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Why 60 frames per second should be the standard for next-gen

"30fps, I think, is a clearly established standard and is now the minimum acceptable standard, and it will only go up from there. As we hit the next gen, God help us, it might become 60!"

Those are the words of Capcom’s Alex Jones, Producer of DmC: Devil May Cry. The still-beautiful game that controversially took the series away from 60 frames per second and down to 30 (albeit with some alleged fancy visual tricks to hide the fact). Why controversially? Because 60fps really matters to some gamers. Big time. In fact, with next-gen just around the corner, I think Alex is right to suggest it's time to move up. 60fps should be the standard for next-gen games. Because it makes a huge difference in so many ways. Let's take a closer look...

Contrary to what your mind is constantly telling you, TV screens don’t display moving images. They display a rapid succession of still images to trick your mind into thinking you’re watching moving images. It’s a small but important difference. Although perhaps ‘trick’ isn’t the right word. So eager are our brains to make sense of what they’re shown, they’ll happily fool themselves, filling in countless gaps between images and allowing us to suspend our disbelief so we can watch a film or play a game.

But the rate of good information has to be quick. Because the fewer still frames you are shown every second, the less convinced your brain is by the movement it’s seeing. The game or film will start to look less fluid, then decidedly jerky, before your mind gives up trying to recognise movement and dismisses what it’s seeing as a mere collection of different images. For example, look at Team Fortress 2 running at 1fps:

It's a slideshow. But I bet you still imagined movement, even then, didn’t you? You were linking each frame to the next like a storyboard, imagining the reloading animation and the character's movement across the room. That's how keen your mind is to make sense of what it's seeing. But there's only so much it can do with such limited information. 10 frames per second is about the limit for lifelike images to appear to move properly, although let's face it: Video games need to be quicker than that. 

So how fast should games be? We've had everything from perhaps the worst frame-rate in any game ever through to Quake being run at thousands of frames per second. Ironically, the 16-bit era was a golden age for 60fps games, with everything from Sonic and Mario through to Pac-Man and Zelda running at 60fps. But then, when 3D came along in the arcades (running at a beautiful 60fps), it all slipped on home consoles because the processing load was so high. 

Games like Soul Blade on PS1, GoldenEye on N64 and even the original Gran Turismo all ran at 30fps or lower. It was a frustrating time. But no coincidence that these games also pushed the boundaries of what was possible on home machines. The rule is simple: The more you stretch the hardware, the more the frame-rate takes a hit.

Growing up with such games is undoubtedly the reason why gamers like me can 'see through the Matrix'. We got used to championing games with good frame-rates because there simply weren't that many of them around. The ones we had were fuel for debates about which console was best. But after the 32-bit era ended, I'll never forget my intense disappointment when I played Sega Rally 2 on Dreamcast and the frame-rate dipped to 30fps at the first corner, proceeding to fluctuate between arcade-perfect 60fps and 'last-gen' 30fps for the entirety of the game. That wasn't good enough then, it still happens now and it needs to be eliminated. Completely.

Topics

next-gen

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27 comments

  • sternparez - February 9, 2013 4:07 a.m.

    60fps definitley makes a difference. Play MGS2 compared to any PS2 game (especially the GTA series) it has aged so much better, it actually looks better than a lot of current gen games.
  • TanookiMan - February 8, 2013 7:18 a.m.

    Great article Justin! And man, that Virtual Hydlide video was difficult to watch. There's a funny episode of Broken Pixels where they play that game.
  • Rub3z - February 8, 2013 2:19 a.m.

    Wipeout HD and F-Zero GX are beautiful. Soon, very soon I plan on having myself a PC that can run some of our better, more modern FPS games and such at 60fps at a tolerable quality, hopefully. Now that Bioshock Infinite has been pushed back once again, I can take my time a bit.
  • avantguardian - February 7, 2013 10:25 p.m.

    it really does make difference for me. playing bf3 i felt like i was in quicksand the whole time. really killed my immersion. i have always been one to lower my fps on my pc to make it run as smooth as possible, though i know to some pc gamers that is sacreligious, and they'd gladly suffer framerate dips to have max textures or aa. one game that has really impressed me on this front is forza horizon, as i'll go out of my way to try and get it to dip, but it just won't happen. this is of course, on the supposedly technically obsolete 360. such is the potential for this new batch of consoles.
  • BackwaterRifle - February 7, 2013 8:02 p.m.

    Its funny, as I actually first noticed the difference in the Pokemon series. Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Fire Red, and Leaf Green all ran at 60fps, while the subsequent games ran at 30fps, and movement felt almost lethargic in the 30fps games.
  • winner2 - February 7, 2013 2:34 p.m.

    The fps debate has been starting to push me towards investing more in my pc to go towards pc gaming. I bought hitman blood money and KOTOR online the other day, and ho-lee-shit. I played blood money on the 360 once before it broke...and now playing it on pc is just bliss. I'd definitely like to invest more in my pc now especially with the witcher 3 being announced, and god knows what kind of behemoth of a pc you'd need to showcase that game. I liked the article, I've definitely noticed the difference recently.
  • Cyberninja - February 7, 2013 1:28 p.m.

    Personally FPS never have bothered me because I can't tell the difference unless something randomly dips so I really don't care to be honest.
  • CrashmanX - February 7, 2013 12:42 p.m.

    I always strive for 60FPS. Even now I'm constantly trying to tweak games and settings so they run as fast as I can get them or as close to 60FPS as I can. Got Dead Space 3 for PC and it runs BEAUTIFULLY at 60FPS. (For whatever reason it capped at 30 until I disabled VSync) It looks incredible compared to a friend running it on their 1080p TV on Xbox and mine running on a 1080p Monitor on PC. The FPS difference REALLY does help with the immersion like you wouldn't believe. Sound and FPS are two things that developers always seem to forget SEVERELY help with immersion. Sadly sound is more dependent upon if you have a surround system or not (good god it makes a difference). FPS however is all developer side when it comes to consoles.
  • JD_Method - February 7, 2013 12:02 p.m.

    The problem is that since consoles have pre-defined specs, developers, ultimately, have limited tech to work with, and as a result will always have to decide whether to shoot for 60 fps, or for maximum visual fidelity at the expense of the frame-rate, as you mentioned in the article. I don't think 60 fps will ever be the 'standard' on console because there will always be developers who will want to push the visuals rather than stick to 60 frames. Also, there are always going to be people on both sides of the fence for this debate. There will always be people who will gladly choose the increased visuals at 30 frames, and people who value 60 frames over graphical detail. This is why I, and many others, love the PC. Developers don't have to make that trade-off. The PC allows the developers to deliver the best visuals without having to make any sacrifices to the frame-rate. But of course, it just depends whether you can afford the hardware to achieve the high frame-rates.
  • CrashmanX - February 7, 2013 12:44 p.m.

    Built my PC for about $600 over the past few years. 110% worth it compared to either 360 or PS3 IMO. I've played games on all three and the PC just blow em both away. Sure it costs a bit more, but it'll also last a lot longer and I can make the hardware last for a LONG time if I really push the system.
  • greg-hakes - February 11, 2013 9:24 a.m.

    It Costs you at least Double, and you will need to upgrade twice as often, which means another big chunk of cash gone.
  • CrashmanX - February 11, 2013 8:54 p.m.

    Upgrade twice as often. Shit son what're you doing? Buying the cheapest parts you can? I only have to upgrade my PC every few years, about as often as consoles cycle. Sure sometimes for longer cycles (like this) I upgrade earlier than the consoles, but I generally come out more powerful than them. As far as FPS locks goes, those are usually as simple as an INI fix to get around. Some games like Dark Souls are programmed with 30FPS in mind and going above can fuck with things, but 90% of games are not because programming with an FPS cap is just stupid because it causes more bugs than it can fix.
  • greg-hakes - February 11, 2013 9 a.m.

    You can Crown The PC if you want, But if you noticed Lately a lot of the new Games are locked as far as FPS. So i think PC gamers are going to find themselves scratching their heads again soon.
  • Imgema - February 7, 2013 11:19 a.m.

    I was waiting for an article like this. 60 fps should be the standard. Just look at the 360 version of Daytona USA... its a perfect 60fps port of the arcade and it still looks good because of that. A freaking 1994 game! EVERYTHING looks better at fluid 60 fps. Like Mario Kart 7... man this game looks awesome.
  • pronova159 - February 7, 2013 11:14 a.m.

    Of course that would depend on the game. A game that displays motionless graphics wouldn't benefit from 60 fps at all. For face paced games, I agree that 60 fps is necessary. Some people also like motion blur, like myself, and 30 fps is fast enough to be visually believable. I'm sure I'm not the only one that hates watching shows meant for 30 fps on my modern HDTV that runs everything at a higher frame rate.
  • RedHarlow - February 7, 2013 10:35 a.m.

    Amazing how a website can go from something very well written like this one day, to "Teh funneiest Zelda memes on teh interwebz" the next day.
  • shawksta - February 7, 2013 10:44 a.m.

    Stop that, its for their own enjoyment, stop hating fun and variety
  • sweetchiliheat - February 7, 2013 10:23 a.m.

    Great article Justin. I play on my Xbox a lot more than my PC, so I always notice the increase in FPS when playing a game. Frame rate and graphics are pretty much always inversely related, which is why I'd rather play Far Cry 3 on the lowest settings (but still 1080p) and average 20-30fps. It's much better once you knock it down a notch, but then it stops looking amazing (even the lowest 1080p settings look incredible). Also, when playing Skyrim (PC), I constantly monitor my fps, as it helps me troubleshoot what causes the sudden drops (~20fps from 40-60). Then I can simply adjust the base settings to compensate for the mods that increase visual fidelity. The best example is playing Kirby's Return to Dreamland on a Dolphin Emulator. Most emulated games run fine on their native resolution, but become nearly unplayable at anything higher (I'm looking at you; The Last Story). But Kirby runs smoothly almost always, and a 1920x1080 (or higher sometimes). That, to me, is what every developer should strive for. I know next-gen graphics with 60fps is hard to achieve without some massive hardware behind it, but it's still something I think could be obtained next-gen.
  • gryzor - February 7, 2013 10:01 a.m.

    60fps has always been Nintendo's standard and bless them for that. Fast moving images with not enough frames can make you nauseous so it's important to have 60 frames for racers and fps. Playing Half-Life 2 on PS3 could get tiresome after a while, not so with Metroid Prime on wii. New DMC feels sluggish but that might be developer's intention cause Bayonetta didn't give me that impression apart from some bonus missions where game visibly dropped frames. Driving in GTAIV is not much fun because of the framerate. Wipeout went 30fps and we won't see it any more. On the other hand non-action based JRPGs could easily go with 30 frames to make visuals nicer. Anyhow no hardware will be enough if developers will not make effort to make quality games with good coding. How do you justify ZOE HD not running in 60fps?
  • shawksta - February 7, 2013 9:54 a.m.

    Nice article Justin and i can see where your coming from. Although sometimes it doesnt matter to people whose eyes just dont see it, but i will say seeing that 60 FPS trailer of The Wonderful 101 recently was awesome and your right about Mario Kart 7

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