You’ve downloaded a new game. Congratulations! You’ve launched it. Well done! And now you’re tapping Escape, then the spacebar, then Enter, then clicking your mouse to see if you can skip all those opening logos.
And then you’re looking at the words New Game, but you’re a PC gamer so you’re also look at the word Settings. Before even playing a second of your shiny new game you’re already tinkering around with its graphic and audio options.
That’s our question this week: What’s the first setting you change (usually) when you’re playing a new game for the first time? Do you turn off Vsync (or turn it on?) Tweak the volume sliders or toggle subtitles? Crank the visuals up to Ultra or turn off motion blur?
Below you’ll find out answers and some from the PC Gamer Forums. We’d love to hear your answers in the comments.
James Davenport: I check the subtitle font to see if it sucks
And if it sucks, I turn them off. I typically like subtitles and have them on for everything except horror movies (when you see ‘MONSTER GROWLING’ before hearing it, the suspense goes phbttth), but games constantly mess them up. Gimme some nice white utilitarian fonts, signage I can read as easily as I can ignore it. A surprising amount of games go for something colorful or edgy, a spin-off font that evokes the overall vibe of the game. I don’t need style in my subtitles. I’ve never seen a subtitle and said to myself oh shit that’s hella cool. Don’t make me turn them off, devs. Let’s keep ’em simple.
Steven Messner: I disable Vsync
I’m probably not alone in bee-lining straight for the graphics settings any time I boot up a game to make sure everything is optimal, but usually the first setting I’ll touch is Vsync. That’s probably just because Vsync tends to be grouped with general display settings that are encountered first before diving into more technical, granular settings, but most games also default to Vsync being on. But because I have a Gsync monitor, Vsync is the devil, so it’s usually the first thing I turn off as I make my way down the graphics options.
Jody Macgregor: Vsync and subtitles
First I turn Vsync on because I find screen-tearing really distracting. Then I turn subtitles on, because I hate missing a bit of dialogue because it was delivered when the music ramped up or I was in the middle of shooting the Loud Huge Gun or whatever.
Jacob Ridley: I turn off motion blur
Motion blur is a wretched thing and must be purged from all games. It makes me feel disorientated and, in extreme cases, even a little queasy. Unless it’s being used for light (and I do mean light) effect in racing games, I don’t want it anywhere near me or my graphics settings.
Alan Dexter: I change nothing
This may be a tad controversial for a hardware nut, but I don’t touch anything to start with. I see if I actually want to play the game first, because there are so many games that I download, explore for a bit and then never go back to. There’s no point trying to hit the perfect balance between performance and visual nirvana if I’m not going to spend any time with it. Once I’m intrigued enough to continue playing, then and only then, will I hit the graphics (and hopefully advance graphics) settings and see what the game is capable of. I’ll max everything out and then slowly dial things down until I hit smooth frame rates. I do agree with Jacob though, motion blur can do one.
Harry Shepard: I turn off subtitles, whatever their style
I wish I could be more like James and have the ability to let simply designed subtitles just do their thing at the bottom of the screen, but I can’t. Regardless of font size or style, if they’re there, my eyes are invariably drawn to them; I read the actions and cutscenes unfolding in front of me, rather than taking it all in. I end up missing subtle details in the background and physical animations enlivening the foreground. Naturally I understand why they’re necessary and often activated by default, but I don’t need them, so off they go.
Dave James: I turn everything up to Ultra
I’m the worst kind of human being. As soon as I boot up a new game I can’t help but want to see what damage it’s going to do to my current gaming rig. I can pretend that’s out of professional curiosity, a determination to discover the game that’s going to be a new benchmark for fidelity and hardware punishment, but really it’s because I’ve developed an overwhelming need to try and run every game I play at max 4K on the most powerful PC kit I can lay hands on. Good thing I mostly spend my time playing FM then, eh?
Andy Kelly: Motion blur
I like fancy graphics effects. Chromatic aberration? As long as it’s not overused, sure. Depth of field? Man, I love depth of field. But motion blur? Nah. It’s partly an aesthetic thing. I find it a bit distracting to look at, especially when a developer has dialed it up to the max. But there’s a practical reason too. As someone who takes a lot of screenshots, motion blur is the enemy. There’s no point taking a perfectly framed shot of a scene if the character in the foreground is all smeary because they decided to suddenly change direction just as I hit the screenshot button. Say no to motion blur.
Chris Livingston: Purge motion blur from the earth
Like Andy, I take a lot of screenshots. Example: my review of Super Mega Baseball 3 this week uses 4 screenshots but I took… 526 of them. Seriously, I take a lot of pictures when I’m playing games. So, I also turn motion blur off immediately because it’s the cause of more mucked up screens than anything else. Also, you should play Super Mega Baseball 3 because it’s great. It’s out today!
Andy Chalk: Mouse sensitivity
Mouse sensitivity is never right out of the box—it’s always way too sluggish. And even if it’s close to the mark, it doesn’t feel right until I crank it up, realize it’s way too twitchy, and then slide it back down to where it was. My hand is meant to move within a certain very specific range, at a certain very specific speed, and I can’t function outside of those parameters. It just doesn’t work for me, and no, I will not get used to it, thank you. Mouse acceleration and smoothing are instant-offs too, if the options are there.
tombeir: Since my laptop is a crappy one, the first thing I’d do is lower the resolution 😭sad I know 😭 wish I had a good gaming PC 😢
OsaX Nymloth: Graphic > make sure resolution is correct. Turn off motion blur. Check what options are even there. Complain to invisible dev next to me when there’s only three presets and no advanced options
Audio > tune down everything to around 60% or even less. Enable subtitles if available.
Difficulty >MAX THAT OUT I WANT BLOOD
Zloth: Depth of Field OFF! Depth of field is a nice way to get the viewer’s eye on something at a certain depth. Makes great sense for, say, a character portrait where you want people looking at the character. Games rarely use it well, though.
Dishonorable mention: lens flare. Fine if I’m looking through a space suit helmet or some other glass but games like to toss it around everywhere. Why are we burning GPU to make it appear that we aren’t actually in the game but are watching it through a cheap video camera!?
I Will Haunt You: I go to options, crank all the graphic settings all the way up but turn off motion blur and depth of field off.
Pecan: Music off. Sorry, too repetitive for day-long sessions. Tropico is the only exception so far – love that Latin! Depth of field, motion-blur, lens flare and other film effects off – I have eyes, not cameras. “Kill cams” and anything ‘cinematic’ kills immersion.
Boats to max. Games don’t have enough boats. Even games about boats don’t have enough boats.
McStabStab: If it’s a game that is better played with a controller I always check the Steam Controller community layouts to see if I should try out a different configuration.
Pifanjr: It obviously depends on the game, but when applicable, I turn on subtitles, make sure the game is running fullscreen and check the key bindings to see if crouching should be moved to the left ctrl instead of C.
XoRn: I usually check the refresh rate first, then get rid of any blur and bloom.
Frindis: I always turn off Depth of Field and Blur. Then lower or raise the graphics settings depending on what type of game it is. If fps game, I normally play with a shorter view range, low shadows, and low-med resolution.
If it is a game like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey I turn everything on ultra, then do small changes if I need fps boost, but without noticeably making the game look worse. After that, I start remapping keybindings to my liking, normally by adding at least two keybinds to the mouse side buttons.