next gen

The Hunt for Pixels and Frames

I’ve been following the “next gen” debate for quite some time so in light of the prevailing resolution/FPS issues mentioned in a recent TB’s video I ended up writing something suitable for this blog.

 

Regarding framerate and input lag, not all people react to framerate the same way, it’s a about habits. For example progamers can get used to playing with bad ping, the problem is when they train with good ping and then have to play with high ping, vice versa, or the ping is inconsistent. Or a progamer who gets used to playing at 120FPS with a 120Hz monitor will have problems playing in tournaments on regular 60Hz monitors.

 

There also is the other side of input lag and that’s badly coded games. For example in Skyrim mouse look and aim speed are constant on the horizontal axis but the vertical axis speed depends on the framerate – next to a wall you camera goes flying up and down but when a dragon attacks you have trouble lifting your bow up fast enough. Some games would completely slow down depending on the framerate, for example Saint’s Row The Third went into Matrix mode at night on my old laptop because of low framerate.

 

Given the prevalence of 60Hz monitors it does make sense to aim for 60FPS as more simply wouldn’t be visible, other than that who would say no to more options? Various pre-sets should be available even on consoles, that’s pretty much a given. What happened with the new consoles is that some of the new games can’t even hit 30FPS at 1080p which is absolutely silly considering the image distortion during downscaling on LCDs and the fact that regular TVs have smaller resolution than some mobile devices – the pixel density on a TV is already extremely low, let alone having to run in lower than 1080p.

 

I’m a proud member of the PC Gaming Master Race so why am I commenting on this? For some time I felt a bit insulted by TB’s approach of “if it’s under 60FPS I don’t want to play it”, mainly as someone having to content himself with a mainstream laptop. I Remember taking a leap of faith to buy Guild Wars 2, starting it on a 5 years old laptop and being ecstatic how smooth it ran despite the 20FPS. But getting back to consoles I can tell you it’s not the hardware that’s slowing them down, it’s the optimisation and even the simple things like tweaking the graphics options.

 

The AMD APU has 8 computing threads running at much lower frequency (1,8GHz) while to this day most games run better at overclocked Intel CPUs with 2 or 4 cores – multi-threading optimisation is the first order of business. The GPU should be fast enough so it’s up to the developers to combine better efficiency (especially with the new OS consoles are using), better drivers, Mantle support and optimisation of individual games – god knows big publishers spend more than enough to make sure their games run well.

 

Right now we could write this off as growing pains of a new console generation, just look at the difference between Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, both developed for the PS3, it’s astonishing. Needless to say, if you’re selling new hardware with more than three times the computing power people expect the resolution and FPS to go up, not down.