Posted by RyanJW (80 posts) -

Just 10 years ago, high-definition gaming on consoles was nothing but a fantasy. Back then, the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox were gaining momentum. Gamers were delighted as one-polygon faces and viewing distances of a few centimetres were replaced with impossibly smooth graphics. Nobody cared about HD, in fact it's unlikely that many people even had a TV capable of displaying it. But the HD flat screen revolution soon changed things.

Suddenly, living rooms around the world were toting TVs measuring 20 inches, 30 inches, sometimes even 40 inches. Experiencing media at such a size in one's home was unheard of, and at that moment it dawned upon gamers that standard-definition games looked a bit lacking on such a monumental viewing device. As always, bigger was better and people demanded that games be capable of looking as good as their cutting-edge HD-DVD movies.

Crysis 3 running at 720p upscaled to 1080p

The games industry soon responded with an exciting new generation of consoles, or at least Microsoft and Sony did. Games would be rendered in high definition — you'd be able to see every crack, every pore! Suddenly those big TVs had more pixels than they knew what to do with. High-resolution gorgeousness was pouring out of them, and gamers were loving it.

TVs have continued getting bigger. Whereas 40 inches used to be considered the upper limit, now it's becoming frightfully common to see 50–70 inches worth of TV dominating someone's home. HD is more than capable of keeping things crisp at such sizes though, so games should remain nice and sharp.

The problem is, most current-gen games aren't HD. As many people were told by eager salesmen, full HD is 1080p and nothing less will do. But almost every console game you play today uses no more than 720p, which sits about halfway between standard definition and full HD. The result is that on bigger TVs, 720p looks almost as bad as standard definition did back on those first flat screen TVs. Even on not-so-big TVs, 720p is visibly inferior to 1080p.

It gets worse. Many developers don't even render their games at 720p, instead upscaling resolutions that are sometimes practically standard definition. Like blowing up a photo, it generally doesn't look good. So we have games that aren't even meeting the minimum HD specification being enlarged to fill huge HD TVs. Comparatively, viewing a game running at 1080p is like putting on a pair of glasses after years of coping with poor vision.

Crysis 3 running at 1080p

Why would developers do this? For performance. It's no secret to PC gamers — who were playing HD games long before console gamers — that the higher the resolution, the lower the frame rate. So in order to keep pushing graphics forward and impressing gamers, resolution has been sacrificed. People weren't bothered initially because anything was better than standard definition, but with viewing devices' fidelity only getting better it's quite appropriate for games to follow suit.

Resolution makes a dramatic difference to games' visual quality due to phenomena unique to the medium such as aliasing (ie: jagged edges). To compare to traditional PC resolutions, most current-gen console games run at close to 800x600 whereas full HD is close to 1920x1200. The difference in clarity and sharpness is considerable, as anyone who's switched between those resolutions on a computer likely knows.

So, what's going to happen during the next generation? Sony has said that it's 'pushing' developers to use 1080p; I'm not aware of any comparable statements by Microsoft. Sony has also said that it's encouraging developers to maintain a frame rate of 60 FPS, compared to the 30 FPS that's virtually standard in current-gen games. But that's a whole other topic.

My belief is that 1080p should be a mandated requirement when developing next-gen games. It's not right to describe games as HD when they're actually running closer to standard definition than they are to full HD. And developers are throwing away a great opportunity to enhance gamers' experience more than any graphical flourish or special effect could — to continue that trend into the next generation in the name of a slightly faster frame rate would be, in my opinion, a great shame.

#1 Posted by VarrosAnon (48 posts) -

Consoles are what made HDTV's viable, and I think in very many ways that people take HD very seriously. But yeah, a lot of games run even in 480p still, and I don't even think the 360 UI goes above 720p, even if its movies can. But this cycle will be just like every other - high res, great-looking, 60fps games at the start - and then slowly pushing and pushing the edge until some parts (first framerate, then res as we move to 4K or something) fall over a little bit.

#2 Posted by senrat (312 posts) -

Forza 5 will be 1080p and 60fps, that game will look phenomenal. I definitely we are in the age of full HD 1080p. In many ways I'm glad this generation was delayed for so long. It means hardware is now advanced enough to deliver what we want.

#3 Posted by Colourful_Hippie (4330 posts) -

Psh, 1440p is where it's at.

#4 Edited by Immortal_Guy (108 posts) -

I personally think frame rate is much more important than screen resolution - I'd rather 60 fps was made mandatory, even if games had to be pushed all the way down to SD. I've recently started playing 360 games on an HD TV at university, which seemed like a big step up, but when I go home for holidays and back to a cathode ray tube television, I'm always surprised how quickly I readjust. Apart from illegibly tiny text, I just stop noticing after 15 minutes or so. Though, I do play most PC games on a fairly old laptop at 800x600 (if the game even lets me get that low), so perhaps I've just gotten used to it.

#5 Posted by Slaegar (688 posts) -

I personally think frame rate is much more important than screen resolution - I'd rather 60 fps was made mandatory, even if games had to be pushed all the way down to SD.

Rage and Wipeout HD both dropped resolution instead of fps during performance hits so the games would always run at 60. The only potential problem that brought was the PS3 version of Rage would drop the resolution so much at times you couldn't read the menus if you didn't wait for the game to catch up.

What really bugged me was games like Dead Rising that practically required you to have an HDTV to play them with their super tiny menus. Or what looked like super tiny menus until plugged into a nice TV. Bastion is also basically unplayable on a tube tv. So some games more or less required you to play on an HDTV even though they were the crappy half-step HD that game out in the 70s.

#6 Posted by YukoAsho (2001 posts) -

Of course, now that we're in HD acceptance, now TV makers are trying to push 4K. I doubt we'll see another resolution hop for a long time, though, as most of us only got our HDTVs in the last five or so years.

#7 Posted by AiurFlux (901 posts) -

I'm waiting for 4k on OLED televisions. THAT is the next big step. It's already taken seriously, it's just that the hardware never made it truly possible.

#8 Edited by Demoskinos (14562 posts) -

Considering ALL you can buy in stores now is pretty much either LCD, LED or Plasma I'd say yes ....

#9 Edited by Reisz (1461 posts) -
http://xkcd.com/732/

God I hope so.

#10 Edited by RollingZeppelin (1916 posts) -

Honestly, if the new consoles can't produce decent framerates at 1080p, they're a sorry bloody excuse for a next generation. From the specs given though this shouldn't be an issue at all.

#11 Posted by sins_of_mosin (1556 posts) -

There is a huge difference between SD and 720p on any size screen. A lot of 'talking out of the ass' going on in this thread.

#12 Posted by RyanJW (80 posts) -

I'm the other way round to some of you guys. If I had to choose, I'd take a drop to 30 FPS if it meant maintaining 1080p — but only if it were a consistent, vsync-enabled 30 FPS. The biggest issue with a lot of current-gen games is the fact that many drop to 10–25 FPS frequently, which is very jarring. A smooth 30 FPS isn't so bad. Not as good as 60 FPS of course.

RollingZeppelin is right though, next-gen consoles should be capable of outputting 1080p. The difference in performance between lower and higher resolutions is much lower with current GPUs compared to the ones used in the 360 and PS3. Unless developers get downright lazy and can't be bothered to optimise, performance should never get so bad that 1080p can't be maintained.

I'd love to see the console manufacturers make it an outright rule that 1080p must be maintained, removing the wriggle room developers have entirely. After all, back in the standard definition days developers had no choice but to optimise, there was no room for lowering resolutions unless they resorted to sub-SD (which some did).

#13 Posted by YukoAsho (2001 posts) -

There is a huge difference between SD and 720p on any size screen. A lot of 'talking out of the ass' going on in this thread.

Seriously! 720p is a fine HD resolution. It's also what most cable systems broadcast their HD in, since you need a pretty fucking huge TV to tell the difference between 1080 and 720.

#14 Edited by RyanJW (80 posts) -

@yukoasho said:

@sins_of_mosin said:

There is a huge difference between SD and 720p on any size screen. A lot of 'talking out of the ass' going on in this thread.

Seriously! 720p is a fine HD resolution. It's also what most cable systems broadcast their HD in, since you need a pretty fucking huge TV to tell the difference between 1080 and 720.

Not with games you don't. I'm personally not disputing that there's a big difference between SD and 720p, I presume @sins_of_mosin was talking to someone else. But there's a very distinguishable difference between 720p and 1080p when gaming even on my 42-inch TV.

The reason for this is down to the nature of the visuals. Games render perfectly sharp computer-generated graphics for your TV to display, and not only that but many games skip anti-aliasing so they can enjoy better performance. It's largely these jagged edges that make the difference between 720p and 1080p so obvious.

It's a completely different story with films and TV shows. In many cases the original footage isn't pin sharp like computer-generated imagery anyway. Even when it is, real-life imagery tends to lend itself quite well to upscaling due to an absence of jagged edges, mip-mapping, and various other effects that are unique to games.

This is one of those things that is likely to go over the head of the average gamer, though. Not that they won't benefit from and enjoy the increased sharpness, but they'll probably just put down to 'that next-gen sheen' rather than a simple resolution upgrade.

#15 Posted by thugg1280 (87 posts) -

I had got a 360 at the start of last gen and well a few years ago I would hear the ps3 guys say they where doing 1080p games. so I got a ps3 and boy was I let down games where just 720 and had to be made to upscale as with the 360 it would auto upscale but it was still 720 being upscaled. I would think that's over now but don't be shocked if for the 1st few years of the new consoles its still around.