It seems that the higher levels of the Assassin’s Creed Unity team are all suffering from a case of foot in mouth, with another rather odd episode about resolutions and frame rates coming out in interviews with TechRadar. As I’m sure you’ll all remember from a few days ago, Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand failed spectacularly at avoiding “all the debates and stuff” when he explained how and why both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 would be releasing at 900p. After this, Ubisoft said that his words were easy to misinterpret, before then admitting that the 900p30 spec wasn’t absolutely set in stone.
But that hasn’t stopped them from digging new holes, this time in relation to frame rate, with Creative Director Alex Amancio saying:
30 was our goal, it feels more cinematic. 60 is really good for a shooter, action adventure not so much. It actually feels better for people when it’s at that 30fps. It also lets us push the limits of everything to the maximum.
It’s like when people start asking about resolution. Is it the number of the quality of the pixels that you want? If the game looks gorgeous, who cares about the number?
The whole problem with this is that I can see what they’re trying to say, just as I could before with the debate avoidance debacle, but the main point he wants to make is getting lost with one errant statements. 30fps does not feel better than 60fps for many people, not by a long shot, but saying that it does distracts from noting that they’re able to push the number of NPCs on screen at any one time, deal with more physics objects and push the overall graphical quality higher than when targeting 60fps. We’ve seen this point made quite succinctly a number of times.
However, World Level Designer Nicolas Guérin added to this with the following:
At Ubisoft for a long time we wanted to push 60 fps. I don’t think it was a good idea because you don’t gain that much from 60 fps and it doesn’t look like the real thing. It’s a bit like The Hobbit movie, it looked really weird.
And in other games it’s the same – like the Rachet and Clank series [where it was dropped]. So I think collectively in the video game industry we’re dropping that standard because it’s hard to achieve, it’s twice as hard as 30fps, and its not really that great in terms of rendering quality of the picture and the image.”
Except that, in response to that, I’d argue that neither statement is as clear cut. Image quality within films is rather different to games, with camera-based motion blur and the amount of light captured by the camera for each frame distinguishing points between 24fps and 48fps, things that aren’t considerations when developers come to try and make film-like motion blur in their games, something which they are yet to really achieve but that should be calculated independently of frame rate.
I would kind of agree that some developers are stepping away from 60fps, focussing instead on better visuals, but there are notable instance where, for example, Battlefield 4 is at 60fps on PS4 and XBO compared to 30fps in previous console entries. However, we do see games like Driveclub stick to 30fps when you might have expected them to aim for 60 in the past. Depending on the genre, this matters to players to a greater and lesser degree. Action adventure games such as Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed are much more forgiving than a twitchy online-focussed shooter or racer.
In truth, the main issue here is that several members of the Assassin’s Creed Unity team sat down for interviews and slipped up when trying to say that 30fps allows them to make the game world prettier and have more NPCs on screen than any previous Assassin’s Creed game.