Not Your Mother’s Integrated Graphics

One of the things I noticed when I posted the request for beta testers is that a number of interested people didn’t quite have the system specs I believed were needed to run the game smoothly – namely, a dedicated graphics card with a decent amount of video RAM. Systems with integrated graphics chips, at least in my mind, have not traditionally handled fairly intensive 3D games very well, hence the decision to exclude those systems, at least at the start.

That, and I didn’t have access to a decent system with an integrated graphics chip to test the game. That has now changed.

I’ve been wanting to upgrade my little server box for a while now, and with Apple’s recent tax-free sales event, I decided to make the leap and bought myself a tax-free Mac Mini. It’s a bottom-of-the-line model, although the specs have reached the point where they begin to put my old G5 desktop to shame: 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics chip. It’s a sweet little machine, with more than enough power for my server needs. Plus, it’s just an amazing piece of technologic design. It’s incredibly compact, and it is absolutely, positively silent. No fan noise, no hard drive clicking. I can hardly believe the thing is powered on. I love the little bugger.

But surely there’s no way it could handle the hulking behemoth that is Vespers.

Naturally, this is the first thing I wanted to try once I got the sucker booted up and organized. Doubtless, once the opening sequence started, the frame rate would freeze up and I’d struggle just to quit the application.

Quite the contrary, actually. For the most part, the game seemed to run at least as smoothly – if not better – than my old desktop with the fancy schmancy dedicated ATI graphics card. Frame rates in many cases exceeded what I was getting on the older machine.

A few caveats: I was running the game at a very small screen resolution, and it did struggle off and on during the early stages of play. I’m not sure if that was related to loading the massive pile of textures into memory (which, on the Mini, the chip shares with the main memory) or just from ongoing background processes, but after a couple of minutes of play all the lag disappeared and it ran about as smoothly as I’ve seen it anywhere.

I’ll have to do some retesting and profiling to see what’s going on, but the results are pretty encouraging. Apparently, integrated graphics chips have come a long way since I last checked.

So if you’re one of those who is still interested in testing, and you have a (relatively recent) system that uses an integrated graphics chip, let me know and we’ll see how things go.

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  1. Posted April 29, 2010 at 12:40 PM | Permalink

    It’s the “Intel Integrated Graphics” you have to be careful of. The NVidia on-board graphics stuff isn’t so bad.

  2. Posted April 29, 2010 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

    So it would seem!

  3. george
    Posted April 29, 2010 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

    Yeah, and I think it’s more common to see the Intel chips in laptops. However, I’ve played a decent number of 3D games on my plucky little Intel GMA laptop, so I’m definitely willing to give testing a try just as a benchmark if nothing else.

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