StarCraft® II

The comprehensive variables.txt thread!

Posts: 508
Originally posted by datth:
Devs do not recommend that you manually edit these as some combinations may make the game unstable or run slowly. Only play with the file if you want to experiment.

Also note: I did experimenting on my own and noticed that my computer will CRASH if I run SC2 with invalid variable.txt settings. Can't say this will happen on all systems, but seems likely.

Okay Hopefully this will be a source of even more variables.txt information, although at this point I have a pretty fair collection.

Feel free to contribute things you've learned. In fact it'd be be even better if you did experimentation yourself to help figure things out for everyone else. I will probably edit-in any contributions into this original post.

Adjust max FPS
SC2 used to cause GPU overloading without a framerate cap AFAIK, but either the problem was fixed or I was mistaken.
Originally posted by AdamS:
There is a cap of ~60 FPS on the glue screens. And the game will not cause your video card to overheat no matter how powerful it is or how many FPS it draws if the video card has adequate cooling.
Values can be changed to taste - a bit higher or lower than you desire, such as 60 for the GUI, and 80 for the game
Add the lines:

frameratecap=60 (In-game FPS limit)
frameratecapGlue=30 (FPS limit for the user interface)

Also note: If you have an FPS cap enabled (for at least the gameplay), I suggest you disable vsync, although this is not advice from an expert and I may be wrong.
Vsync by the way, is an alternative to using a framerate cap, which will help or prevent partial frames from rendering (half of a screen update being displayed [for only a milisecond or few] instead of a whole one).

Vsync is a perfectly fine option to use, just realize that I've heard it may cause very small amounts of input lag, and/or lower FPS (up to 50%). Vsync causes frames to be rendered at a rate that's typically a factor/divisor of the monitor's refresh rate (60hz, 75hz, 100hz, etc.)
A more in-depth explanation can be found here:

Run Starcraft 2 at a custom resolution
This one is pretty simple, but some of you may not have realized it.
Add (or edit?) the following lines:

Width=X (X being the screen width you want in pixels)
Height= Y (Y being the screen height you want in pixels)

Disable all creep effects:
Creep becomes a texture. No more animations. Some competitive gamers may like this.


Ultra-high (extreme) graphics settings.
- - - - -
EDIT: An in-game extreme graphics setting has been introduced, but only for the cinematics as far as I heard. I doubt it does much though, as far as I know it mostly just improves shadows. I do not recommend using it even for just the cinematics but that's just me.
- - - - -
More details on this setting:
Extreme settings not available through GUI. Note, this runs EXTREMELY SLOW from what I heard, even on newer cards. The visual difference is almost ZERO in many cases, too.The major difference this does I think it make the shadows super-detailed. There's some other differences, but you don't notice them as much. I do not recommend this change to put in your variables.txt due to the performance cost compared to graphics boost.
Add the following lines:

GraphicsOptionOverallQualityVer7 [5] = 4

Performance AND good quality - tweak
More details on this setting:
This will maintain most of your current ultra settings,
but lower a few settings for a major performance boost. Note, this is designed to improve performance from ultra (highest) settings, in case you either want it to look different, or perform more smoothly.

hdr = 0 (Seems to lower color de-saturation of units, but also removes most of the glowing on most units. Also reduces but not completely eliminates the glossy/shiny look on models)
shadowmapsize=512 (shadow detail. You can also try 256 or 128.
transparentshadows=0 (Major change for ATI Radeon cards I hear. cloaked units get normal shadows instead of transparent.)

Remove shadows
Completely removes shadows as far as I know. This is another competitive gamer performance change, but I think can just be done in the GUI?

shadows = 0

Untested, but obviously water effects:
This could be another useful improvement on some maps for competitive gamers. I have not tested these, and do not yet know what they do for certain, but here are what my values happen to be.

waterreflection=1 (water reflections effect)
waterrendertargetsize=1024 (water quality I'm guessing)
watershadow=1 (shadows in the water? possibly shadows FOR the water waves?)

Show low-ground/pits/canyons/hide-fog
This makes the screen/gameplay-area SLIGHTLY "darker", since there is a small amount of fog on normal level ground, but the main thing you'll notice is all low ground (pits,canyons,etc.) that is normally unpathable (unless you specially edit it in the editor) will be visible, as the fog that normally covers it will disappear. Not sure if this increases or decreases performance, but it looks pretty cool IMO.
Add line:

fog= 0

Remove the glossy/shiny/slimy look on all models
If one sets hdr to 0 it will diminish the shiny/slimy/glossy appearance on all models, but models will also loose all glow effects. However, if one keeps hdr at 1, but sets spec to 0 you will loose the glossy look completey, but keep the HDR glow effects. Note that spec=0 considerably reduces the perceived detail level of many units (especially zerg).
Change lines:

spec = 0

Remove bumpy textures
This will remove normal map (bump map) effects on all models, including the terrain. It makes the terrain flat looking, but also removes the 3d look on all other textures that use it (pretty much every zerg unit, and not much else AFAIK). This affects the quality of zerg units' detail a lot, but makes the terrain a bit more clean looking.
modify the line:


Unknown effects
Test these if you want. I have not tried them, so be careful.


I run every thing on a either high or ultra. I don't want to sacrificer any visual quality but I'd like to enable simple pylon circles. How can I do this. They seem to only show up when every thing is set to low.

Just turn down model quality to low, the rest can stay.

I am personally requesting if anyone knows how to remove all lighting in the game. This is an option in the editor (view>lighting), but I don't know it's variables.txt variable, if it even exists. Note it is NOT "lighting" or at least "lighting = 0" because I tried that and it crashed my computer.

Unrelated to variables.txt, but very useful if you want a visual boost:
This information is only relevant if you have an ATI Radeon card.

ATI has released updated drivers to enable Anti-Aliasing in Starcraft 2. Previously even forcing application to use AA would not work for Starcraft 2, but with the new driver, it can now be done. This may slow down your FPS considerably, so watch out.
It also improves performance in certain crossfire setups.
EDIT: that was version 10.7a, you should probably get a more recent version now (which may offer increased benefits). Visit amd/ATI's website to get the latest version.

nVidia cards could/can already force AA.
Edited by Xapti on 2/9/2011 11:36 PM PST
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Posts: 508
New, discovered it myself before my computer crashed and failed on me (posting in safe mode)

Add line:

fog = 0

Turns off game fog. Game fog is most noticeable when you look at parts of the map which use pits or cliffs that are lower the ground below "ground level"m. The fog quickly gets dense, and you can't really see the ground at all. This removes that. It might be a performance booster, or a performance reducer. my guess is reducer, but not by much.
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Posts: 22
In the folder, under windows 7, C:\Users\(Your Username Here)\My Documents\StarCraft II
or Simply "My Documents" then StarCraft II

Open the file "Variables.txt" in the StarCraft II folder right there, not in the subfolders.

There is a ton of graphics settings, but one that stands out is "shadowmapsize"
So basically if you know about shadow maps, every frame the scene is rendered to the depth buffer without color or texture information, then to in a different pass the normal backbuffer. The normal pass goes to a render target of say 1920x1080 (your screen resolution). The depth buffer for the shadowmap is (for ultra) 2048x2048. So its pretty big, it is faster to render to the depth buffer, but still has a huge tangible hit on performance. This shadow map is then sampled for all scene objects that either cast or receive shadows (pretty much everything). So:
a.) The smaller this shadowmap resolution is, the faster this pass is rendered.
b.) The smaller this shadowmap is, less sampling, less "taps" are needed for the final scene due to the overall resolution difference.

So it is currently set at:

Without changing any of the other options, set it to:

There is a negilble difference in quality, and in this game its really hard too see. But the performance difference is well worth it.

Let me know what you think, and if you want to prevent StarCraft II from in-advertently reseting this back 2048, set the file "Variables.txt" as read-only.
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Posts: 22
some needs to find the engine setting for AA (anti-aliasing), rather than "forced" thru the nvidia control panel.
Edited by Carandiru on 8/6/2010 12:08 AM PDT
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Posts: 439
I tried the shadowmapsize thing but did not get a big boost in fps. I only got a few. Its not worth the quality imo. Im sure those who have a decent computer could probably find this useful.

My specs in case youre wondering:

windows 7 64bit
i7 920 @3.6ghz
ati 5870
6gb ddr3 1600mhz triple channel
Edited by Akumapro on 8/6/2010 1:33 AM PDT
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Posts: 9
The engine itself probably doesn't support anti aliasing in default since it uses a deferred renderer and deferred renderers have a very hard time supporting AA.

If blizzard did manage to get AA hidden in there kudos to them though.
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Posts: 508
I can pretty much guarantee there's no AA option for variables.txt. If there was, it would be an option in-game. This is definitely something you have to force on your video card.

Note, however, if you're not a fan of catalyst control center, or nvidia display wizard (or whatever it's called), you don't need these programs running to force AA for starcraft 2. You only need to set the option(s) and then close the program. I don't have my program on startup, so it will only open when I run it manually.

There's also other programs that let you force AA and change more advanced settings the default programs don't even let you. I don't remember the names, but I am at least sure there's one for ATI card (called atipro or radeonpro or something I think). You don't need to run them all the time, either. In fact, I think by default they DON'T startup automatically, since there's no reason to.
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Posts: 136
very nice find mr xapti.. of course ive been having crashing issues myself.. ill give all this a try see if it at least calms down on the crashing.. i got two ati 5830's and there slould be no reason why this game crash's like it does.

from the looks of the variables.txt file these settings shouldnt be even set this high on default.. i know blizzard wants there game to look good but not so good too where its putting over the limit heavy stress (settings) on even the top doller cards/pc's

also Carandiru's post does make's sence. and sadly (& this is very well known) shadows do seem to tax alot off the gfx cards no matter what game you play. its never really needed to have extreamly high shadows because you really never notice your units shadow once you get in the battles anyways..
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Posts: 22
I tried the shadowmapsize thing but did not get a big boost in fps. I only got a few. Its not worth the quality imo. Im sure those who have a decent computer could probably find this useful.

My specs in case youre wondering:

windows 7 64bit
i7 920 @3.6ghz
ati 5870
6gb ddr3 1600mhz triple channel

You have a kick ass video card, I don't think you need to tweak (at least you shouldn't have to), also considering you other specs. I have:
Windows 7 64bit
2 285 Dual-Core Opteron Processors
NVIDIA 260 GTX Maxcore

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Posts: 34
Will any of these settings help with the in-game videos (cutscenes) and things like the Hyperion Bridge, Lab, etc for people running SLI? (I'm aware that there is a consistent problem with SLI for people using that setup). I have dual 260M's, and the game runs flawlessly except for those areas. My cards don't currently get excessively hot (I am running both HWmonitor and Everest). Or is this something I'm going to have to wait for either a Blizzard patch or an nVidia driver update?

I don't really have any complaints about the game, just that part would be nice to see. Other than that, I have no complaints and have been greatly enjoying the game.
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Posts: 508
I don't think they affect the cut-scene performance or quality, much or at all. I didn't know SLI had that problem. Running crossfire I don't have the problem. Sounds like a problem nVidia will have to fix, since it's an SLI thing.

There is a setting for quality of in-game cutscenes in the GUI if you didn't know, but I assume you did.
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Posts: 508
I'm making a new post just to be clear:

It turns out the experimenting I decided to do (which made me discover fog=0, and what pixellight, and spec do) can actually result in your computer crashing immediately when SC2 is run (at least it happened to me). This can happen if you provide in invalid variable, or very likely an invalid value, or even possibly values that your system simply doesn't like/support.

It is also possible that this is what caused my crossfire to stop working (I can't boot windows with 2 graphics cards now), since the timing would be right, but I find it extremely hard to believe that it is possible. While I highly doubt it, it is a possibility.

From this point on I do not recommend experimenting with variables.txt if you don't know what you're doing, and any changes you do make will be at your own risk (not that it wasn't ever your own risk before though, lol).
Edited by Xapti on 8/6/2010 10:24 PM PDT
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Posts: 136
frameratecap=60 (In-game FPS limit)
frameratecapGlue=30 (FPS limit for the user interface)

shadowmapsize=512 (shadow detail. Only change if the number was higher by default (1024 or 2048). You can also try 256 or 128.

i have 1st tryed the top one.. sits around 62 in-game seem to have help load/move interface a bit fast/smother

for the shadowmapsize= mines was set @ default 2048 so i fig i have 1024 memory in my gfx cards (ati 5830) & simply matched it too to shadowmapsize=1024..

these settings has so far help reduce lag/crash's so thats a plus. so far not one crash yet ;-)

i do have a question tho what is softshadowTaps=6 ?? whats it for/do?? just askin because in your post its set to 6 wile mines it set too 12..
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Posts: 9
softshadowTaps should determine the number of times each shadow pixel accesses ("taps") its neighbors in the shadowmap to determine softness.
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Posts: 990
I must admit even if this fixes problems I'm wary of attempting it, I don't know enough about putting in code or messing with game text to fiddle with it, unless there's some very exact details on what to do step by step. In mean time I think I'd rather wait for a patch.
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Posts: 20


I don't have these two settings in variables.txt, should I add it or just not do anything?
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Posts: 508
If you lower your shadow map size to 1024 you should probably also lower your taps, since it's kind of unnecessary to have that many taps when your detail probably isn't enough to show the difference (or at least not as good).
softshadowTaps, transparentshadows
I don't have these two settings in variables.txt, should I add it or just not do anything?
Probably should not do anything. The changes for that section are changes to improve performance from ultra settings - I didn't really mention that (kinda stupid of me), so I'll clairify that one. That may be the reason why you don't have the values. Obviously do not increase values if you want a performance boost as opposed to quality boost. They are also values for PC, it's possible mac is missing certain variables or something? Just a guess although I think it's unlikely since they use pretty much the same hardware.
Edited by Xapti on 8/7/2010 12:06 AM PDT
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Posts: 136
ok just got done playing for the night.

just to let you know i only had 2 crash's for the whole night thats alot better then having a crash after 1-2 games online... prob 20 + crash's a night (well used to be ;-p )

i havent try lowering softshadowTaps= to 6 yet but will do later on when i wake up.
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Posts: 22
good to know, I wonder how much of difference in "soft-shadow" quality it will make when changing the shadowmapsize=2048 to shadowmapsize=1024 and softShadowtaps=12 to softShadowTaps=6. I currently have it at 12, but with some shader programming knowledge this is a variable defined as the extent of a for loop in a pixel shader. And the more "taps" the farther the samples reach out to adjacent pixels to get a "better" soft-shadow average for that pixel. Sounds all technical I know yes, but what is the tangible difference - only screenshots comparing the two would actually show - and I bet the difference is so friggen hard to see its worth the "small" performance difference.
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Posts: 83
I tried a few of these on my Laptop and it actually made things worse :P , don't know exactly which one it was but whenever I tried to make a building it would lock up for a good 20 seconds.
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