Building a Computer for Elder Scrolls Online
Unlike single player games, MMORPGs have very large amounts of particles and objects to render which can cause a significant drop in frame rates. The best way to prepare yourself is to build a gaming PC that can handle your own unique play style.
This Guide focuses on building a PC from scratch for Elder Scrolls Online. What to buy and why, how to put it together, and how to optimize your system once it’s built.
Understanding ESO System Bottlenecks
First let’s find out what the limiting factors are for systems playing ESO and then we can suggest which hardware we should be focusing on. These charts were compiled by krzych on the ESO Community forums.
GPU Limitation Test
As you can see, it is obvious that are no GPU limitations on the system. A significant decrease of GPU performance from downclocking the card from 1100 to 800 MHz gave no difference in performance. Only decreasing performance by almost half with downclocking to 650 MHz gave some performance decrease.
CPU Limitation Test
As you can see there are obvious engine limitations here and game is just not utilizing the CPU properly. Single core gives horrible performance, enabling second core gives boost to 53,4 FPS with 44 minimum and enabling third and fourth core gives only slight improvement versus dual core and there is no difference between triple and quad core setting.
In conclusion, the game engine is a limitation here, making the game unable to utilize quad core CPU properly, making use only of two cores and slightly third one.
Fixing The Performance – CPU Clock Speed
As you can see, even if your CPU is not utilized properly there are some frames to gain from overclocking. By default 4690K works at 3,9 GHz in Turbo Mode, so overclocking to 4,5 GHz gave very healthy performance increasement, from 47 frames that original 3900 MHz clock would output to 54 frames of 4500 MHz overclocked setting, gaining almost 15% of performance.
Buying a computer can be a daunting prospect. It usually involves many months of saving money so when you come to spend that money you want to know you’ve got the absolute best price-to-performance computer possible.
If you already have a gaming computer the question of when to upgrade to a better system is always relevant. Usually upgrading your system every 4-6 years is a good strategy. This gives technology time to progress to the point where considerable performance gains are possible by upgrading.
From the charts above we can make a couple of conclusions about the kind of system we’re looking to build for Elder Scrolls Online.
- 2GB of VRAM on the GPU to handle the high-resolution texture packs.
- GPU Clock speed of 600MHz+ is sufficient.
- A CPU with 3 Cores is sufficient.
- CPU Clock speed makes a large difference.
Every computer is made of the same 8-10 components (parts) which handle different operations, these are listed below and then summarized individually further down. When you buy a custom-built computer these components will come fully assembled by a specialist engineer. When you buy the individual components, as we are doing below, the parts will arrive separately and require you to assemble the computer yourself. Sounds difficult? Luckily it’s as easy as LEGO these days.
- Power Supply
- CPU Cooler
CPU – Central Processing Unit – £161.94 (€182.07, $227.49) inc. VAT
ESO’s engine is CPU bound. The main reason for this is that as an MMO, the game runs in two parts, one client-side, one server-side, and both need to be kept in sync via a network connection all the time. As we’ve seen with the testing above Clockspeed is more important than having more Cores. This is why i’ve recommended the i3 8350K. It is the latest generation Intel i3 (afaik the first i3 to be a quad-core processor) running at a default clockspeed of 4GHz.
GPU – Graphics Processing Unit – £263.99 (€296.87, $370.94) inc. VAT
Graphics processing power in ESO only becomes relevant when playing on High/Ultra Settings with a large amounts of players on screen at once. This is when Draw Distance, Shadows & Particle effects are being applied to each player in a dense area. If you plan on enjoying PvP at maximum settings or PvE on higher resolutions than 1080p then a price-to-performance card such as the GTX 1060 3GB is a very good choice. The most expensive part of the build by far but if you play other games or are looking for a future-proof option here it is.
RAM – Random Access Memory – £178.99 (€201.28, $251.50) inc. VAT
Memory has changed in price frequently since the release of DDR4 in 2014 making it much more expensive than it used to be. Corsair Vengeance is a highly regarded brand & has always been a popular choice for those looking for the price-to-performance mark regarding hardware. Here we have 16GB DDR4 2400MHz which is running in Dual-Channel mode. The i3 8350k CPU only supports upto 2400MHz clocked RAM. This is more than enough for running ESO which typically only uses around 2-4GB of RAM, but we want alot of extra room so we can multi-task whilst running the game.
Motherboard – £90.98 (€102.30, $127.84) inc. VAT
The motherboard allows communication between all components of a system. The main points to consider for a motherboard is firstly compatibility. CPUs are assigned a “socket” number (in this case 1151) which used to be based on how many pins the CPU had. This means they can only fit in certain motherboards. RAM also has 2 specifications to watch out for, Type and Speed. The RAM type we’ve selected above is DDR4 & the Speed is 3000MHz so our motherboard specifications must also support these options.
Apart from compatibility always ensure the Motherboard has at least 1x PCI-E 16x slot for your graphics card, has SATA III for your hard-drives & SSDs, and supports Back-panel USB 3.0. All of which the Gigabyte Z370P D3 does indeed have.
SSD – Solid State Drive – £72.59 (€81.61, $101.97) inc. VAT
Thankfully SSD prices have fell to a point where we can now recommend buying a larger drive so you can install more than just Windows OS and 1 Game. A 250GB Western Digital SSD is well worth the purchase. At almost 10x’s the speed of mechanical hard drives SSDs can move data to your RAM faster resulting in less client-side related slowdown for loading screens & processing.
Hard Drive – Main Storage – £55.49 (€62.38, $77.95) inc. VAT
Apart from your super-fast SSD you will also usually need a mechanical drive to store files, data & low-priority games on. The Toshiba DT01 is as bog-standard and boring as hard drives can get more there are a few points to note. Always use either 7200rpm or 10000rpm mechanical drives. You’ll also want to check it supports SATA III (latest standard), has 64MB of Cache (32MB for a 1TB drive), 8ms response time & NCQ (Native Command Queuing).
Power Supply – £47.99 (€53.95, $67.41) inc. VAT
Some think that the CPU or maybe the GPU is the most important part of a system. This is bollocks. If your power supply goes it will take everything with it. Do not buy cheap Power Supplies. Buy well-known brands such as Corsair, Coolermaster, ThermalTake, Silverstone, EVGA or Antec. Important specifications include the Wattage, the Efficiency rating, Ampage & Fan.
Total System Wattage can be calculated used one of the numerous PSU Calculators on google. For example this system will utilize around 380W but we have to take into account the Efficiency of the PSU which in this case is 80%+. Which means that even though it is a 650W Power Supply you can only expect it to be running at around 80% of it’s full capacity, so around 520W actual. This means that we have 140W of headroom available as a buffer & in-case of future additional components.
Case – £19.99 (€22.47, $28.07) inc. VAT
The only determining specifications for Cases are Motherboard types supported, Fans & USB 3.0. You want the front of your case to have USB 3.0 these days, you want at least 1 Internal 120mm Fan & in this instance we want our case to support ATX motherboards. Apart from that you can buy any case you like, I selected a value-line case as I don’t care what it looks like as I won’t look at the PC i’ll look at my monitor (pro gaming tip for free).
DVD Drive – £11.48 (€12.90, $16.12) inc. VAT
Has to be the most boring part of a computer. DVD-Drives have hardly changed at all in the last 10 years and any drive between the £10-15 mark will do most people.
CPU Cooler – £17.99 (€20.22, $25.25) inc. VAT (Optional)
The i3 8350K CPU we’ve selected above does come with it’s own Air cooler by default however I highly recommend instead using a 3rd party cooling solution. The Arctic Freezer 7 Pro is a classic addition to any build allowing lower maximum temperatures & the option of overclocking our CPU. The i3 8350K can easily be pushed upto 4.8GHz and even to 5GHz with an after-market cooler such as this.
Total Build Cost: £903.44 (€1016.14, $1269.41) inc. VAT (without optional CPU Cooler)
Building your System
Once your components have arrived you’ll want to get your computer up and running as soon as possible. Building a computer from components and installing Windows can take around 2 hours so make sure you have plenty of time available.
- Check that all of your components have arrived & are undamaged.
- You will need a Screwdriver and a large flat work area preferably a dining table.
You can follow a Step-by-Step Written Guide from wikihow on assembling a computer from components here.
Alternatively you can watch this super easy to follow video that EasyPCbuilder has uploaded.
Once all of your components are properly assembled you will need either Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10 to install on your SSD. It’s very important that you install Windows on your SSD (WD Blue) as this is the much faster drive than your Hard-drive (Toshiba 2TB).
Optimizing your System – Graphics Settings
Once you have your system up and running and are ready to play you’ll want to optimize your in-game settings. Below is a breakdown of important Graphics settings which when analyzed properly can help improve your ESO experience further.
Settings – Draw Distance Test
As you can see Draw Distance setting has very significant impact on performance, this is by far the most demanding settings in game. There is nearly 40 FPS difference between the highest and the lowest settings. It is also essential for visual quality, but some adjustments and compromises can be made to gain performance as there is some nice flexibility and 100 settings draws things really far, it is very hard to notice any popping in, so downgrading this setting a bit is recommended as you simply cannot achieve good performance with 100 settings in dense areas with any existing hardware because of engine limitations.
Settings – Water Reflection Test
Water reflections are also very demanding, assuming that you are near water, taking almost 15 FPS. What is interesting is that there is no difference in performance with Off vs Low and Medium vs High settings. While this is understandable for Medium and High settings, as I cannot see any difference in reflections quality between those settings, enabling reflections from Off to Low with literally zero performance cost seem quite strange. There is some substantial difference between Low and Medium/High, but considering performance cost, leaving it at Low is a good advice.
Settings – Shadow Quality Test
Shadows are mostly GPU bound and it seems to be like that here too, as downgrading this setting from Ultra to Medium didn’t give any substantial difference in performance. Only turning them completely off gave some significant results, unfortunately at even more significant visual quality cost.
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