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Open source community figures out problems with performance in Starfield

As it turns out, Starfield might not be that well optimized after all.
Update 9/14/2023:
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It appears the issue presented by Hans-Kristian Arntzen isn’t as big of a deal as reported in the story’s initial impressions. Arntzen’s original GitHub post did highlight some inefficiencies with Starfield’s DirectX 12 rendering pipeline, but he has since clarified that their general effect on the game’s performance has been blown out of proportion online. According to a recent update to his performance workaround, the “potential [performance] impact and the problem it tries to solve is being grossly misrepresented” and isn’t necessarily endemic to Starfield, as such. “To be clear,” he continued, “the gains expected here are very minute.” Original story: With millions of players having already jumped right into the thick of it with Starfield, it’s hard to deny the fact that a non-insignificant number of them are facing performance issues on powerful PC hardware. When the director Todd Howard was asked about these issues, he responded in a way that some might say was tone-deaf. Notably, he said that Starfield was optimized and that some PC gamers might simply need to upgrade their rigs for it to run properly. A bold statement, to be sure, but one that may also ring hollow following some strange discoveries from the open-source community. According to Hans-Kristian Arntzen, a prominent open-source developer working on Vkd3d, a DirectX 12 to Vulkan translation layer, Starfield is not interacting properly with graphics card drivers. Arntzen did not mince words in his recent release, describing Starfield‘s graphics driver overhead as “very inefficient.” The problem is so severe, in fact, that the aforementioned translation layer had to be updated specifically to handle Starfield as an exception to the usual handling of the issue.
Screenshot by Destructoid

Is Starfield actually fully optimized for PC?

The performance inadequacies outlined above wouldn’t necessarily have been a huge deal had Todd Howard not recently gone on record claiming that Starfield runs great, considering its leveraging of cutting-edge tech. Now, however, with the severe performance inefficiencies pointed out via Vkd3d, it’s clear this wasn’t the case. Arntzen’s work has revealed that Starfield does not allocate video memory correctly, and that it misuses an important DirectX 12 feature (ExecuteIndirect) to the point where the GPU needs to double-check certain bits of data, causing lower frame rate than otherwise might’ve been expected. The problem is then exacerbated due to Starfield generating multiple ExecuteIndirect calls one after another while they should’ve been batched together for performance purposes. Arntzen has identified these problems, yes, but it falls upon Bethesda to resolve these problems on the game backend side of things. The end result should – if the optimizations ever end up being implemented – be a performance uplift across the board on PC.
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Filip Galekovic
A lifetime gamer and writer, Filip has successfully made a career out of combining the two just in time for the bot-driven AI revolution to come into its own.