So I recently had the itch to explore Hidetaka Miyazaki’s foreboding and mysterious world of Lordran again. I’m talking about Original Gangsta Souls. My personal favorite in the Souls series: Dark Souls. When I went to fire it up I discovered something. From Software has jumped ship on the awful, vomit inducing piece of software known as “Games for Windows Live”. What does this mean for you? Well, it means that if you follow some simple steps, you can migrate your copy of the game over to the far superior Steamworks. You need to do this soon though, I’m not sure how much longer past the February deadline they will offer achievement and save migration between the two versions of the game. For detailed instructions on how to take GFWL out behind the wood shed and Old Yeller it, check here.
How to Make Dark Souls Run Smooth
So after you kill off Games for Windows Live and enable your new, sexy Steamworks version of the game, you still have to contend with a horribly optimized port. But I guess beggars can’t be choosers, at least we got it on PC. Besides, From Software did a good job with DS2 on PC so I find it a bit easier to forgive them. Anyway, here is what I found to be an incredible method for making Dark Souls run well on PC: Disabling Data Execution Prevention. Someone in a Dark Souls stream passed the knowledge along to me and it blew my mind.
Now, I’ll be honest, I have no idea what Data Execution Prevention even is. I Googled around and found some explanations indicating it is a security feature to protect against some errors…but in the case of Dark Souls, I’m not so sure it’s really needed. If someone has a better explanation, feel free to leave it in the comments. The one thing I know is this: ever since someone recommended I turn it off, Dark Souls has ran smooth as butter! The steps below are for Windows 7, but it should be similar on other Windows OS’s
Step One: Right click “My Computer” and choose “Properties”.
Step Two: In the window that pops up, click “Advanced System Settings”.
Step Three: In the “Advanced” tab, in the “Performance” section, click “Settings”.
Step Four: Under the “Data Execution Prevention” tab, choose “Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select”.
Step Five: Hit “Add” and add the Dark Souls executable to the exception list. Hit “Apply” and reboot.
Congrats! You’ve successfully excluded Dark Souls from DEP! The default setting, which turns DEP on for Windows programs and services seems to just protect system files, but for some reason it turns DEP on for Dark Souls as well. I have no idea why. By setting it up like we just did, we turned DEP on for everything else. I personally haven’t ran into issues from enabling DEP globally, but if you do run into a problem, try adding that program to the exclusion list as well. Next up, I’ll show you how to fix Dark Soul’s crappy resolution, add some visual icing and enable a 60fps frame rate.
How to Enable 60FPS in Dark Souls and Other Fixes
Our Lord and Savior, Durante, blessed us with a program he made that fixes multiple problems that were caused from the shoddy port to PC. It fixes the internal render resolution, making the game crisper and adds addition options for anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion and depth of field. It also includes a way to enable 60fps, as Dark Souls is locked to 30fps.
Step One: Go here and get the latest copy of DSFIX. You need the newest version for it to work with the Steamworks version of the game (2.3.1 when I published this).
Step Two: Boot up Dark Souls. Go into the game’s settings and make sure Anti-Aliasing is turned OFF. Also make sure Motion Blur is turned OFF. Make sure the settings are applied and exit the game.
Step Three: Extract DSFIX to the same folder as your Dark Souls executable. It will most likely be in your steam library, in the “Data” folder of your Dark Souls install. In my case it was “H:\Steam Library 4\steamapps\common\Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition\DATA”. Overwrite anything if needed.
Step Four: Open DSFIX.INI which is the configuration setting for DSFIX. You will see a bunch of options. By editing the text, it will change the settings. For most people, the following settings are ideal:
- Under “Internal Rendering Resolution” set renderWidth 1920. Set renderHeight 1080.
- Under “Enable Variable Framerate (up to 60)” set unlockFPS 1. ***See note at end of article***
Additional Settings: There are a few other things you can do to make your game look great, but most of them will require you have a fairly strong GPU. You can tweak the Anti-Aliasing (Remove jagged edges), Ambient Occlusion (Lighting) and Depth of Field (Distance blurring). I like to enable borderless window mode by using “borderlessFullscreen 1” in the “Window & Mouse Cursor Options”. My favorite thing to do is leave everything default and render the game at 1440p or 4k internally by setting renderWidth and renderHeight appropriately. By rendering at a higher resolution than your monitor and downscaling, the game looks crisp and there is little need for Anti-Aliasing. Play around with the settings, see what works for your particular computer setup. Some people like to crank everything up and lock frame rate at 30fps. If you feel like you messed something up, just re-copy all the files over from the DSFIX zip and replace the old ones.
Praise the Sun!
After removing “Games for Windows Live”, disabling Data Execution Prevention for Dark Souls and installing DSFIX you should have a smooth running, good looking Dark Souls experience. There’s nothing quite like Dark Souls. Dark Souls 2 is a fun game, but I enjoy it for different reasons. To me, the level design and boss fights in Dark Souls are still the best and I love the atmosphere. It’s a great game regardless if you run these tweaks or not, but there’s something awesome about praising the sun in 60fps with crisp textures. A big thanks to Durante and all those who have helped make DSFix work!
***IMPORTANT NOTE***: From Software never intended Dark Souls to run above 30fps. Enabling 60fps can have some consequences. The DSFIX help file warns about a few: Sliding down some ladders can cause you to fall through the ground and crash the game. Also, your jump length will be slightly shorter. There is maybe 1 or 2 ladders where this is an issue and 1 or 2 jumps that are tough to do at 60fps. I personally have never had an issue with either. I have fallen through the ground ONCE while ladder sliding. If you enable 60fps, you can simply hit “Backspace” on your keyboard while playing to toggle between 30/60fps. Think you need the further jump range? Hit “Backspace”, make the jump and hit “Backspace” again to turn 60fps back on. Also, there is a warning near the 60fps toggle in DSFIX.INI about the possibility you could get banned for using the 60fps toggle because of the way it is handled in system memory. This was simply the creator of DSFIX covering his ass from liability I believe. There has been many people asking about this on forums and neither I nor anyone I know has ever heard about a ban happening due to using DSFIX. Tons of people use DSFIX and the 60fps toggle with no issues. If you’re still worried, simply don’t use the 60fps feature. The other features of DSFix are 100% safe.