At the start of this new generation of consoles the debate of framerate and resolution importance still wages on. The gold standard to live by is a solid 60 fps and 1080p. If those numbers aren't on a bullet pointed press release somewhere, eyebrows and questions are raised. But what if hitting 30 fps is intentional and defensible?
Dana Jan, game director on The Order: 1886, is committed to 30 fps—at least for his game. I sat down to speak with him about two weeks ago after playing a brief demo of chapter III of The Order.
You can check out a sample of what I played in the video above. (Note that it might not be running at 3o fps because it is footage provided to me by Sony, and uploaded to YouTube after our editing process, so I can't be sure what's happened to it in doing so.)
Remembering the debate some of our readers had on the legitimacy of needing to operate with 30 fps, I decided to pick his brain and see if he had a response to everyone's hesitations.
"60 fps is really responsive and really cool. I enjoy playing games in 60 fps," Jan told me. "But one thing that really changes is the aesthetic of the game in 60 fps. We're going for this filmic look, so one thing that we knew immediately was films run at 24 fps. We're gonna run at 30 because 24 fps does not feel good to play. So there's one concession in terms of making it aesthetically pleasing, because it just has to feel good to play.
Jan: "I don't know of any other games that are gonna look like our game in real-time with no pre-rendered movies, with all the stuff that's going on lighting-wise, and run at 60."
"If you push that to 60, and you have it look the way we do, it actually would end up looking like something on the Discovery Channel, like an HDTV kind of segment or a sci-fi original movie maybe. Which doesn't quite have the kind of look and texture that we want from a movie. The escapism you get from a cinematic film image is just totally different than what you get from television framing, so that was something we took into consideration.
"Then, on top of it, I don't know of any other games that are gonna look like our game in real-time with no pre-rendered movies, with all the stuff that's going on lighting-wise, and run at 60. I think that's probably the thing that most people underestimate is [that] to make a game look like this—the way that they're lit, the number of directional lights that we have… We don't have a game where you're just outside in sunlight, so there's one light. We have candles flickering, fires, then characters have lights on them. So [to make] all those lights [work] with this fidelity means, I think, until the end of this system most people won't have any clue how to make that run 60 and look like this.
"That was something where we kind of said, 'What was important to us?' We're visual creatures. when we see things, that's kind of our first senses. I think immediately we look at this game, one of the things that's exciting to me, it feels next-gen. It's one of the first things that I go, ok, I think this is helping define what next-gen really means. Getting a new system and actually booting up and saying something that is like, 'I'm blown away by what I'm seeing.' There's almost nothing that you can take away from that."
Jan: "Until the end of this system [the PS4], most people won't have any clue how to make that run 60 and look like this."
About five years ago, Mike Acton of Insomniac Games proposed something that probably seemed wild to some people. He said that "Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time will probably be Insomniac's last 60fps game." His reasoning at that time aligns fairly closely with what Jan said to me two weeks ago.
Here's what Acton found in researching the importance of framerate:
However, during development, there are hard choices to be made between higher quality graphics and framerate. And we want to make the right choices that reflect our commitment to providing you with the best looking games out there. To that end, our community team did some research into the question of framerate. The results perhaps confirmed what I've known for a long time, but found it difficult to accept without evidence. They found that:
- A higher framerate does not significantly affect sales of a game.
- A higher framerate does not significantly affect the reviews of a game.
And in particular they found that there was a clear correlation between graphics scores in reviews (where they are provided) and the final scores. And they found no such correlation between framerate and the graphics scores nor the final scores. As an interesting side-note, our team also found no direct correlation between gameplay scores and final scores, however it does appear that gameplay scores are also influenced by graphics scores. i.e. Better looking games appear to be more "fun" to reviewers, in general.
So, what do you say? Can you be content with 30 fps?