get software to work under Linux. I can see how that would be time consuming
yeah - I'm in awe of the people who do this work. And it takes longer for games to be addressed because the demand to get normal "productivity" apps is way higher than getting games to function. I applaud your efforts to get this topic back on, er, topic though - despite even myself derailing it somewhat.

OH - before I forget, getting some of the games to run in Linux was a complete BASTARD - Far Cry took me about 4 hours of messing about, copying DLL's from Windows to wine etc etc.. So I'm still going to keep my Windows install for gaming because, well, it's a lot bloody easier - performance gains be-damned.
For the sake of derailing: Laziness FTW. Bloody Microsoft...
 

Chimpzy_v1legacy

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I had an old gaming rig running XP from 2004 that actually outperformed my 2009 Vaio laptop with Vista in almost every game I tried, even though my laptop has superior hardware in every respect.

My main rig then broke down, so I dumped Vista from my laptop and installed XP. I noticed significant performance improvements.