(This post was supposed to go up on Sunday, but I’m just now seeing that it did not. Supposedly, it was scheduled and everything. Good job, WordPress. Anyway, here it is now! Better late than never.)
If you don’t know, the frame rate is the term to determine how many images, or frames, display per second in rapid succession to create the illusion of movement. Movies, with rare exception, tend to clock in at 24 frames per second (FPS), while video games tend to average around 30 FPS, with some going to 60. Obviously, the more frames you can display in a single second, the smoother the game will play. It has become a point of contention among some gamers, especially since games on the PS4 can hit a solid 60 FPS while the same game on the Xbone stutters to a 30.
But are frame rates really important? We, the gaming community, love to find reasons to bash other consoles and other gamers. Is the frame rate debate (rhyme!) just another way for us to pick on each other, or is it important?
Depends on who you ask.
To be honest, I’m surprised at how few gamers actually know what a frame rate is. I’ve talked to gamer friends who have no idea what I mean when I say the frame rate sucks or this game chugs along. This always seems strange to me, personally, since I knew what a frame rate was ever since Sonic Adventure 2 came out on the Dreamcast (Long may it reign). Sonic Adventure 2 made a big deal about running at a silky smooth 60 FPS, and I remember being impressed with it right away. There was a noticeable difference in smoothness from Sonic Adventure 2 to Sonic Adventure. Since then, I’ve been able to look at a game and tell you its frame rate. And to me, it’s very important.
Personally, I think video games should strive for a rock-solid 30 FPS at minimum. If your game struggles to reach that on a console (PCs are a bit different since every rig is unique), then I think the game developers should be embarrassed. Anything less than 30 FPS is really embarrassing, and is very noticeable in game play. I realize that there’s a desire to have the best graphics and textures and everything, but I think it speaks of overly ambitious game design if the game you’re making cannot run smoothly on the console you’re putting it on. After all, what good are pretty graphics if you struggle to see them in motion?
Plus, games that don’t run smoothly give me eyestrain and a headache. I have wimpy eyes, apparently.
I am speaking as an ignorant gamer who keeps up with blogs but doesn’t actually work in game design, so this next paragraph may be rubbish. But I do think that there is a desire among game companies to make these beautiful screenshots of games and post them online. Those screenshots are not formed from the console though, and then it becomes a process of forcing a pretty game to run on lesser hardware. I think that’s where a lot of frame rate trouble comes from. Taking a game that wasn’t originally created on certain hardware and trying to force it into that mold. It’s very much like trying to take a square peg into a round hole. Something has to go before it’ll fit. I think that something is frame rate, but I don’t think that’s the right direction.
But I am also the person that turns down his PC graphics to minimum to get his game running smoothly. I don’t think I’m in the majority opinion with that.
Some people claim that they cannot see the frame rate, and that may be true, especially if you don’t play many games that have a rock solid 60. But I do think that even if you can’t see the difference, you can feel it. There’s a reason Bayonetta on the PS3 was poorly received. It just isn’t as fluid as the Xbox 360 version. To me, it’s noticeable. And I think anyone that put any amount of time into Bayonetta would agree.
But that’s the issue at hand. Some people don’t play Bayonetta (actually, judging by sales, a lot of people don’t and that’s a shame), and frame rates are less important to turn-based RPGs or something less reflex heavy.
I personally don’t think that that’s an excuse for a game to stutter along.
I think at the end of the day, the frame rate thing is really up to personal preference. If it doesn’t bother you, that’s fine. Enjoy your game. After all, that’s what we’re all here for. But frame rate bothers me. I won’t refuse to play games with bad frame rates (I did play GTAV), but I do think that more effort should be placed into making a smooth experience. Because people do care. And even if they they don’t, they notice the difference.
What about you? Are frame rates important to you when you play games?