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Why I Don't Care About Framerate or Resolution

Arguing over FPS and resolution is all the rage these days. I don't think we should waste energy on it.

So at the very start, I am more than happy to admit that I am in the minority with these opinions (or at the very least, I am in the less vocal camp). Secondly, this is in no way an attempt to suck the joy out of the lives of those who love minor resolution improvements and always strive to keep on top of trends.

However, I know that I am not alone in what I wish to lay out. When it comes to my side of the debate regarding resolution and frame rate, there are two types of detractors: those who claim that the differences don’t exist, and those who claim that they do not matter. I would place myself in between (I know, even my side of the fence has a comfy fence on which to sit). 

My approach to frame rate and resolution

The inspiration to the voicing of this opinion is actually a recent medical that I underwent. With all the system wars, PC Master Race and frame rate movements of late, I had genuinely begun to question my eye sight. As a child, I had full 20/20 vision despite the fact that in my immediate family of six, the five others all wore glasses.

In recent years, as gamers were constantly claiming to see things that to me were simply not there, I realised that I had been told that I had perfect vision well over a decade ago so when I had my medical recently, I was expecting bad news. My worries were for nothing as it turned out, as my vision is now 20/19. In other words, one eye has remained perfect and the other is still better than most (my hearing is also excellent apparently, thanks for asking).

Did this really warrant a remake? 

So why this insight into my personal life? Well, upon learning that my vision is in fact not the reason that I cannot see differences that others claim to, my curiosity peaked and my conviction in my stance became stronger. So, now I am going to make some pretty bold claims that a lot of people will most likely dislike. 

Frame Rate

Most people I speak to actually say that they believe that frame rate is more important than resolution (which really strikes me as odd as frame rate is probably the most recent buzz word in system wars – makes me think of blast processing). I couldn’t even begin to pretend that I understand the brain’s processing of frames, and for the majority of readers, you don’t either! I have heard all the arguments and I don’t know if the human eye can see above 30 or 60 or whatever or not.

...but once it is above 30, my simple brain is completely satisfied that the motions are at a realistic pace and smoothness. 

 

What I can tell you is what I perceive, and that is: no difference whatsoever between 30 and 60 frames per second. Below 30 and yes, of course I can tell that the movement is sluggish (it’s like you are blinking too much) but once it is above 30, my simple brain is completely satisfied that the motions are at a realistic pace and smoothness. I have tried, I really have tried to see a difference. I have watched comparison videos (at source not just on youtube) and I have tried it myself at home by buying the same games on both console and PC. My screen is capable of higher frame rates and my PC certainly is up for it. I have used Fraps and Steam to monitor frame rates, I just cannot see what people mean when they claim it is any better.

Now, just like I can’t see the difference, I am fully aware, that maybe you can. Furthermore, even if it is simply nothing more than a placebo effect, I don’t even think that matters. My philosophy has always been that something does not need to be real as long as it creates real feelings and reactions (a philosophy you may well see me bring up again in the future). So if you really enjoy games more because you know that your frame rate is super high, than by all means do that and get the most from your hobby. It doesn’t change the fact however, that I simply, truly cannot tell the difference and that in my opinion there is not one. 

Resolution

So I need to be within five feet of a 40inch screen to see 1080p 

Resolution is a different matter however, because obviously I can see a difference between graphical fidelities. Yes, I can see the difference between a game on PC and a game on a console. Some games have fairly large differences and others have pretty minor ones. However, first of all, I need to see them side by side and second of all, playing on the console never detracts from my enjoyment of a game in any way whatsoever. It never ceases to baffle me that gamers claim that there is no pleasure to be had playing a game at an inferior resolution. If you put gameplay side by side and don’t label the videos then many people can’t tell which is which.

The PS4 offers The Witcher 3 at 1080p compared to the Xbox One’s 900p. I can’t tell the difference. You have to be pretty close (uncomfortably close) to a big screen to notice the difference between those two. People hear that the numbers on the PS4 are bigger and they believe that they will see it. The Witcher 3 remains a good example as we move to PC, because the graphics do improve in many ways. Draw distance, fine details in textures, fog effects all look better and can be immediately noticed when viewed side by side with a console. However these differences are in fine details. The consoles and lower grade PCs still make the game look breath-taking. The differences are the equivalent of Katy Perry having her teeth whitened.

Furthermore, when not playing side by side the differences become even more irrelevant, and when fully immersed in a game, they cease to matter at all. Once again, if those differences really matter to you, then fine, enjoy them. Just ask yourself, are you enjoying them because of the actual differences (that you likely don’t notice most of the time) or are you enjoying them just because you like to know that you have the best thing available?

Live and Let Game

The overall point that I would like to make here is that if you enjoy having higher frame rates or better graphics than other people in your games, no matter the reason, that’s fine. Enjoy it. It doesn’t change the fact that the differences are not as big as some people seem to want to believe nor the fact that there are a large number of people who simply don’t care or can’t tell. I have splashed out to own all the consoles, a top PC and I even have perfect vision, yet I can’t see the point personally. Games already look phenomenally good and arguing over small potential improvements is a huge investment of energy for little reward. Why don't we put all that energy into an area in our industry that needs it and could actually offer a return on investment, like, I don't know, sexism!

Game on the system of your choice, believe whatever you believe and live and let game.

Published May. 28th 2015
  • Diana_7689
    Nice to learn something from this article.
  • Corey Kirk
    Featured Columnist
    Here's the thing (and I actually agree with the gist of your article, not trying to rag on it): First, TVs and PC monitors display very differently. On a TV, 30 FPS may not look different than 60 on a console or PC, but that's because of the tech. Monitors have different tech in them to satisfy different needs of people (gamers, devs, artists, etc).

    Second, on VR devices like the Rift, they definitely matter and I am curious how Morpheus (the PS4 headset) will reconcile this. There is a clear, definitive difference on VR that no one can really argue against.

    Third, this is the same argument people made back when TVs switched to 720p back in the day. A lot of people said they didn't see the difference. A few years later, everyone can see the difference between 720p and 480. I feel a lot of times people can't see a difference because they are not constantly using the tech. Once someone gets used to the tech, they can usually see the difference.
  • OrganisedDinosaur
    Correspondent
    You are definitely right about TV versus monitor. For me, what I said is true of both. So I rarely use my monitor now. VR is interesting. I have not used any yet but am very excited about it. I can imagine that resolution would matter more for VR. I still can't see frame rate ever mattering for me personally, but who knows?
  • Ford James
    Featured Contributor
    I always feel like I'm in the minority, but I'm currently 65 hours into Witcher 3 on PC and my entire experience has been at 20fps but I'm fine with it. It's playable and still looks gorgeous, more frames would be nice but definitely not necessary. Some people say anything under 30 is unplayable and that's a fair point if it makes them feel ill or sick, but if not then 15-20 is fine for me in most games. Games that are really dependent on precise reactions however would be different, I feel like playing Witcher 3 on Death March difficulty at 20fps would result in my ass being handed to me!
  • mmlisiak
    In my opinion, higher resolutions are as useful as how big is the screen. If you use small screens, no need for resolutions higher than 1920x1080. If your screen is bigger than 40-50 inches it will be more notorious and 4k resolution will be applicable. About framerate, those people who grew up having access to all kind of video game consoles and pc video cards, like I did, know that the ideal framerate for non-3D displays is 60fps. For 3D displays, by the technology available until now, the higher the better.
  • OrganisedDinosaur
    Correspondent
    Definitely a lot of people will agree with you. I see what you are saying. In my experience; I play on a 50 inch and even then you need to be so close to really benefit from 1080p. Sit back on a sofa and it may as well be 720p.The chart even demonstrates this. I have played games with uncapped framerates getting over 60 (although only on a monitor can I see over 60 as my tv is capped at 60herz) and then set the cap to 30 and can see no difference. Lots of people agree with you that 60 is better, but I just can't see it!
  • TheBlaksamuraiX
    Contributor
    Very good stuff man! I got a couple of friends that need to look at this haha
  • OrganisedDinosaur
    Correspondent
    Thanks very much. Expecting plenty of disagreement, nice to get the first backer :)

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