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Starcraft II is overheating some users GPUs, but Blizzard has released a temporary fix.  (Source: Doupe)
Starcraft II fans beware, your graphics card may get Zerg rushed

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the first game in Blizzard's highly anticipated real-time strategy sequel trilogy launched on Tuesday.  Unfortunately, the blockbuster PC title -- which is expected to sell 10 million copies or more -- had some bumps during its launch.

There were a number of minor bugs, but nothing show stopping at first.  Then the reports of melting GPUs hit.

Among those affected was Adam Biessener of Game Informer whose card melted while he was live blogging about his game experience.  He bemoaned, "Three hours of cursing later, I'm posting this from my wife's laptop because both my graphics card and my work laptop appear to be fried."

The problem appears to be located in the main menu, where an uncapped frame rate maxes out the GPU, in some cases pushing it to overheating and potentially permanent failure.

Blizzard has issued a response on its support site, acknowledging that it was aware of the issue, and offering a quick fix.  The company writes:

Certain screens make your hardware work pretty hard

Screens that are light on detail may make your system overheat if cooling is overall insufficient. This is because the game has nothing to do so it is primarily just working on drawing the screen very quickly. A temporary workaround is to go to your Documents\StarCraft II Beta\variables.txt file and add these lines:

frameratecapglue=30

frameratecap=60

You may replace these numbers if you want to.

For eager customers who already lost a graphics card, though, that fix may prove too late.  Blizzard has not announced any plans to replace the lost hardware of victims who experienced the bug.

Many customers are outraged at this.  Writes one victim Lorsaire:

Why was this not addressed already before release, and why were there no breaking news warnings or updates to fix this before people started having damage done to their hardware?  My Nvidia GeForce cost me more than $300 to get a good card that was great for gaming...  Blizzard are you doing anything or have plans to compensate people for the damage you've created?

Of course some of the cards may be covered by manufacturer warranties.  And while it does appear a bug (uncapped framerates) is partially to blame for killing off the cards, a card pushed to the max would generally not die instantly were it not for poorly engineered and/or defective cooling.  It appears that the cards ultimately were done in by the double blow of both a software bug (in SC II) and hardware issues.

The game features intensely addictive multiplayer gaming between three diverse races -- the Zerg, the Protoss, and the Terrans.  It also features a single player campaign in which you play a Terran rebel.  Future titles -- Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void will included Protoss and Zerg campaigns, and possibly deliver new multiplayer features as well.  Just beware the uncapped framerates.


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RE: So who's fault is this?
By Thalyn on 8/2/2010 5:28:21 AM , Rating: 4
I believe every ATI card since the 9000-series (non-inclusive) has had the split clocks - 2D and 3D modes. However, even though it wasn't until the 3000-series that the decision on which to use was made based on graphics load rather than surface mode (windowed modes, even fullscreen, would use 2D clocks on 2000-series cards and earlier) the temperature of the graphics card was always used to determine what speed the fan should spin. Even if the earlier cards were still in 2D mode, if they got hot than the fan would speed up accordingly.

Unless it was a non-reference design which lacked thermal control or you manually told it to run at a different speed (eg My 4870 is fixed to 34%).

I can't say with any certainty about GeForce cards, though I believe they implemented this same thermal fan control with the 5000-series (load-based speed control wasn't until the 8000-series from memory). Again, though, non-reference cooling solutions and manual overrides could bypass the thermal control.

In short, everyone experiencing graphics hardware failure has inadequate cooling. Whether this is because the cooling they have is blocked (dust or otherwise), inadequate for the power draw of the card or fixed to an inadequate level is largely irrelevant - SC2 is about as dangerous to graphics hardware as 3DMark 01.


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