Graphics Settings


Example of custom graphics settings, tuned for use with a 2560×1440 display and GTX 1080 Ti graphics card.

Graphics quality

This option allows you to select between several different graphics quality presets. The options are:

  • low – minimal graphics quality settings best suited to computers with weak GPUs (graphics processors), or which have less than 4 GB of dedicated video memory (VRAM)
  • medium – improved graphics quality settings best suited to computers that meet SpaceEngine’s recommended hardware requirements, including having at least 4 GB of VRAM
  • high – high graphics quality settings best suited to computers with relatively high-end GPUs, and which have at least 6 GB of VRAM
  • ultra – maximum graphics quality settings best suited to computers with extremely high-end GPUs, and which have at least 6 GB of VRAM
  • custom – unlocks all graphics settings, allowing you to change each one to suit your preference

Vertical synchronization

Vertical synchronization, more commonly called “vsync”, synchronizes the output of rendered frames from the program to the refresh timing of your screen – this prevents the screen from being told to draw a new frame before it finishes drawing the previous one, which can cause tearing (a noticeable horizontal cut in the image at the point where the screen switches from drawing one frame to another). It also prevents the program from rendering frames more quickly than your screen can draw them, which saves processing power. This setting has the following options:

  • off – vsync is turned off, and the program will render as many frames as possible and deliver them to your screen as soon as they’re done, regardless of whether your screen is ready to draw them or not
  • on – vsync is turned on, and the program will only render and deliver frames to your screen when the screen is ready to draw a new frame
  • auto – if the program can render frames faster than your screen’s refresh rate, vsync will turn on; otherwise, vsync will turn off – this option essentially functions as a framerate limiter, with the limit set to your screen’s refresh rate

MSAA antialiasing

Aliasing refers to the jagged, hard edges that objects appear to have on screen, caused by the limited number of pixels available, and each pixel either containing an object or not. Antialiasing refers to techniques that try to reduce this effect by smoothing the edges by allowing pixels to contain an intermediate value between object and no object, making edges seem more natural.

MSAA (multi-sampling antialiasing) is an antialiasing technique that samples multiple points in a pixel along the edge of an object while rendering, and averaging the result, thus increasing the effective resolution of object edges. Note that MSAA is very performance intensive, especially at high settings, and most settings will reduce performance noticeably on all but the highest-end graphics cards (and very high sample counts will noticeably decrease performance even then).

This setting has the following options:

  • off – MSAA disabled
  • 2 – 2 samples per pixel (small performance impact, small visual improvement)
  • 4 – 4 samples per pixel (medium performance impact on mid-range hardware, good visual improvement)
  • 8 – 8 samples per pixel (significant performance impact on most hardware, very good visual improvement)
  • 16 – 16 samples per pixel (huge performance impact on all hardware, excellent visual improvement) *not supported on all GPUs*
  • 32 – 32 samples per pixel (colossal performance impact on all hardware, excellent visual improvement) *not supported on all GPUs*

Landscape LOD

This option allows you to change the level of detail (LOD) that the surfaces of planets and stars are rendered at. Higher values cause more detailed terrain to be rendered at farther distances, but increase the amount of time it takes to fully generate the landscape. Note that in the current version, landscape tiles are stored in a texture array of limited size – this means that it is not possible to fully render the landscapes of some planets (which have many texture layers, like multiple cloud layers, lava/lights, etc.) at maximum detail, depending on your screen resolution and viewing angle. If you encounter a situation like that, reduce the LOD value until everything can fully load.

This setting has options ranging from -1.0 to 1.0, in increments of 0.1.

Landscape loading speed

This setting determines how many landscape tiles can be generated during each frame the program renders. Higher values mean that landscapes can finish rendering more quickly, but at the cost of reduced framerate during loading/generation.

This setting has options ranging from 1 texture per frame to 20 textures per frame, in increments of 1.

Self-emission

This checkbox enables or disables emissive (glowing) textures for planets and spacecraft.

Planet shine

This checkbox enables or disables illumination of objects by light reflected from planets/moons/etc.

Eclipse shadows

This checkbox enables or disables shadows cast by planets/moons onto other objects.

FXAA antialiasing

This checkbox enables or disables FXAA (fast approximate antialiasing). FXAA is a shader-based antialiasing method that blurs high-contrast boundaries in the image to make aliasing less noticeable. It has a very small performance impact, but can make the image look blurry, and makes background stars look dim.

Dithering

This checkbox enables or disables an extremely subtle animated noise pattern on the image, which can significantly reduce banding artifacts (most noticeable in the sky of a planet with an atmosphere, or in the background “milky way”). This can improve image quality with no performance impact, but can significantly increase the file size of PNG screenshots.

Ring shadows on sky

This checkbox enables or disables displaying the shadows of rings on a planet’s atmosphere.

Landscape max resolution

This setting allows you to limit how detailed the terrain will be on high-resolution displays. If your screen resolution is higher than the setting you choose, SpaceEngine will act as if your screen resolution is what this setting is set to for the purposes of landscape generation (e.g. if you are using a 1440p display, and you set this setting to 1080p, then the same landscape tiles will be generated as they would be for someone using a 1080p screen). This helps to prevent the landscape texture arrays being overloaded on high resolution displays, and can be used to reduce landscape generation time for low-end hardware.

This setting has the following options:

  • 480p
  • 720p
  • 1080p
  • 1440p
  • 2160p
  • 4320p

Warp & refl. resolution

This setting allows you to choose the environment map resolution used with spacecraft reflections and gravitational lensing (e.g. from black holes, neutron stars, warp drives). Higher values result in higher quality reflections (though in most cases settings above 1024 or 2048 will not be noticeable), but will decrease performance and increase VRAM usage.

This setting has the following options, which represent the width of each environment map face in pixels:

  • 256
  • 512
  • 1024
  • 2048
  • 4096

Warp/reflection quality

This setting allows you to adjust the update frequency of the spacecraft reflection and warp effect environment maps, or disable them entirely.

This setting has the following options:

  • off – spacecraft reflections and space warping effects are disabled
  • low – spacecraft reflections are disabled, space warping that requires data from outside the screen area is filled with mirrored screen imagery (low performance impact)
  • medium – spacecraft reflection and space warping environment maps are updated at a rate of one face per frame, meaning the full environment map is updated once per six frames (medium performance impact)
  • high – spacecraft reflection and space warping environment maps are fully updated for each rendered frame (huge performance impact)

Black hole quality

This setting allows you to adjust the update frequency of gravitational lensing environment maps (for black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs), or disable them entirely.

This setting has the following options:

  • off – gravitational lensing effects, as well as accretion disks and relativistic jets, are disabled
  • low – gravitational lensing that requires data from outside the screen area is filled with mirrored screen imagery (low performance impact)
  • medium – gravitational lensing environment maps are updated at a rate of one face per frame, meaning the full environment map is updated once per six frames (medium performance impact)
  • high – gravitational lensing environment maps are fully updated for each rendered frame (huge performance impact)

Aurora quality

This setting allows you to adjust the level of detail (sprite density) used in planetary auroras.

This setting has the following options:

  • low – auroras use a small number of low-detail sprites
  • high – auroras use large number of high-detail sprites (small performance impact)

Planet shine

This setting allows you to adjust the color and brightness accuracy of reflected light (planet shine).

This setting has the following options:

  • low – light reflected from certain catalog planets (e.g. Earth, Mars) will be colored according to the color value specified in their catalog files; all other objects will reflect white light
  • medium – all planets have their average color calculated from an image of their sun-facing side when they are loaded (very small performance impact)
  • high – all planets have their average color calculated from an image of their sun-facing side every 8 frames (potentially large performance impact)

Anisotropy level

This setting determines the amount of anisotropic filtering applied to textures (this makes textures much less blurry when seen at a shallow angle).

This setting has the following options (all have a negligible performance impact on most modern graphics hardware):

  • off – disables anisotropic filtering
  • 2
  • 4
  • 8 – recommended for users with low-end hardware
  • 16 – recommended for most users

Detail textures

This checkbox enables or disables detail textures (grass, rocks, dunes, etc.) that are visible on the ground. Users with low-end hardware should keep this disabled.

3D stones

This checkbox enables or disables displacement mapping for detail textures (gives the textures height variations). Note that not all detail texture materials have displacement maps.

Compress textures

This checkbox enables or disables texture compression. Texture compression converts textures into a compressed format that requires less memory to store – this comes at the expense of slightly reduced performance and increased loading times, and a minor loss of visual quality. Users limited amounts of VRAM – less than 4 GB – should keep this option enabled.

Interstellar reddening

This checkbox enables or disables the reddish color shift of light partially blocked by dust in volumetric raymarched nebulae (in the real world, interstellar dust blocks shorter wavelengths of light, like blue, more strongly than longer wavelengths, like red, causing objects viewed through dust to appear redder than they otherwise would). Note that this setting only affects raymarched nebulae, and does not affect sprite-based nebulae or galaxies.

Volumetric objects resolution

This setting determines what level of detail volumetric objects (galaxies and nebulae) are rendered at under different circumstances. While moving refers to what resolution the object is rendered at when the camera is moving enough to noticeably change its perspective of the object. While stationary refers to what resolution the object is rendered at while the camera is stationary, or moving too little to change the perspective of the object (in this case, the object is rendered to a skybox texture). Increasing the “while moving” value can have a very large performance impact, while increasing the “while stationary” value has a much smaller impact, but does increase VRAM usage.

This setting can be set to a value of 0.1 to 1.0, in increments of 0.05; the numbers indicate the amount the full resolution of the object will be multiplied by to get the new resolution (in the case of “while stationary”, this means the resolution of the skybox texture relative to the resolution of the display or window SpaceEngine is running in).