Star Citizen is by no means a well optimized game, with top end GPUs and CPUs often struggling to have framerates above the “standard” of 60FPS minimum, it can be a confusing thing to see the in game graphics settings not having a large impact on your performance. Due to this, I have scoured through various means and resources to help improve your framerate for a more enjoyable experience and this article will show you how to do it!
In-Game SettingsStar Citizen’s in game settings often do not have a large impact when you attempt to turn them down whilst seeking more FPS. In fact, turning up most of your settings will actually help you more than turning them down. However, the exception to this rule is that volumetric clouds often reduce your framerate in every instance. As a result, you should turn them off or at least set them to medium to save yourself the headache of losing frames in atmospheres of various celestial bodies. Additionally, remember to install Star Citizen on at an SSD. It does not matter what SSD so long as it is NOT an HDD! HDD, useful as they are for raw and cheap storage, simply cannot stream in new assets quick enough for Star Citizen and can take ages to get into a server and you will spend a lot of time loading in assets. If you only have an HDD, you will have a horrible time with low framerates in Star Citizen. This is surely an issue with the development and optimization of the game but for now, this is the reality of Star Citizen. Get an SSD or git gud enough in the wallet to find one, the only compromise is demolishing your FPS.
Upscaling: NIS/FSR/RSR/Lossless Scaling
NISAn absolute godsend of recent software developments in gaming is upscaling. While the premium DLSS needs native support in basically every game to work, Nvidia and AMD have offerings that do not require the game developers to add anything. Nvidia’s offering is Nvidia Image Scaling(NIS) and renders your games at a lower resolution but uses upscaling algorithms to make the image appear to be a higher resolution than it actually is. This means you can get more frames since the load is lower but from your perspective, the game can look very similar to native resolution. NIS is fairly simple to apply for anyone with an updated graphics card and there are 2 methods to turn it on.
Firstly, you can use Nvidia’s own GeForce Experience software which manages your GPU. You can toggle this on by opening the software and pressing the gear icon in the upper right of the window. This will give you the option to turn on NIS for any fullscreen game. Select your desired resolution to upscale from and then set your resolution in game to match that. Ensure you are in fullscreen mode (not borderless fullscreen or windowed), and it will take effect. You can adjust the sharpness slider to a setting you like. I tend to keep mine at 45% but this varies from person to person. Some people like 0% some people like 100%, just choose what pleases your eye the most.
The other method to do this is through the Nvidia Control Panel. Go into your Windows search bar in the bottom left of your taskbar and type in Nvidia Control Panel OR right click your desktop background and select Nvidia Control Panel.
On the left side of Nvidia Control Panel, select “Manage 3D Settings”
In here, you can turn on NIS as a toggle just like GeForce Experience or you can turn it on per-game that you want it on in. If you want to just turn it on for Star Citizen (or any other game), choose “Program Settings” in the 3D settings management box in the middle of your screen. From here, you generally need to either select “Squadron 42- Star Citizen(starcitizen.exe) or add it from the files directly wherever you have Star Citizen installed. If it doesn't show up on the drop down, it normally shows up on its own when you press add. Once selected, you can turn NIS on for particular games; Star Citizen is what we are turning it on here for, so choose that.
We will next be going over how to use FSR on Nvidia GPUs next, so if you are content with NIS, then skip this next section but keep Nvidia Control Panel open as the next step still involves Nvidia Control Panel and a setting within.
Unfortunately, I cannot provide details on how to enable AMD’s RSR because I do not own an AMD GPU. There might be a collaborative update for this in the future.
FSR with Lossless ScalingThis next section requires spending a small amount of money for upscaling software. If you abhor pulling out your wallet for performance, ignore this and use NIS or RSR.
Lossless Scaling is an upscaling software available on Steam: Click.
This software enables you to upscale the resolution of any game and also has NIS as an option so AMD users can still use Nvidia upscaling algorithms. Lossless Scaling has a manual within for easy use but for using it, it is simply selecting your preferred method of upscaling, and either using a dedicated upscaling keybind in your desired game or pressing upscale and tabbing into your desired game within 5 seconds.
Shader CacheFor those of you still in Nvidia Control Panel, this may give you one of the best boosts to having a consistent framerate, but it does come at a slight cost.
Within Nvidia Control Panel’s Global Settings, scroll down to Shader Cache and set it to 10GB as a minimum. You can set it higher, but you will not see much if any more performance increase compared to 10GB. What this does is allows the cached shaders, the ones that are ready to be used quickly, to have a larger file. Essentially, the shaders come out quicker and reduce load in times which can otherwise cause FPS drops. The cost here is that the shader cache for Star Citizen will become relatively large. However, Star Citizen is already a fairly large game to install anyway so what’s 10 more gigs?
Config fileThis final way to improve your FPS will get mixed results as it ultimately is changing the native settings but ones that are either available only in the console or the config file itself. Luckily, you don’t need to know every command to turn on or off. Zircote on GitHub has a config file you can download the zip to or copy the commands from: USER.cfg.start-citizen-3.1.0.cfg · GitHub
This file has instructions within for what each file does and what values do what for basically everything within. It may look daunting but all you need to do is change certain number values within and read the instructions. It really is that easy.
The location of the file needs to be placed into wherever your starcitizen.exe file is. For me, this path is D:\Games\StarCitizen\LIVE\Bin64. Your RSI Launcher will tell you the location of Star Citizen as a whole and you can follow the same path into LIVE\Bin64 to find the exe location.
Tinker with the config file as you see fit and see what works. If you have an issue, it can always be deleted or replaced from GitHub. All of these tricks can be undone so no stress if this does not work for your system. Star Citizen is a fickle game/alpha/tech demo and performance seems to vary. I personally play off of a Lenovo Legion 5 Gaming Laptop which is equipped with a Ryzen 7 5800H, 3070 Laptop GPU, and 32GB of 3200Mhz RAM. Oh, let’s not forget, 32GB of RAM works much better on Star Citizen than 16GB, however, it is certainly not a total requirement for playing. Many people recommend page file settings if you have 16GB but Windows actually tends to manage a sufficient page file size to begin with. Page file essentially uses your hard drive/SSD as extra, much slower, RAM. I personally find manually setting page file to be redundant and unnecessary.
So, that’s it! I hope you find more frames from this. I know I certainly did. At Lorville I went from an average of 15FPS up to 45FPS so I saw a MASSIVE improvement in intense areas like that. Even Orison gets 30-45FPS with volumetric clouds on! This is not to say that you will always see a 3x performance increase, but I sure hope you do! However, Star Citizen is still a finicky game to optimize for and realistically, we shouldn’t need to do these odd tricks but here we are. Your mileage will vary and good luck in the verse!