Lunchtime Discussion: Frame Rate

Today’s discussion comes from our lovable Shetlander, Lorcan. He even attempted to bring science into this one, so stay alert.

I recently read a rather interesting article on the Insomniac blog about some research they had done into whether or not the framerate of a game really matters. You can read the full thing here, and I suggest you do because it really is very interesting, but today we’ll be focusing on the point of 30 & 60fps and whether the difference really matters.  In the world of gaming journalism, framerate is a writer’s favourite thing because it’s an easy statistical representation of a game’s graphical power, something which usually can only be described using many similes, euphemisms and metaphors. Though I’ve never really found that I actually ever notice any differences between 30 and 60 frames in a second. Obviously if a game starts to drop below 30 frames, you do start to see it, but until then I never really notice anything.

A bit of research showed me that the scientific community is still undecided on just how many frames per second the human eye can register. External influences make a difference too, with lighting and motion having an effect on the results of scientific studies on this subject. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter what the scientific community tell us, it matters to us what the gaming community tells us and that is dependant on how smooth a game handles motion and how well it plays.

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Alex has commented lately on the PS3 port of Bayonetta which is clearly a sufferer of a poor framerate. Having played both versions he quoted “night and day” and it’s clear here that the difference between a far from locked 30fps on the PS3 pales in comparison to a locked 60fps on the 360. But for a game like Killzone where we have some of the most gorgeous graphics available on consoles today, did you ever hear anyone make a peep about there only being 30, stunning pictures for every second? I didn’t and nor did I care. I was too distracted by the stunning hell around me.

Super Stardust 3D was quoted recently for running at 120fps, which is 60fps for each eye to make it work smoothly in 3D. This works because the original game never needed any more than 50% of the PS3’s CPU so they can double the number of frames and use up that extra CPU power. I would much rather that a game sat at around 30fps and stuttered occasionally whilst delivering either, stunning graphics, or technically astounding on-screen action than have either of those elements toned down so that the developers could double the number of frames. I’m in no way saying that 60fps games are any better or worse than 30fps ones as it’s all down to the developer, but let’s say they were and we were given the choice, what would we all pick?

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