Patch Dogs: Ubi To Fix Watch_Dogs’ Performance Issues

By Nathan Grayson on May 31st, 2014 at 12:00 pm.

Maybe they'll also fix the bug that makes some people look like oompa-loompas from the Netherworld

For Graham, Watch_Dogs was like a multi-pack bag of crisps – all choice and abundance, no soul. For many other people, however, it’s been like one of those bags that won’t open no matter how hard you try. You wrench and strain and try from different angles, but alas: nothing. You know something semi-flavorful is inside, but you just can’t get it to work right. Fortunately, Ubisoft is aware, and it’s working on a patch to alleviate some of the performance issues PC players have been encountering.

The biggest problems involve lag and stuttering, which technical director Sebastien Viard attempted to explain the source of on Twitter:

“Watch Dogs can use 3+ GB of RAM on [next-gen] consoles for graphics. Your PC GPU needs enough VRAM for ultra options due to the lack of unified memory.”

“If you experience lag/stutter on a fast PC, try to lower one of those settings to reduce the GPU VRAM usage: texture quality, AA, resolution.”

So basically, consoles draw on a single source of RAM shared by the whole system while PCs largely make use of graphics card video memory for, you know, graphics while system RAM does its heavy lifting elsewhere.

Regardless, Watch_Dogs looks good in some areas, acceptable in others, and downright bad elsewhere. It’s kind of upsetting that it’s causing PCs – high-end ones, especially – this much trouble. An upcoming patch, then, will hopefully remedy that. Viard wrote:

“Our PC programmers are also currently working on a patch to improve your experience thanks to your reports. Stay tuned.”

Make like a dog and watch. That’s what he should’ve said. It’s what I would’ve said, and look at me: I’m a run-ragged journalist making just-barely-enough-money, and he’s Code Lord on one of the year’s most popular games. Who’s the real winner here?

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63 Comments »

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  1. Elmarby says:

    I guess I’ll hold on to my cash a bit longer and await either a whopping great patch or GTA5 for PC. By now that PC version is presumably coming along nicely.

    • ncnavguy says:

      For Realsies! I’m hoping at E3 next week Rock* reveals that the PC version and Xb1/PS4 versions are indeed ported and coming soon. I was playing some old gta4 tBoGT and got excited again for some new gta action

      • KenTWOu says:

        There is a high chance they will announce next-gen ports only to earn more money from console players.

  2. hypnox says:

    I feel this is just another PR bullshit talk of Ubisoft..
    Right now for me, the performance in Watch Dogs just isn’t there. Between Max Settings (1080p – Ultra settings) and lowest Settings (800×600 resolution – everything on low) there is whooping difference of 8 FPS average. (About 20FPS average with heavy stutter on lowest settings, with audio distortions that will cause the sounds and subtitles to be completely out of sync with the rest of the game)
    All that on a machine thats runs games like Witcher 2, Sleeping Dogs and Crysis 3 on pretty much max settings at 60+ FPS.. all of which look arguably better than Watch Dogs at max settings..

    And it’s not even like it’s the first time this happened.. AC 3, AC 4: Blackflag and Splinter Cell Blacklist all have those problems, even now, for a lot of people.
    Far Cry 3 and Anno 2070 are probably the only AAA games in the last years from Ubisoft that don’t run like complete shit on PC.

    Oh well, can’t wait for the disaster-to-be called The Division, where everybody will have forgotten everything that happened with Ubisoft and just throw them another couple of million dollars because Hype.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant, but I had to get that out of my system.. freakin Ubisoft..

    • Flopper says:

      Weird… I get 60-80 frames average. No stutter on a PC that was built 3 years ago. I have 2 GTX 580s in SLI with only 1.5GB VRAM. And not sure if you know but VRAM in SLI doesn’t stack so having 2 cards doesn’t equal 3GB.

      So with 1.5GB cards that are 3 years old I get 60-80fps depending on where I am and time of day/weather etc.

      Somehow I think your story about running witcher 2 and all those other games at max settings is a little bit of an exaggeration.

      • sebmojo says:

        Don’t be silly. PCs with similar power can easily have different results because of driver and part interactions. And Witcher 2 isn’t even that demanding these days, if you stay away from the supersampling e-peen option.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          Don’t be ridiculous. You even hear yourself?! Now there are e-peen settings and non-epeen settings? What else is e-peen setting? MSAA abover 4 or above 2? SSAA? HBAO+?
          And as for the graphics setting – I have a PC that’s 5 years only, sure, when I build it it was very high end, but now – not so much. And I run Watch Dogs at 40 FPS / 1080p on ultra settings.
          Problems with the game are not universal – some people got a very specific setups that cause problems with the game, but in general, for majority – game works perfectly fine. So STFU and wait for the patch. Or try format c: /q

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            There seems to be a big discrepancy between Nvidia and AMD performance for one. AMD users have been reporting poor performance. There is absolutely no way that switching from 1080p on Ultra to 800×600 on lowest results in a change of only 8 FPS. Not in general. If that is happening for you there are other problems with your system causing the game to tank.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Far Cry 3 and Anno 2070 are probably the only AAA games… from Ubisoft that don’t run like complete shit on PC.

      By the way, both Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon were in AMD never settle program. And then Ubisoft and nVidia formed an alliance “to offering PC players the best possible experience”.

  3. hypercrisis says:

    Wasn’t this game supposedly developed with PC first or something equally nonsensical?

    • Premium User Badge

      amateurviking says:

      Yes I believe that was mentioned. Seems to have been something of an untruth if they’re now saying that you need ridiculous amounts of VRAM to play on ultra settings.

    • WaspHUN says:

      Probably they spent that plus 6 months to tailor it more to the new consoles. That was the same with BF3 a few years ago… they changed the main platform from PC to consoles during development.

    • MaXimillion says:

      “PC as the lead platform” is one of those phrases every multiplat dev is expected to state now, regardless of whether it’s true or not.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Some words fell off:
        (We programmed it on a) PC (, with consoles in mind) as the lead platform

  4. Premium User Badge

    Jiskra says:

    Real winner here seems to be Nvidia unfortunetly.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      Well, I am running on an i7 4770k with 16gb and a GTX 780 Ti. The stutter is appalling, mostly when driving. It’s apparently worse for AMD users – you pays yer money and there were plenty of previous warning signs for AMD users, sadly – but that still doesn’t make me feel like a winner.

      • Erinduck says:

        My friend rocking the same card is getting the same performance that I do on my 660gtx on the same settings, give or take maybe five FPS. There’s something seriously wrong with this game.

      • mdrewitt says:

        Try turning off DoF. My roomate has a 4770k and a 780 and he had constant stutter while running/driving. Turning that of and hes back to a smooth experience.

  5. chubblywarner says:

    There is a bigger story than this update for PC. You need to be talking about the game breaking bug on all platforms that stops people from loading their games. I haven’t been able to play my game since the 28th due to this bug. There is a 100+ page forum page on the ubisoft site with players all over having the same issue.

    http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/882580-OFFICIAL-Game-stuck-on-loading-screen/page109

    • RvLeshrac says:

      You mean UPlay? Yeah, shame none of the reviews mentioned that the fucking game doesn’t work at all out of the box, and hasn’t worked since launch for a huge number of people.

      Game “journalists” bitch about how the plebs are always saying that they’ve sold out, but this is exactly the reason why. The game was given 7, 8, 9/10 scores, yet it doesn’t fucking work properly.

      • PampleMoose says:

        At the end of the day, the question is whether or not reviewers should be expected to criticise a game for issues they themselves can’t replicate in their own playthrough. It’s probably reasonable to expect them to do so if it is a universal problem experienced by regular consumers, because their review code might be sufficiently different from the retail code to warrant that (I think this is valid if there are universal day one issues with DRM authentication, when verification servers crash, for example).

        The problem here, though, is that the problems are not universal. I’m running an i5 NVIDIA machine I built at the beginning of this year, and the only issue I had was stuttering when I was running with less RAM than the minimum system requirements asked for. As soon as I put more RAM in, no issues. I’ve never had any issues with black textures, no uPlay issues, no issues with savegames. It’s a good machine, but certainly not top of the line.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m hugely grateful not to have had any of the issues that loads of other people have had with this game, and I’m not at all diminishing the fact that there are obviously issues with this release (with the caveat that I suspect the issues have at least some source in the diversity of software/hardware combos in the PC ecosystem, as much as the Watch Dogs code itself.).

        But I think it’s unfair to criticise reviews for not dealing with that – reviewers should really only be expected to deal with what they experience themselves, if only because as much as the RPS review doesn’t reflect your experience, your review probably wouldn’t reflect my experience, which is much closer to the RPS one. Let the reviews focus on what they actually have to hand, and let the reporting on other issues the community is experiencing be saved for the news columns.

  6. lovcol says:

    Lowering texture quality to high removes all stuttering for me on an AMD 7950 3gb. Seems they still went a little to wild on the quality.

  7. Premium User Badge

    PoulWrist says:

    Funny how Metro Last Light uses less than 1gb of videomem running max settings at 2560×1440 :S

    • lovcol says:

      Not a city open world game though.

      • skyturnedred says:

        Indeed. My rusty but trusty old PC can still run most games fine, but open-world games are always just a tad too much for my configuration.

  8. TheVGamer says:

    If this game was ported to PC by Ubisoft Kiev, then… I don’t know, I can be a tiny bit more understanding, especially since they probably didn’t have any real experience with the new consoles before this.

  9. Shooop says:

    How about that “next gen” huh?

    • DanMan says:

      At least the system requirements are already next-gen. Now only the content has to follow.

  10. CookPassBabtridge says:

    You know, I love my PC. Yeah all this nonsense sucks but nuisance factors would never convince me to part with one. I actually enjoy delaying buying a game, waiting for it to get fixed and modded, coming way down in price and then soaking it up, alt-or-shift-tabbing to an internet window to look up tactics or game info, choosing different monitor or controller setups and being able to nibble at the code . That and opening up the PC tower for that ‘new graphics card smell’.

  11. r3dhorse says:

    So far I’m having zero performance issues on Ultra settings. I’m glad, but I don’t understand why a lot of others are, who have i7’s and GT 780 cards…
    mine:
    i5-4430 Haswell
    8GB RAM
    GeForce GTX 770
    1680×1050 HDMI on 48″ Flat screen TV
    Win 8.1

    • dsch says:

      I have it between High and Ultra and it’s also working just fine. i5-3570K, Radeon 7850, 1080, running off an SSD.

      • NukeWithG says:

        Could you list off the rest of your system specs? I’ve been vary of buying this game because of the performance issues, but you seem to have the same specs as me and running it fine.

    • fish99 says:

      Yeah I don’t get it either, runs great on my 660 2gb / I5-3570K / 8GB etc. Running 1080p, 2xMSAA, textures high, MHBAO, high shadows, everything else on full and getting 40 fps minimum which seems about right for how the game looks.

    • Rockman says:

      I had some problems at release with frame drops and some tearing but since 337.88 drivers I’ve had zero problems in ~23 hours of gameplay on an arguably worse rig, running all ultra except AA at x2
      3770k @4.2
      16GB
      EVGA GTX 670 FTW x2
      1920 x 1200
      win7

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        -disablepagefilecheck as launch option. Also tell uPlay’s overlay to fuck off from your game.

        This game is not just VRAM intensive, but also with regular RAM, you don’t want any writes in virtual memory ( Windows is dumb ) especially if you don’t have an SSD.

        And about SSDs, this game is yet another reason why i keep telling that it matters; when you stream a lot of data on the fly you don’t want an HDD, the various Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallouts and others all suffer from this.

        This is what most people are experiencing even with a 780ti, various stutterings that have nothing to do with the GPU ( provided you didn’t overload the VRAM or went for silly settings ).

        Now it’s all 60fps smooth with my OC’d 780ti, i also have a good SSD and the only stutter i’m getting below 60 fps is the very rare mass loading of assets, which can’t totally be avoided but 80% mitigated with the tips above.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          With at least 8GB you could also entirely destroy the pagefile from Windows, but then you’ll be bothered by “low memory” warnings booting you out out the game.

          That’s bollocks and completely untrue, so you’ll have to disable the warnings aswell, like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT_z6vTeSW0

          • fish99 says:

            Thanks for that. I had that warning with Watch Dogs (with 8GB) and had to re-enable my pagefile. Time to get rid of it again.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Actually, don’t do that, i spoke too soon :(((

            Windows’s “commit charge” is the culprit, sooner or later it’ll go over 8gbs no matter the actual physical RAM usage and it’ll just black screen you indefinitely.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Here we go again.

            Do not disable the pagefile. Paging is still useful even with tons of RAM. Memory management is a complicated, multi-faceted subject, and honestly Windows has got one of the best (and most tuned by actual experimental metrics) approaches going (and if you don’t believe me, try running a standard Linux box—a mix of no meaningful preloading and a lazy swap-in strategy means it is sluggish as all hell after boot or after physical memory exhaustion, and then there’s the sheer idiocy of overcommit and the OOM killer…).

            Windows’ “commit charge” is how much memory it’s had to promise to applications. If that number is rising, applications are demanding more memory, possibly because of leaks. Because Windows isn’t inclined to tell lies, it will ensure there is actually enough physical and virtual memory combined to fulfil the commit charge. This may involve expanding the pagefile. If it cannot raise the commit limit (e.g. because no pagefile exists), it will start refusing requests. This tends to make most applications crash or lock up.

            Crucially, a page file allows Windows to not have to ensure that every last byte of memory applications demand is backed by physical memory. Applications can (and will) claim vast swathes of memory and actually only write to smaller subsets of that. With paging available, Windows (and other modern OSes) will only actually map that to physical memory when used, so most of the allocation does not eat up precious RAM. But because Windows will not let itself get into the same OOM pickles as Linux, if you do not let it potentially back that allocation with a slice of pagefile, it has to reserve that much actual RAM. There is no other way it can fulfil its promise. Memory allocation APIs do not have a way to say “oops, turns out you couldn’t have that after all” later. (Linux’s way is to violently start terminating “big” processes, i.e. to start crashing uncontrollably.)

            Paging also allows it to make decisions like paging out infrequently used (non-working-set) sections of memory to disk in favour of filesystem cache. This also gives iffy applications somewhere to leak junk to that isn’t displacing actual needed data from physical memory.

            Manual control of the pagefile is one of those unfortunate legacies of the WinDOS era that’s long-overdue being removed.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            VERY good, and thanks for the lenghty response.

          • fish99 says:

            Ok, I’ll leave the pagefile enabled, at least until I’ve finished Watch Dogs.

            I’ve had it disabled for years though and never seen any negative effect. With how I use my desktop PC it doesn’t really matter whether apps release memory or not, since I only use my desktop for gaming and then switch it off.

    • LVX156 says:

      My specs are as follows:

      AMD FX-8350
      4GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
      HiS IceQ HD6950 2GB

      and I can run it just fine on Medium/High settings, even though I don’t even have the 6GB of RAM you “must” have.

  12. Dawngreeter says:

    I thought the girl in the title screenshot was quite interesting. Not the most common thing to see, sure, but there’s a story in there about a valedictorian who became a prostitute. It makes me wonder about people. And life. And stuff.

    Not to rain on the parade of course, we also could just hiss and whine. That’s an option as well. I’m sure we can find a valedictorian out there who finds that screenshot offensive. Possibly a prostitute too.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Yeah, I really love that stuff. When I started playing there was this one mission I thought “ho, time to check how shooting works”.
      And then I read that this guard just married and other took dog in and suddenly I decided to just stealth it.

  13. Tiltowait says:

    I really don’t think Ubisoft can continue to shoot themselves in the foot too many more times. They really need to give up on this Uplay foolishness.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I doubt they’ll give up on something that they’ve spent so much time and money on and then there’s the prestige loss of admitting that your digital storefront/DRM isn’t good enough to exist. The best that can realistically happen is that it becomes less bad.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Starhelm says:

    Agreed with those saying Uplay needs to go, It’s such a fucking travesty.

    As for the performance, I’ve been playing on the high preset (FX-6300 / R9 280x / 8Gb RAM / standard WD HDD / Win 7 Home Premium) and have noticed considerable problems with lag and stuttering. Hopefully the patch can bring it to something approaching playable at decent quality settings.

  15. James Allen says:

    I’m running an AMD Phenom II X6 1100T @ 3.3 GHz, 8 GB RAM, and a 1 GB NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti on Windows 7 and have no performance issues on high settings at 1920×1080. It’s interesting that people with better systems are having worse performance.

  16. Dinjoralo says:

    My GTX 660 has juuust barely 4 GB of vRAM, and ultra textures still make the game stutter like crazy when I move too fast or swing the camera around, which is probably just whenever the textures need to be pulled from memory.

    • tuxfool says:

      That is a dual gpu card, so it has 2 GB per gpu, seeing as ram doesn’t stack like that (data in RAM is cloned), you only have 2GB for the card.

      So if you have ultra textures or 4x msaa, lower those settings

  17. Keyrock says:

    AA, unsurprisingly, seems to be the biggest performance hit, in my experience. Lowering the settings to either TXAA x2 or no AA at all (or FXAA, but that’s often uglier than no AA at all) relieves pretty much all my major performance issues. That said, the performance still isn’t as good as it should be, but at least it’s playable at an… acceptable framerate.

    As for the game itself, I feel it’s actually pretty doggone good. Some of the stuff is half-baked and car handling is super arcadey with no weight whatsoever, but the game gives you a ton of freedom on how you want to play, from rather respectible gunplay, to a surprisingly decent stealth system, to basic, but functional parkour, to hacking which can augment any play style, or be a style all its own (I hacked a ctOS station without ever setting foot on the premises doing the whole thing through hacking). Ubi didn’t fully realize their vision here, and the game is far from revolutionary, but it’s a solid base with some great ideas to build off for the sequel, and there WILL be a sequel, guaranteed, considering how well this game has sold so far.

    • freedomispopular says:

      That’s what I’ve been thinking. It’s very rough around the edges, but this is the most fun I’ve had in a while. The hacking adds such a great dimension to the open world gameplay and though a lot of the side missions are pretty similar, there’s just enough variety that I don’t feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over, and the puzzles are challenging enough for me that they’re not a breeze, but they’re not mind-numbingly frustrating either. And I’m absolutely loving the online hacking and tailing modes.

      If the jump from WD1 to WD2 is as great as it was from AC1 to AC2, I can’t wait.

  18. SaintShion says:

    Now that all the paying customers are acting as their Quality Assurance department, they can actually fix some bugs! I think this qualifies as an “Early Access” release on Steam.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      That’s a completely unfair characterization of Watch Dogs.

      Most of the Early Access games actually WORK when you click ‘Play.”

      • HisDivineOrder says:

        Indeed, he should not drag those poor Early Access titles into the mud with Watch Dogs. ;)

  19. Megakoresh says:

    Good, good. More of that post-release support, also fix the problems with LoD popping, checkpoints and mouse navigation and then maybe I’ll be able to enjoy the bloody thing.

    It’s like as a game Watch Dogs is not too bad. Certainly not nearly as good as it was hyped to be, but not bad either. But how broken it is, I can not appreciate any of it’s value as a videogame. As if they delayed it so much just to downscale the bloody graphics.

  20. WelynDowd says:

    I’ve gotta say i must be in the minority on this. I’m running on ultra settings at 2560 x 1440. The only stutter I get is when I’m driving and then it’s not so bad as unplayable. I’m getting 40fps.

    my rig i7 3770k running at 4Ghz, 8gig of 2133hz memory, r9 290, SSD

  21. Premium User Badge

    frymaster says:

    to be fair, it says quite clearly in the options how much video RAM you need for the different texture sizes. If people are ignoring that they only have themselves to blame.

    I went with the autodetected settings except I rammed the detail level to maximum. Running fine.

    • HisDivineOrder says:

      Don’t make the mistake of thinking just because you don’t have problems that everyone else is just failing at life.

  22. Richard Burton says:

    I heard the mouse acceleration is really horrible in the PC version of Watch_Dogs? I decided to get the console (PS3) version of Watch_Dogs anyway and I really enjoyed it over the weekend. A miniscule slowdown once or twice but I think that was more to do with my PS3 HDD being fragmented than anything (it’s only 720p after all on PS3 and the draw distance is probably much less). Surely, games like this, AssCreed, GTA and so on are intended to be played on consoles so I don’t think it’s too surprising there’s multiple issues on the PC versions. Even if the console versions are graphically inferior (i.e. GTAIV) I still think there’s much to be said for playing them on the systems they were intended to be played on? I think I’ll leave my PC gaming time free for PC games like SH3, RoF, Thief 2 Metal Age, Rome Total War, Achtung Panzer, Battlestar Galactica Diaspora, Papers Please, Sir, You Are Being Hunted etc. :)

  23. fish99 says:

    GTA4 PC may be a bad port, but it’s still a better experience than playing on console. Higher res, better framerates (with a decent gaming PC), you can disable the horrible distant blur thing, higher LOD settings, better shadows, mouse aiming, etc.