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

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But why is 60fps the holy grail for graphics hogs? Why not 70? Well, it's to do with TV sets. The difference between 30 frames per second and 60 frames per second sounds huge, but it’s actually rather subtle. American and Japanese CRT TVs refresh their still picture a total of 30 times every second. But, crucially, each one of those frames is constructed in two sweeps.

That’s where 60fps comes in. Each sweep between odd and even lines of pixels contains a new, up-to date version of the image. For PAL TVs, the rates are 25fps with two scans, totalling 50fps (or said another way, 50hz). So when everyone in the UK talked about 60fps in the '90s, it was actually just 50fps. But the result was the same: Every fresh scan had a fresh update to the image, making it look better.

Modern TVs don't construct their picture in the same ways as CRT, but the difference between 30/60 is still easy to describe. In layman's terms, 60fps looks mega-smooth. I would show you a video of it, but YouTube itself is capped at 30fps so you wouldn't see any difference. But load up any 60fps game like Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Wii U version notwithstanding), Dead or Alive 5, or Bayonetta on Xbox 360 and you'll immediately see how smoothly they move.

In fact, Bayonetta is the perfect example because it runs at around 30fps on PS3 and (mostly) 60fps on Xbox 360. The difference this makes to the experience is massive, especially if you come to one version after playing the other for a decent length of time. This video from DigitalFoundry illustrates the difference in frame-rate well:

It's worth noting that we still gave Bayonetta 10/10 at review, even though we only received the PS3 version prior to release. A great game is a great game. But a great game running at 60fps will always be better. And, crucially, once you've seen how it's supposed to be, you'll never go back.

So I say why not have next-gen machines just deliver this premium experience all the time? Let's not forget what id's John Carmack said, though: "[Next-gen] will let us do everything we want to do now, with the knobs turned up. If you take a current game like Halo which is a 30 hertz game at 720p; if you run that at 1080p, 60 frames with high dynamic frame buffers, all of a sudden you've sucked up all the power you have in the next-generation. It will be what we already have, but a lot better."

I'm actually OK with that. Because for me (and perhaps this goes back to those dreadful 32-bit days), a solid 60fps frame-rate demonstrates a developer's complete mastery of a console's hardware. It means a game always looks 100% assured in its movement and responds quicker to control inputs. It ages better. But it would also convince the masses that the new generation of consoles are awesome because they'd be purring along like a cheetah on catnip. I can picture the adverts now...

Of course, anything left over should go into everything else. The eminently quotable industry analyst Michael Pachter has gone on-record to say he believes the PS4 will be able to render games at 240fps. That's madness. At least in terms of frame-rate. For instance, the physics engine of GRID 2 is said to run at 1,000 hertz. That’s 1,000 cycles per second, or 33 samples of the car’s tyres against the track for every one frame of the 30fps visuals shown to the gamer. The car drives and handles more smoothly as a result. That's where progress should be made. There's no need for 240fps graphical refresh rates because your eyes literally can't see the difference. Few TVs even display images that quickly.

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next-gen

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32 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.
  • MetroidPrimeRib - February 7, 2013 2:49 p.m.

    60 FPS has been the standard, unless you're playing on a console.
  • MadMan - February 7, 2013 6:11 p.m.

    "Next Gen" is referring to consoles ya jack ass.
  • MetroidPrimeRib - February 7, 2013 7:04 p.m.

    Guess I've been in the Next Gen for years now, thanks for us down.
  • avantguardian - February 7, 2013 10:19 p.m.

    man, i know it kinda goes without saying, but you really are pretentious asshat.
  • MetroidPrimeRib - February 7, 2013 11:03 p.m.

    For what? It's pretty well known that running 60 FPS on a PC is quite easy. Even Metroid Prime (2002) and F-Zero GX (2003) for the GameCube could run at 60. For all the focus on graphics this generation, nobody could make that many games that run at 60 FPS for consoles when last gen they had plenty. At least Call of Duty runs at 60 FPS. Good job for Call of Duty.
  • 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.

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

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