By Lokno 44 Comments
UPDATE: After reading your responses, it occurs to me that I failed to define "current generation frame rate." In general, PS3 and Xbox 360 games run in the neighbourhood of 30 fps. There are a handful of exceptions such as Rage, MW and many racing games. As a rule, games where the player is engaged in a high average speed are candidates for fluid 60 fps target. This article is in response to the notion that we can expect fluid frame rates across the board on the next generation of consoles.
With next-gen consoles on the horizon, expectations are starting to solidify. On more than one occasion the Giantbomb crew has suggested that these future consoles should guarantee 60 fps. Given that the theme of the last gen was the guarantee of HD, the guarantee of 60 fps would be a good marketing theme for the next-gen, at least to the core demographic. However, even without specs to go on, I sincerely doubt that this will become a priority.
It can be assumed that the next-generation hardware is several times more powerful than the current hardware on the market. Assuming also, for discussion purposes, that all game programming is completely parallelizable, we can claim that targeting twice as many frames would be an easy advantage of this speedup. We’ll even have cycles left over to do additional visual treatments and more complex physics simulations.
That’s not how its going to pan out for two reasons: Greed and budget. By greed, I mean that developers will fill that extra time with more expensive techniques and additional features which will have a larger impact on the wow-factor. By budget, I mean that code optimization doesn’t come cheap; it takes a significant man-hours to achieve. If the target machine is twice as fast as the previous target, I don’t need to budget the time to find an optimization which will half the execution time. Better hardware could actually lead to lower-budget games, since the time needed to achieve a real-time frame rate will have decreased significantly. The main issue is that a game’s performance is only as good as what the project dedicates, and overall high/consistent frame rates are not in high demand from the general public. As Mike Acton, Engine Director for Insomniac Games, pointed out in a blog post two years ago, 60 fps is not a major selling point [http://goo.gl/aeyFb]. I believe this fact will not change, regardless of hardware improvements. Certainly there will be exceptions, but I wouldn't bet on 60 fps becoming a standard anytime soon.