Shank Rants: The Framerate Non-Issue.

Let’s talk about framerate. “Oh no,” you say, rolling your eyes. “Shank wants to talk about framerate…again. This guy never lets up.”

You’re quite right, viewer. I don’t let up. And to be honest, neither should you. For as long as this continues to be an issue in this industry, it should be brought up and talked to death. Quite simply, you deserve better.

But wait, isn’t the title of this Rant “the framerate non-issue? As in…a lack of an issue?”

Once again, astute observation viewer. Here, have a Schrute Buck.

Borderline condescending Office reference aside, let’s be serious here – as challenging as that may be.

As much as framerate continues to be an issue, it also continues to be a non-issue. How can this be an issue and not be an issue? Well it’s not like framerate has suddenly entered into a superposition state.

Let’s first talk about the part where framerate continues to be an issue. And of course, this means consoles.

Since even before the Xbox One and PS4 went on sale, Microsoft and Sony both hammered home “1080p 60fps” to consumers. Naturally, this instilled in consumers an expectation of 1080p and 60fps in their games. Furthermore, to many, this meant that first party titles (and exclusives) would be running at this “magical” 1080p and 60fps.

To a considerable degree, console business models rely on exclusives. Apart from hardware, exclusives are the largest differentiator between various consoles. Xbox has its Halo with its Master Chunk shooting up Covebumps, and Playstation has its Uncharted with Nathaniel Drake punching Somali pirates in the face.

Both of these titles in particular were given considerable hype and touted that they will “target” 60fps.

Now before I go further, let’s all understand that “target” does not mean “locked”. To “target” 60fps means that developers will try to get the game to hit 60fps. It’s a goal. It’s not a guarantee.

And this verbiage is fundamentally misleading to the average consumer. When you say “targeting 60fps”, to the consumer that means “oh, the game will be at 60fps” – even though “targeting” does not mean “locked”.

In my opinion, if the game is not going to be locked at 60fps – and more importantly, if the developer and publisher know it won’t be locked at 60fps – don’t even bring up 60fps! To do so automatically instills an expectation in the consumer. And it is absolutely not the consumers’ fault when they become outraged that your game does not hit the touted framerate that you were claiming to target!

Look. I get it. You want to use buzzwords and build up marketing hype. But I have always said that there’s a right way to do this and there’s a wrong way. This is the wrong way.

How does this relate to Halo 5 and Uncharted 4? Digital Foundry recently did an analysis on the E3 2015 demo of Halo 5. Now yes, it’s analysis on an unfinished product, but with only a handful of months to go before release in October, it’s reasonable to assume that not much will drastically change in the interim.

What they found was, to my complete lack of surprise, pretty damning. Not only does the game not output at 1080p (a long-standing industry standard), it also fails to hold 60fps. How pathetic.

On to Uncharted. In a June 2014 Playstation blog post, Naughty Dog Community Strategist

Eric Monacelli wrote, “We’re targeting 60fps for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”.

Now, as soon as I read this, I knew, I absolutely knew that there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that Uncharted 4 would run at 60fps on PS4.

And once again, to my complete lack of surprise, we saw the game running at 30fps during PSX last December (and again at E3 2015).

Shortly after PSX, Game Director Bruce Straley spoke about framerate to Edge magazine saying, “We’re actually above 30, but we locked it [for the demo]…We’re going to do whatever it takes to make the game we want to make. If it means we could go for 60 but lose something that would really impact the player’s experience, then it’s our choice as developers to say, ‘Well, we’re going to go for the experience [instead of] the 60 frames.'”

That last sentence defies logic. Bruce is actually suggesting that player experience is independent of 60fps by saying “going to go for the experience instead of the 60 frames”.

In reality, framerate is inextricably tied to player experience. 60fps is objectively better than 30fps. A game running at 60fps will provide the player a better experience than the same game running at 30fps. There is no arguing this.

So for him to spin his pathetic defense of 30fps into suggesting that somehow, the player’s experience will be better if the framerate is worse is absolutely ridiculous.

So looking at Halo 5 and Uncharted 4, we come to the conclusion that yes, framerate is an issue on consoles. Even the first party exclusives, the games that most consumers will purchase a console for, fail to meet the developers’ and publishers’ promise of 60fps. What this means is that the products that Microsoft and Sony rely on to differentiate from each other can’t even compete on a technical level.

That’s absolutely pathetic. And this should be brought up and discussed every single damn day.

I had mentioned that there would be a “non-issue” part to this rant. Well, here it is.

The way I see it, there are 2 solutions to this whole thing.

First, Microsoft and Sony should have given us proper “next gen” consoles, ones that can actually do the things they claim. Instead, what we got were 2 low end laptops that are laughably pathetic, weak, limp-wristed pieces of garbage that are doing nothing but completely stagnating innovation and ruining the industry.

Second, there is a platform where resolution and framerate are non-issues. I am of course talking about the most powerful, most numerous, and most profitable platform – the PC.

PC gamers have been enjoying 1080p60 gaming for what seems like eons. 1080p60 is the standard for PC gamers. That is to say, it is the bare minimum. It is the lowest experience that PC gamers will accept. That console manufacturers and developers see this PC bare minimum as their gold standard shows just how far behind and pathetic these consoles are.

So, if you want to game with a modern resolution and framerate, join us on PC. The footage you’re watching now is a prime example of unrelenting PC power’s apathy to the desperate attempts of limp-wristed consoles.

So you see, framerate is a non-issue. You deserve better. And you can only get what you deserve on PC.