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I just did a little funny experiment in the game/sim "Train Simulator 2013". I normally have good FPS in it (around 30) at full settings.

What I did was make a really, really long train so that the calculations the sim needed to make were enormous (the sim is quite realistic, it takes all things into account like speed/acceleration, G-forces, comfort levels, possible wheel slip and many more, and most of those things on each carriage seperately). This resulted in only 14FPS as reported by the game, but it felt more like 8FPS or so.

I have a Logitech G15 keyboard which has an LCD, and it allows me to monitor CPU/RAM and video card load on it.

The strange thing is, all CPU cores were busy, but the total load was only about 60% maximum at all times. The video card was only on 30% load (possibly an important note, the memory was full, which is however not unusual for the game in question). The RAM had plenty of room and there weren't many operations as it didn't grow or shrink much.

I just have the feeling that the game would run smoother if it used more of my hardware power. Why is it not doing so? I had the same in another game, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind when using more than 100 mods (that all use scripting) and a few high res texture mods, + a full-on graphics improvement program. The engine is very old (2003), and so I thought this might be the cause (not being optimised for multithreading).

I had thought of possible causes, like:

  • The operating system doesn't let the games use all the resources.
  • It doesn't make use of multi-threading appropriately.

To eliminate the former, I tried a CPU stress tool and that got 100% CPU juice as I let it run, so the OS is not the problem. I gave its thread the "higher" priority though.

My actual question

In both games, I did things the engine was not really built to do or support. Can those games' framerate be limited cause of their own engine not being able to cope? What is the real reason and more importantly, can I help it? And in any case, could something actually be wrong with my hardware? It's all reasonably new, a couple of months, and I (almost) never experience any other trouble. Modern and much more demanding games work absolutely fine.

Specs

CPU: AMD Phenom II 965 X4 @ 3.4gHz
RAM: 8GB of DDR3 RAM
Video: MSI GTX560 (nVidia chip) with 1GB of GDDR5 memory
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit

Nothing overclocked.

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+1 just for asking a well thought out/written question. –  Hennes Dec 16 '12 at 1:23
    
@Hennes thanks, now let's hope somebody knows the answer too :p –  MDeSchaepmeester Dec 16 '12 at 10:17
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I've looked into this a bit for you, and it looks like train simulator only uses 2 cores of your CPU max. If your CPU was showing 60% load, it was likely using 47-50% of that just for train simulator, the other 10% was for other operations.

This is very typical for most games, very few make use of 4 cores. Most operations are serial, so finding things to do with the extra cores is difficult.

You have a good processor, your only real option would be to overclock it if it is a black edition. Otherwise, don't make your trains so big ;)

Your hardware fine, you would know if there were any other serious issues - they would show up quickly under any stress test, and 90% of the time they would cause a blue screen of death.

As far as what the FPS shows - 15fps usually looks smooth, but not contiguous (it jitters). It could just be reporting it incorrectly.

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Thank you for your explanation :) would changing the affinity mask do anything? By the way I think that for Morrowind there was a way to make it use all the available cores... Not sure though and anyway it would only be a hack-isch thing. So if I understand it well, the speed is capped by my core clock? Interesting, it was one of my suspicions, but since the clock is so wickedly fast I could hardly believe that... –  MDeSchaepmeester Dec 17 '12 at 22:16
    
Changing the affinity mask won't do anything unfortunately. The program knows that it can use all cores, it just decides not to.By setting the affinity mask all you can do is decide which two cores it runs on. For other older games, you may be able to get the to run on multiple cores through hack-ish ways, or by using console commands. If there is a way to do it you may be able to find it online on forums somewhere. –  Logan Bissonnette Dec 18 '12 at 0:22
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