World of Warcraft (WoW)

BFA / Shadowlands DX11 vs DX12 Performance Analysis

A long time ago, I wrote this rudimentary benchmark analysis between the then newly implemented DX12 API for WoW, vs the DX11 implementation that WoW was running on at the time (late Legion, 2018).

Recently, a fellow Redditor sent me a PM asking if the findings still hold true a full expansion later. I was curious as I hoped that during my time away from BFA if the engine went through any further improvements to increase performance in DX12. WoW, like all MMOs, will be primarily CPU bottlenecked due to the long view distances and the frequently packed cities, player spells, outdoor elements like rocks, trees etc. The CPU is drawcall bottlenecked to heck and back, and DX12, being a much lower level API than DX11 was supposed to alleviate the concern and increase performance for multi core CPUs.

End result? Kinda the same as before TBH, but I got new graphs now! I also got a system upgrade from an Intel i5-3570k to a Ryzen 7 3700x and to 32GB of 3200MHz RAM, so that made a huge difference in CPU performance for me. Still on my trusty GTX 1070 tho, cos apparently it's easier to find a good wife than it is to find a 3080 in stock anywhere….

So here we go!

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Following the same ideas as my previous thread, I decided a Flight Path flyby would be the most consistent way to perform a benchmark. It is infinitely reproducible, and very little can change from one run to another, producing reliable results.

On CPU affinity, WoW by default forces itself to the first 4 threads of your CPU. I have used ProcessLasso to automatically assign WoW full 8 CPU threads on my 8 core 16 thread CPU to eliminate any "optimizations" Blizzard may have implemented to make it run properly on lower end hardware. There are resources out there that have tested that WoW can perform slightly better with 6 threads assigned to it, so I went one step further and just dedicated 8 to WoW.

  • Fly from Isle of Fangs in Zuldazar to Tortaka Refuge in Vol'dun

  • Fly from Isle of Fangs in Zuldazar to Forlorn Ruins in Nazmir

Each of these runs were done in DX12 first, with an API switch to DX11 with a full client exit and restart to eliminate any issues. Benchmark starts the moment I click on the flight path, with a 2 minute buffer after I finished loading into the game to let any and all addons settle down so I don't introduce add-on related outlier data.

As you can see from the album link above, DX11 still offers SLIGHTLY higher maximum FPS, but introduces a lot of stuttering due to the single threaded nature of the implementation. DX12 offers a tiny bit lower maximum FPS but DOUBLES the 0.1% lows of DX11, offering a much more consistent time through WoW. There's almost no hitching, no frame drops or stutter of any kind.

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The last image is a comparison in frametimes for all 4 benchmarking runs I did. As is clearly visible, the Red and Blue lines exhibit much higher frametimes across the board, spiking regularly and spiking hard from start to finish. This in terms of gameplay experience results in a split second "lag/hitch" as you move through the world.

Conclusion :

DX12 more better for almost any and all situations. Switch to it if you can, but only if your GPU is at least a Nvidia 10 Series or newer, or an AMD Radeon RX 400 series or newer. These were IIRC the first generations of GPUs that supported DX12.

EDIT : Before anyone asks, I used CapFrameX to record and analyze the data you see here. They can be found here


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