Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Why 60fps Is Important: Visceral Games

On Monday we covered Dante’s Inferno in one of our regular Tech Analysis features, and one of the main points I made was how well the game managed to hold a steady 60 frames per-second. In fact the demo never drops any frames at all, and in the final game I’ve been told that it does so only on a three or four occasions. This is certainly a feat most games in the current gen simply do not achieve, and perhaps should look toward, especially when it has such a strong impact with regards to gameplay.

Now I’ve always been a firm advocate of having 60fps as the benchmark that all software developers should aspire to. The fluidity and motion clarity for graphics, and the extra degree of accuracy with regards to control, are all vastly important for creating a solid, perfectly fine-tuned gameplay experience, especially where timing is involved. 60fps isn’t just about how good things look, or how smooth they can go. It also plays a large part in how responsive the controls are and how quick you are able to respond to them. For example a game running at 30fps will give you only half the degree of control and range that you get when running at 60fps. You will loose much of the precision and accuracy gained by using a higher framerate.

However, visuals are also still an important backbone for the next-gen experience, and with 60fps comes not only smoother motion, but also a cleaner judder free image, one which retains more detail when moving at high speed compared to the same image running at 30fps. In effect you get detail visible on screen for longer periods whilst having a smoother more impressive look.

Visceral Games seem to agree, and in an in-depth interview with Gamasutra confirm how important having 60fps really is.

Jonathan Knight in the interview stated how he pushed forward the notion of the game (Dante’s Inferno) needing to run at 60fps to the dev team, making sure everyone was committed to making it happen, whilst still finding ways of displaying the same impressive special effects found in 30fps titles but at 60.

"I think any artist would be lying if they said that they didn't prefer to have more bandwidth," he said. "Any milliseconds you give them, they're going to use it on just one more effect, or what-have-you. But what we found is, it's more of a question of willpower than a technology question. And you just have to commit to it, and say, 'Here are your budgets. Here's the box we're gonna play in.'

He followed up with:

"30 frames is a very challenging box to play in as well, and so once you just get everybody bought into that, then what I've found is that the visual effects artists, and the environment artists, and so forth, they just found ways to make stuff look good at 60, and you just have to hold them to it."

In addition Knight also feels that 60fps can help improve the overall quality of the visual experience:

"If you were to take a screenshot, you might be able to point out, like, 'OK, here's the compromise you made because of your frame-rate,' but when you sit and play the game, the overall visual experience is enhanced by the fast frame-rate. So, I can't really decouple graphics from frame-rate; I don't feel like it's an either/or situation."

His statements seem to reflect those found in other studios that champion the use of higher framerates, such as Infinity Ward, Polyphony Digital, Turn 10 and Sony’s Studio Liverpool. All of which stand by the use of higher framerates not only as a means to push the envelope graphically, but also to enhance the overall gameplay experience.

With Visceral Games on board, it’s good to see at least another developer committing to pushing higher framerates this generation, and with the 3D revolution potentially only a few months away, it will become increasingly more important to do so.

IQGamer will be publishing an in-depth feature on 60fps and why it matters in the near future.

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