Please note that the procedure and references for comparison I'm about to offer are not guaranteed or intended to offer you a concrete estimation of how well FFXIV will run on your machine. It will, however, give you a general frame of reference for where you stand. People who will likely benefit most from this little guide are the ones who are not familiar with benchmarking software and those who haven't really done much with their PC since they found out it could handle FFXI.
To start, follow this link. Read the information on the page if you like and then scroll down to the "Download" section and select a download mirror. This is a safe site and a safe download; Heaven 2.0 is a popular benchmarking tool used by a large number of people. Note: The page makes reference to requiring a DirectX 11 compatible video card. That requirement is only applicable if you want to use the tessellation features of the benchmark, which we won't be using.
Once you've downloaded the software (the Windows version is just under 250MB), install it and launch it. You should end up with a screen that looks similar to this:
The software will automatically detect and recommend the maximum resolution your hardware supports, and I recommend sticking with that. For everything else, unless you're familiar with the various different setup options, I'd recommend setting everything as they are shown in the image above to start, and then you can tweak and play around with it in subsequent tests.
Once you're satisfied with that basic setup, click "RUN". You'll find yourself at another full screen splash page with a graphical overview of some of the hotkeys.
Press 'F9' to begin the benchmark test. (It may take several seconds to load into the benchmark).
During the benchmark run, you'll see a number of menu options in the top left of the screen that you can access with your mouse. The top right of your screen is where you'll see your FPS (frames per second). Your FPS is the number you're going to want to keep an eye on. You will likely notice that your framerate will fluctuate by a fairly significant amount from one scene to the next. You're wanting to get a rough average, but it's worth noting how low your framerate drops. (ie. You may get a fairly consistent 40 fps for most of the test but at some points it may drop to 20. The important part is the average but the lower number is also significant).
Edit to add: Not sure how I omitted it (I blame it on the pretty pictures), but once you start running the actual engine, there's a "Benchmark" button in the top left that you can click. This will open a small new window in the lower right of your screen and track key details such as min/max fps as well as your progress through the test (ie. Scene x of 26). When it reaches the end of scene 26, it will pop up a window mid-screen that will give you a slightly more detailed breakdown. Note that once you click on 'Benchmark", it will display "Benchmarking..." on screen and you will not be able to alter any settings. To exit benchmarking mode, just press Esc.
Keep in mind that this benchmark does not account for things like character and monster models and combat effects. As a result, your framerates in any MMO will likely fluctuate substantially between a relatively underpopulated area and a densely populated hub.
Once you've let it run for a while (by default it loop back to the beginning of the predefined camera path if you let it run long enough), compare your rough average framerate to this general guide:
10-30fps: You may want to seriously consider upgrading before FFXIV goes live and/or be prepared to run the game at lower graphics settings.
30-45fps: You should be fine to run FFXIV at low/medium settings, but expect noticeable hardware lag in densely populated areas or in fights that involve a large number of players and/or monsters.
45-60fps: FFXIV should run fine at medium settings in all but the most hardware intensive situations. You should also be able to push your graphics settings a little higher with good results outside of major population centers.
60+fps: Pfft. You're fine. Expect some hardware lag in extreme situations, but it won't be enough to significantly detract from the experience.
Hope that helps.
Edited, Apr 20th 2010 3:18pm by Aurelius