Public config vs. a very tweaked configs (Ice)
Public vs. CAL vs. unlimited configs (Assault)
CVARs, when altered, as you have obviously seen, can limit or increase the visual quality of how textures and models are rendered in the game. When a CVAR is tweaked so as to limit/lower the quality, it usually increases the frame rate (FPS = frames per second) and that means smoother game-play; more snapshots of the map as you see it are drawn. So with a frame rate of 135, there are 135 frames being drawn in one second. Some low end computers with older hardware (ie graphics card, processor, etc.), can be very challenged to generate even minimal FPS. This in turn can make for a very choppy game. Obviously, the higher the FPS, the smoother the game and is easier for the eyes to process info compared to the twitching one's eyes can do with a frame rate of 10 FPS. Tweakers tend to tweak CVARs that greatly affect FPS because their hardware can't reach reasonable FPS with default settings; hence, their lack of capable hardware warrants them to alter the game's default graphics in order to make it playable. But even then, they can't achieve that much of a boost in FPS without taking CVAR values to extreme.
So what does this mean to the tweaker? Each server admin will set the range of "acceptable" CVAR values for their server and use Punkbuster to control observation of the limits. Players are allowed to modify CVAR values within those limits, but no more. Tweakers who find the stated limits unacceptable, simply get to find another server. Cheating? Hardly - it's just a matter of knowing the rules and exercising your choice to accept them or not - on a server by server basis.
r_mode (default 3) [changes screen resolution]
r_rmse (default 0) [note: r_rmse used by itself just changes the level of detail in textures (first screenie) but when used with r_picmip > 4, and r_rmse > 120, tree limbs go away. This is restricted by most leagues]
r_subdivisions (default 0) [adjusts the granularity of faces drawn in curved surfaces]
r_lodbias (default 0) [adjusts level of detail]
r_texturebits (default 16 or 32)
r_colorbits (default 16 or 32)
r_dynamiclights (default 1) [can be turned on and off from the in-game menu]
cg_marktime (default 1250) [can be turned on and off from the in-game menu]
cg_brassTime (default 1250) [can be turned on and off from the in-game menu]
cg_gibs (default 1)
cg_drawgun (default 1) [can be turned on and off from the in-game menu]
cg_shadows (default 1)
cg_simpleitems (default 0) [causes 3d items to be rendered as 2d stencils]
r_fastsky (default 0) [can be turned on and off from the in-game menu, also improves FPS]
r_drawsun (default 1) [can be turned on and off from the in-game menu]
cg_wolfparticles (default 1) [can be turned on and off from the in-game menu, also improves FPS]
If you look at my config settings, you'll see that I really haven't maxed out all of the settings, but I have them set where I like them while still being in compliance with the limits. For pub play, I keep lightmap on, even though vertex lighting isn't a restricted setting.
The way Punkbuster checks all this, is that each server has it's own settings, or server.cfg (configuration file). And if a server has Punkbuster enabled, then ONLY clients with Punkbuster enabled also on their end can join that server. Otherwise, if Punkbuster were not enabled on client-side, then they would be rejected by the server so long as it has Punkbuster enabled.
Within the configuration files are code that tells Punkbuster what settings to check each client for. If a client doesn't meet the ranges, then punkbuster might at best warn before kicking the client. If the client does not change the values in error (which usually requires a video restart - type /vid_restart in console to do so), then Punkbuster will kick the client for unaccepted settings.
Not all servers run same settings. That's why it's important to find out if 1) the server you are playing on has Punkbuster enabled (a good thing IMO), 2) What are the restrictions listed for that particular server, and 3) are those restrictions acceptable to you.
So with every server running their own cvar limits, how do you find out if your settings are compliant? The command you want is pb_cvarlist. You can either drop the console and type in pb_cvarlist or you can bind a key like this (bind x "pb_cvarlist"). Once you enter the command, you should see the following in the console:
You can see that it tells me that I have no violations. If there are problems, you will see the following:
In this case, it tells me that three of my cvar settings are in violation and specifies each one with (violation) after the name of the cvar (take a look at r_gamma, r_mapoverbrightbits, and r_overbrightbits). It also tells me what my current setting is and the range that it must be inside or outside of.
You can always look at server configs, when posted, to view the CVAR limits set on each server. Hopefully, you'll see something like this (taken from the CAL-Open server config link):
You'll see that each line is formatted like:
What it's telling you is that that [name of CVAR] must be either INside of X to Y or OUTside of X to Y. Failure to comply with these limits will result in you being kicked.
A good rule of thumb, if you are hopping on an unknown server, is to ensure that more restrictive settings (I use the Evenbalance config limits) would load no matter what so as to avoid punkbuster warnings before I could check the restrictions. Then, check the punkbuster limits of that server, using the pb_cvarlist command and then if you can use higher settings, press a key that would toggle between my pub and competition settings (look at my scripting section to see how you can set this up as a script and a bind). Each time I changed settings, the game would do a vid_restart (video restart) to make them take effect.
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