Sunday Thoughts: 28/02/10

My real life friends have to sit an entrance exam, you know? I show them a game running at 60fps, and ask them to describe the frame rate to me.  If they say “it’s 60fps” they’re in, and can come around for a cup of tea and Custard Creams whenever they want.

If they say “it’s quite smooth” then that’s alright, they can still pop over for the afternoon but I’ll need advance notice in case my proper 60fps friends are round.

However, if they look at me oddly, or say “huh?” then that’s the last they’ll hear of me:  I’ll put the phone down on them, filter their emails and blank them as they cross my path on the street.  If you don’t know what the different is between 30 and 60fps, how can I trust you to even buy me a beer?

I’m kidding of course, but baffles me how many developers aren’t in tune with the notion of sacrificing everything else just to get the frame rate smooth.  The guilty party this week: Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing, an otherwise smashing example of the genre unfortunately marred by jerky visuals.

Yes, they said it would be fixed for release, but no, it wasn’t.  Instead of a nice, smooth gameplay friendly framerate we’ve got something that varies wildly from 20fps up to 60, only occasionally bubbling along at around half that.   To me, this is unacceptable, and there’s seemingly no excuse.

Some of the courses are reasonably okay though – there’s about 25% that sit at a passable 30 updates a second, but most lurch back and forth depending on the background scenery and how many vehicles are onscreen – one of the Curien Mansion tracks is almost unplayable.

Bizarrely, both the PS3 and 360 versions are equally affected, but in different places and for different reasons.  The TSA review is in the pipeline and framerate aside it’s really enjoyable, but when the DS iteration chops along at the same pace as Mario Kart you have to wonder whether all those visual effects were really worth it on the console versions.

Still, at least the screenshots are lovely, and perhaps at some level that’s more important in selling the game, because afterall, most of my friends (and probably most of the people currently playing the game) will read this little blog and just think “huh?

Sumo Digital haven’t ever been round for tea, but they’ll certainly need to ring first if they ever decide they fancy a Custard Cream.