Ultra high settings
Ultra high settings is an informal term which refers to high-fidelity graphic settings which cannot be enabled through in-game menus, but rather through console variables or launch flags. Because enabling these settings can cause heavy GPU and CPU usage, their use is mostly media-oriented, such as when taking screenshots and producing video content such as machinima.
The console command mat_picmip controls texture resolution and has one of the biggest visual "gains". It accepts values from '2' to '-10', 2 being the worst quality and -10 being the best (refer to the comparison image).
The reason why some textures could see vast improvements in quality is because with the initial release of the Orange Box, Valve added a resource data system to the Valve Texture Format, which could be used to set the default quality of a texture to one lower than that of the texture file. This means that an offset can be induced at the baseline quality level (mat_picmip 0 is the highest), and mat_picmip -1 ("very high") will make textures go one mip level up if they are set to be using a lower mip level in the VTF — which is the case for some of TF2's world textures, and most of its very small props, for video memory optimization purposes.
r_lod and r_rootlod
With the default value of '-1', the game lowers the level of detail on objects at a distance from the camera to increase performance. Setting r_lod to '0' disables this, forcing the game to display a constant level of detail of each model regardless of distance. With the variable r_rootlod also being set to the maximum of '0', the game will always use the highest level of detail for models.
If cl_new_impact_effects is set to '1', Source Engine's updated, threaded particle system (as opposed to the original engine's system) will be used to render bullet impact effects. The results are most noticeable on glass.
Setting cl_burninggibs to '1' will cause the gibs from players who are killed while on fire to display fire effects.
Disable Texture Streaming
Adding -no_texture_stream in the Steam launch options for the game disables texture streaming, forcing the game to always load high quality textures for objects. This makes decorated weapons appear sharp and clear the moment they are rendered.
Texture streaming was added in the Tough Break Update to maintain support and performance of older systems, as loading weapon skins could cause stuttering on systems with limited memory. It also helps load the game faster as it loads textures on the fly as they appear, rather than preloading them. A side effect of texture streaming is that certain textures will appear with lower quality mipmap levels (and thus are visually blurry) for the first few seconds of them being in view. This mainly affects skinned weapons, and the Engineer's blueprints that appear when using the build tool.
mp_usehwmmodels and mp_usehwmvcds
Setting the console commands mp_usehwmmodels and mp_usehwmvcds to '1' used to force usage of the hardware morph versions of player models, as seen in the Meet the Team videos. This made player models more detailed and gives them more realistic facial expressions. It did not work for the Pyro, and none of the head models that did work were correctly colored when covered in Jarate.
As of testing conducted on March 15, 2014, although these commands are still present, they no longer function, and the game will always load the default player models.
- LOD (level of detail)
- Model optimization