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F.E.A.R. of a USB Performance Hit

Does a performance drop in 'F.E.A.R.' point to larger PC gaming problem? on News.com is a blog about a major performance hit in F.E.A.R. that they've traced back to the use of USB peripherals. Though unsure of whether this problem impacts other games, they have, however, confirmed the F.E.A.R. glitch, and have word that owners of Logitech mice and keyboards will get a fix in the form of updated SetPoint drivers. Here's the deal:

Before we had any idea it was an input issue, we simply saw F.E.A.R. scores tank during testing on an otherwise powerful PC. Alongside our trusty lab technician Joseph Kaminski, the guys from Maingear and Nvidia technical marketing director Nick Stam narrowed it down to the input devices, largely based on the suggestions of the Nvnews forum thread. We were afraid that Nvidia would bow out at this point, since the slowdown didn't appear tied to a 3D driver like we initially thought. We're glad we were wrong. As Nick wrote me two weeks ago: "I'm still very interested in understanding the pure technical reasons, as this is definitely one of the strangest issues I've seen in a long time."

With Nvidia working on the problem independently, we then moved on to Logitech and Saitek, neither of whom had heard of the issue. We're still waiting to hear back from Saitek's technical team (which has been traveling), but Logitech's was available and got back to us quickly. It doesn't appear that Logitech's SetPoint mouse and keyboard software caused the issue (it wasn't installed on the Maingear PC during testing), but from what we've heard, a forthcoming SetPoint update will fix the problem.

We're glad that Logitech hardware owners, at least, may have a solution, but we'd still like to know what exactly causes the slowdown, and whether it affects other games. We have a meeting with Sierra (one of F.E.A.R.'s developers) at E3 this week, so we'll definitely be asking them in person.

Of the vendors we've talked to so far, all of them remain interested. That gives us faith that the problem will get the attention it needs. We were frustrated, though, when we saw people had posted about this issue in official and unofficial forums as long as 10 months ago. Apparently it takes a while for the wisdom of crowds to sink in.

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28 Replies. 2 pages. Viewing page 1.
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28. Re: No subject Jul 11, 2007, 10:14 4D-Boxing
 
For some reason I can't secure my keyborad anymore. Everything works fine until I enter the last series of characters. Instead of showing up as **** like the other characters entered I see the actual info typed & then setpoint just craps out.

 
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27. Re: OpenGL Jul 11, 2007, 09:42 Bludd
 
FEAR is a D3D game.

 
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26. Re: ... Jul 11, 2007, 08:58 Calabi-Yau
 
Indeed. Running a PS/2 mouse is SURELY a backwards step?! I remember all the modders out there changing settings to get their mouse to poll faster - I seem to recall even trying it myself, though I never noticed any difference.

Indeed. Probably because the polling rate makes no difference that anyone has actually determined (unless you set it to something stupidly low.)

But if you really want to crank the polling rate you can easily crank the PS2 polling rate also.

Well, I guess people are free to do what they want but I certainly wouldn't go near a PS/2 mouse unless I had to.


The advantage to PS2 as I see it is that the mouseport has its own dedicated legacy IO unit on the motherboard that uses no central processor resources.

But your USB network uses quite noticeable processor resources, especially if you must crank up the polling rate (which will affect the whole USB network.)

Same goes for a PS2/USB keyboard. If your mobo has dedicated hardware for PS2 mouse and keyboard slots, why not use them, instead of plugging the same peripherals into a general-purpose processsor-heavy USB network? (The answer is that not all "advanced" keyboard and mouse software will work with PS2 perips but maybe you don't really need that software?)

This comment was edited on Jul 11, 09:02.
 
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25. No subject Jul 11, 2007, 08:19 Ecthelion
 
I've never had any problems with my G5, but I don't use the SetPoint software. If I even have it installed (I'm not home right now so I can't check), I don't keep it running.

Come to think of it, though, I haven't played FEAR since I got the G5. However, I had a MX1000 when I played the game, so it would have likely caused a slowdown too. I didn't notice any slowdown then either. If I ever replay FEAR (which is unlikely considering I find replaying HL2 for the dozenth time far more enjoyable), I'll keep an eye on the performance.

 
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24. it might be IRQ issue Jul 11, 2007, 06:45 zirik
 
most mobo have the USB controller sharing the same IRQ as the PCI-E slot that carries the video card. i wonder if they checked to see if that is the case. and if so, then it is not a USB issue but a mobo issue. i have a USB logitech mouse and USB M$ keyboard but i never had huge frame rate drop in games. i never connect input devices on USB ports that share the same IRQ as the video card. just as i would never connect a creative sound card on anything but the 3rd PCI slot. its all an IRQ problem.

 
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23. OpenGL Jul 11, 2007, 04:50 Webb
 
heh, this leads me to believe that this might be an openGL game, only because I've had some experience with it and I can tell you first hand that it gets choked up when you have more than once of the same device and it tries to use it. like if you had a controller installed and then put in another, if the drivers are still in place for the first and didn't get uninstalled, it would be very likely to do this

 
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22. No subject Jul 11, 2007, 04:31 Rain
 
I havent experienced slowdowns in games, but overall i have had nothing but trouble with the SetPoint program, i uninstalled it simply because it would make the computer freak out at various times

 
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21. Re: No subject Jul 11, 2007, 02:05 Chicken
 
Um, did I read that correctly? It doesn't appear to be a bug in the setpoint software, yet there's a setpoint software fix for it? Maybe it should say "didn't appear" (because they didn't reproduce it on their test machine).. unless they're working around someone else's bug. I'd like to know what they changed...

Logitech include firmware updates and subsystem (Bluetooth stack, USB patches etc.) updates within Setpoint, so even though the Setpoint asp itself isn't causing the problem, it is still possible to build a patch into the installer that will fix peoples problems without them having to install seperate patches for their Logitech hardware.

 
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20. No subject Jul 11, 2007, 01:51 Nameless Again
 
No wonder I kept getting this really slow-motion "bullet time" lag in the game...it was my goddamn mouse!

Bastards.

This comment was edited on Jul 11, 01:56.
 
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19. No subject Jul 11, 2007, 01:25 Dev
 
Why would it be surprising that a problem not caused by setpoint can potentially be fixed by it? That kinda stuff happens all the time.

Remember the infamous creative Soundblaster Live! (and other series) card problems with VIA motherboards? It turned out to be the crappy design of the card itself doing screwy things with busmastering PCI slots. Yet motherboard bios makers were able to fix the problem by doing tweaks in bios to work around the crappiness of creative cards.

Remember the MS exploit with graphics files? It turned out that a registry hack to disable the MS viewer closed the hole (until MS did a patch), but I know of at least one 3rd party patch by a security group came out to fix it within days, long before the official MS patch.

Its hardly surprising that logitech could figure out a workaround to a problem that may not be thier fault. Maybe they are just avoiding whatever .dll calls to a MS driver that causes the problem (if thats what it is, which wouldn't surprise me).

 
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18. not a logitech fan Jul 11, 2007, 00:40 MrShoop
 
I was recently looking for a replacment for my intellimouse exporer, and decided to grab a Logitech MX 400. Problems started from the beginning. It was recognized as an MX310 when I plugged it in after installing the logitech software. Then it would periodically freeze, and lastly the setpoint software sucked, especially the scolling. I exchanged for a Razor Deathadder which I love so far.

 
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17. ... Jul 11, 2007, 00:06 theyarecomingforyou
 
I thought one of the main points of them being USB was that unlike PS/2 ports, those mice with their high-performance chipsets could poll at 1000Hz or more on USB which is five times faster than a PS/2 port on its highest setting.
Indeed. Running a PS/2 mouse is SURELY a backwards step?! I remember all the modders out there changing settings to get their mouse to poll faster - I seem to recall even trying it myself, though I never noticed any difference. Well, I guess people are free to do what they want but I certainly wouldn't go near a PS/2 mouse unless I had to. Heck, I use a wireless mouse and keyboard for gaming so I guess I'm really not hardcore at all. I guess I needs me a 50,000DPI super-blue-laster mouse to keep up with the big boys.

As for this bug... ha. This is Monolith we're talking about - their engines have always been slightly unconventional. I remember Shogo being a bit weird at times, and that's not counting the absurdity of the gameplay... it's strange that I actually found it slightly enjoyable.

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16. No subject Jul 10, 2007, 22:55 JD
 
We have a meeting with Sierra (one of F.E.A.R.'s developers) at E3 this week, so we'll definitely be asking them in person.
Then you'll be wasting your time because this is a Monolith/Touchdown engine issue.


 
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15. Similar Known Problem Jul 10, 2007, 22:52 JD
 
This performance problem with F.E.A.R. is not a real surprise since Monolith's previous Jupiter engine has a known similar and significant slow-down issue with some sound cards/chipsets when run in Direct3D hardware mode. And, even setting the audio back to software mode still doesn't completely get rid of the framerate issue.


 
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14. Re: No subject Jul 10, 2007, 22:50 JD
 
I love my MX518 mouse, but continue to use a PS/2 connection to avoid USB lag.
While I have not yet bought one of Logitech or Razor's USB gaming mice, I thought one of the main points of them being USB was that unlike PS/2 ports, those mice with their high-performance chipsets could poll at 1000Hz or more on USB which is five times faster than a PS/2 port on its highest setting.

This comment was edited on Jul 10, 22:54.
 
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13. Re: No subject Jul 10, 2007, 22:49 Jerykk
 
I never experienced any framerate problems while playing FEAR (or the expansion pack) with my Logitech USB mouse.

 
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12. No subject Jul 10, 2007, 22:32 emgarf
 
I love my MX518 mouse, but continue to use a PS/2 connection to avoid USB lag.

 
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11. Re: No subject Jul 10, 2007, 22:24 Gymper
 
other than the infamous BSOD when the USB plug & play "functionality" of Win 98 was presented by Mr. Gates himself

Ha! I forgot how pathetic that event actually looked!

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8363127660275444169

 
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10. Re: No subject Jul 10, 2007, 22:22 Icewind
 
I never got around to playing FEAR; I was going to pick up the Gold version soon. Maybe I'll wait just a bit longer (especially considering I'm running a Logitech G15 and G5, both USB).

This explains everything. I recently uninstalled FEAR because I went to play it this past December (for the first time since a month after it came out) and was floored when the game ran like a slideshow. I couldn't understand why a game that ran perfect in maxed settings now ran as slow as a tar-covered woolly mammoth.

But I did, as of last summer, buy a Logitech G15 keyboard (for the macro keys, basically) and a G5 laser mouse. Looks like I found out why.

I don't use the mouse anymore because it started acting up. (Piece of junk if you ask me) but the keyboard was more then worth it.

 
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9. Re: No subject Jul 10, 2007, 20:59 CJ_Parker
 
And Win 95 didn't even have native USB support. Only the much later released B and C versions of Win 95 that were distributed via OEMs had USB support. Don't remember if USB was causing much trouble (other than the infamous BSOD when the USB plug & play "functionality" of Win 98 was presented by Mr. Gates himself). There probably was lotsa shit goin on though since Win 95 and 98 were about as stable as Hugh Hefner's penis without Viagra.



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