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Tribes 2 Tweak Guide

Posted: May 12, 2001
Written by:
Dustin "TimmyC" Jones


Tribes 2, the sequel to one of the most successful team-based shooters of all time was released to some heavy criticism by the gaming public. While some loved it, many others hated it. Whether old school Tribes fanatic or just casual gamer, the release of Tribes 2 did not go as smoothly as expected.

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you own Tribes 2. If you do, you know the problems that riddled the game. Crashes, bad performance, inability to work with 3DFX cards, and many other things made even a quick skirmish a painful experience. Fortunately, the many, many patches released fixed a lot of the bugs, but things still weren't a-ok in the world of Tribes 2.

Thankfully, this is Tweak3D, and tweaking's what we do best! So why are you still hanging around at this introduction? You can't read that fast eh? Well, hurry up; we're going to make your Tribes 2 more enjoyable! That's what you want isn't it? Well then, let's go!





Before you get started, I suggest you read our many tweak guides to get your system up to speed, because there's no point in tweaking a game on an un-tweaked system. Also, regular driver updates are very important. If you haven't updated your video, sound, etc. drivers, there's a good chance the new releases will speed your system up considerably, and fix lots of problems, including some you may be having in this particular game. Go update!

Speaking of patches, Tribes 2 has seen its fair share. Don't worry about searching around for updates though, all you need to do is run the Tribes 2 Multiplayer version and it will automatically search, find the best mirror, download and install it for you. Pretty simple (good idea Dynamix!). If you're on a modem or just don't feel like running the auto update feature, you can get the patches at Sierra's website.

Dynamix's minimum requirements for Tribes 2 are as follows: (Taken from the game box)

CPU: 300MHz
Ram: 64MB
HD Space: 531MB
CD-ROM: 4x
Soundcard: DirectSound-Compatible (DirectInput game controllers supported)
Video card: 12MB or better Video Card

Keep in mind, those are the minimum requirements for the game, which basically means that you can play the game, but I guarantee it won't be very enjoyable. I personally recommend the following to play the game at a decent resolution and with enjoyable graphical quality:

CPU: 600MHz
Ram: 128MB
Video Card: A 32MB 3D video card, ie. GeForce, Radeon, TNT2, etc.

If you've got a system with those type of specs, it'll be much more enjoyable than if you had the minimum recommendations. That's not to say that if you don't meet my requirements, you can't play; that's what tweaking is all about!


Now that your system is updated, how about we check out a couple key settings located in your ClientPrefs.cs file? Go to your Tribes 2 Directory, GameData, base, prefs and open ClientPrefs.cs with notepad (drag it to a notepad window if you have problems).

Scroll down and look for both $pref::Decal::decalTimeout = ""; and $pref::Decal::maxNumDecals = ""; . These two settings can help you save a lot of memory on decals, the burns, bullet holes and various other marks, which are left on the surfaces of the game world. While they seem like just small effects, they can take a lot of memory after a while.

$pref::Decal::decalTimeout sets the amount of time, in milliseconds which decals will stay in the game world. The lower the number, the faster they disappear. Ex. $pref::Decal::decalTimeout = "2000";

$pref::Decal::maxNumDecals sets the maximum amount of decals allowed to be rendered in the game world. The lower the number, the less you see decals, but the more memory you save. If you wanted to, you could disable decals altogether and save a lot of memory. Ex. $pref::Decal::maxNumDecals = "100";

That's pretty much all that is useful that is not in the Tribes 2 menu itself, so get acquainted with your tweaking friend, the settings menu. Just click the Launch button in the left, bottom corner and select settings.

Thankfully for us, Dynamix included lots of different menus and packed them with lots of great settings, so it's very easy to tweak; just click.


Lets start with the first menu: the Video menu. There isn't much in this section besides the basic options. For the Video Driver part, it's pretty straight forward. If you own an ATI Radeon or an Nvidia card, pick OpenGL (That may be all that comes up anyway). If you own a 3DFX card, pick Direct3D. Honestly, there's nothing in here that the average computer user doesn't know, maybe with the exception of disable vertical sync. If you're unsure on what vertical sync is, I'll explain it. Vertical sync (Vsync) is what is used to 'cap' the frame rate, so it runs no higher than your monitor's refresh rate. While it seems like a good idea, disabling Vsync can sometimes cause image tearing and other odd effects with your monitor. The best idea is to try disabling it and if you see any problems, just enable it. If you're benchmarking your system, disabling Vsync is a must.

Tweaking - Graphics Settings

The next menu is the Graphics menu. Herein you'll find the many eye-candy and effects settings. A good portion of these settings just waste CPU time and add little to the game play, but here's the list:

Terrain Detail: This is pretty straight forward. Moving the slider bar up and down increases and decreases the detail of the ground below you. If you've got a slower processor, consider lowering this a bit to save CPU cycles.

Gamma Correction: This setting adjusts the brightness of the game. This is more of a personal preference than a tweak.

Shadow Detail: Sliding the bar up and down increases/decreases the details of the shadows cast from player models. Low makes a blob under the model, high makes an actual shape.

Shape Detail: This setting controls the complexity and amount of polygons used in objects. This one is another CPU sucker, but it also depends on the amount of complexity you want. If you really want to sacrifice the CPU speed for extra detail in distant objects, then set it high; if you don't mind the lack of detail, go with low.

Interior Detail: This setting simply adds/removes little details and features inside buildings. Set this low, lose very little (visually), and gain speed.

Visible Distance: This setting can put a strain on both your CPU and Video Card in large battles or areas with a high polygon count. Once again, this is also a personal thing, so play the game and see how it runs at high visibility, then go from there.

Sky Detail: This setting controls the details and layers of clouds and sky effects that are added to the skybox of the game world. If you have a 32MB video card, set this to full, if you have less, set this down a few notches to one layer or even just skybox only. I wouldn't recommend no sky unless you're running really slowly.

First Person Draw: This setting changes the things drawn when in first person mode. When set to items only, your gun and items will be rendered. When set to player and items, your character's bottom half will be drawn when you look directly down. While cool, it's somewhat of a waste of resources. Set this to items only for better performance.





Precipitation: This setting toggles weather effects on/off. I don't like the weather effects and would gladly take the little frame rate boost. Your tastes may differ.

Dynamic Interior Lights: This setting toggles the dynamic light inside buildings and structures. If you want lots of pretty lighting and what have you inside the buildings, keep this enabled. If you don't mind flat lighting inside, then disable it.

Decals: Like the settings above I gave you, this toggles decals on and off.

Dynamic Terrain Lights: This setting toggles dynamic lighting on the terrain itself. E.g. Lighting from gunfire or explosions. If you prefer the extra realism and eye candy, keep it on. Otherwise, disable to improve performance.

Terrain Details: This setting toggles detail textures on and off. Detail textures add realism and detail to the ground when up close, making it look more 'alive'. I don't see why this shouldn't be on really.

Tweaking - Graphics Settings (cont.)

Interior Textured Fog: This setting toggles fog effects inside buildings. If you are keen on fog, keep it enabled, but otherwise, just disable it and gain some speed.

Vertex Lighting: Ticking this box enables vertex lighting in the game, which is only a tweak for the speed hungry. Vertex lighting is a flat, dull type of lighting which, while fast, saps all atmosphere from the game. Consider this a last resort.

Tweaking - Texture Settings

The next section we'll be visiting is Textures. So head on over there and take a gander at the following:

Texture Quality: This setting determines the colour depth and overall quality of the game textures. If you have a 64MB card (or a really fast 32 MB card), set this to 32bit, otherwise, 16bit will probably do fine.

Texture Compression: Unless your card doesn't support this feature, there is NO reason to not have it enabled. There are two choices for you as well, fastest and nicest. This is about as obvious as it sounds. If you have under 32MB on your video card or a low amount of ram, set this to fastest. If you have more than what I just mentioned, set it to nicest and you'll alleviate some of the yucky effects of the compression. Although I don't know for certain, I'm assuming the fastest/nicest settings are the DXT1 and DXT3 settings which were discovered during the whole Quake III S3TC issue.

Terrain Texture Detail: By adjusting the slider bar, you can increase/decrease the filtering detail of the textures on the terrain. Decreasing can save texture memory, but if you've got a 32MB card and texture compression enabled, you're best to keep it at maximum and enjoy purdy textures.

Shape Texture Detail: By adjusting the slider bar, you can increase/decrease the filtering detail of the textures of shapes in the game world. Decreasing can save texture memory, but if you've got a 32MB card and texture compression enabled, you're best to keep it at maximum and enjoy purdy textures.

Building Texture Detail: By adjusting the slider bar, you can increase/decrease the filtering detail of the textures of buildings. Decreasing can save texture memory, but if you've got a 32MB card and texture compression enabled, blah blah blah...

Sky Texture Detail: By adjusting the slider bar, you can increase/decrease the filtering detail of the textures of the sky. You know the rest. :)

Tweaking - Texture Settings (cont.)

Anisotropy: Anisotropy is a higher quality texture filter than Bilinear and Trilinear filtering, and if your card supports it, can make textures much clearer and reduce the 'banding' appearance. Any card that is GeForce 256 and beyond will usually support Anistropic filtering, and while it takes a lot of extra speed to use the max amount of filtering, it's really nice looking.

Environment Maps: Environment maps are a funky little eye-candy feature that when applied to surfaces, take the world around it and reflect it. While it is a neat thing to look at, if you're actually playing the game and not picking your nose, environment maps are kind of useless and just sap valuable resources.

Interior Env. Maps: Same thing as above, but indoors!

Since we're on the topic of textures, you should also know, much like Unreal Tournament, there are higher resolution model textures on the Tribes 2 CD, which can make your character look much nicer. Fileplanet has a great little batch program, which makes installing the textures pretty easy. Otherwise, you'd have to delete a whole bunch of _512's from the filenames.

That section is complete. How about we move on to sound now?

Tweaking - Sound

3D Provider: This selects your 3D sound driver/provider if your card supports 3D audio.

Speakers: This simply optimizes the sound output for the type of speaker setup you have.

Frequency: This changes the sound quality. I see no reason why you shouldn't have this set to 44KHz, unless you have an extremely slow system and/or cheap sound card.

Master Volume: This one should be pretty obvious. The master game volume control.

Effects Volume: The volume level of the sound effects

GUI Volume: The volume of the menus, e.g. clicking buttons and selecting menus.

Voice Bind Volume: The volume of the voices in the game, like when you say "Shazbot!" :)

MP3 Music: This toggles the in-game music, which happens to be MP3.

Music Volume: Duh.

Tweaking - Network Settings

The next section to head on over to is the Network section, because (obviously) we will tweak your networking settings. This will make online play as good as it can get. Also, don't forget to read our modem and Cable/DSL tweak guides to make it even better.

Dynamix created some presets which they feel are best optimized for certain connection types. Those are a great way to start, but of course, that's not enough. Each connection is different and can respond to the settings differently.

Packet Rate: Sliding this bar up and down increases/decreases the speed that the packets are transferred. If you have a modem connection, it should be kept fairly low, if you have broadband, it can be set higher. Play with this setting.

Packet Size: This setting increases/decreases the size of the packets which are sent. The most information the packets hold, the more bandwidth it will take, so as with packet rate, lower for modem users and higher for broadband. Play with this setting too.

Client Update Rate: This setting adjusts the rate that the client sends packets. If you have the bandwidth to handle it, crank this baby up, if not, keep it lower.

Display On Master Server: This setting just simply specifies if you want your hosted server (if you are hosting one) to be displayed to the master server so people may find and join easily.

Server Location: Just select the location nearest to where you are playing to optimize your ping. Simple as that.

Check E-Mail While Playing: I don't know why this feature is even included, but (uh...), disable it unless you use it.

Disconnect From Chat: This will disconnect you from any chat rooms you happen to be in when you join a server. Great if you need all the bandwidth possible.





While Tribes 2 may have its fair share of problems, I hope these tweaks helped to alleviate most of these problems. Hopefully your game is running better than ever, and you can now enjoy a fast paced game of Tribes 2. And for those of you that don't own it, but came here simply because of curiosity or for some other reason, I hope you enjoyed the screen shots (now, go buy the game)! Thanks for reading.