Resolution vs Framerate: Next-Gen Graphics Debate

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Designing games has always been about making decisions that will trade-off presentation versus performance. Some games run faster, smoother, while others seek to provide the maximum amount of fidelity and detail at the cost of framerate. This has become one of the largest debates as next-gen consoles approach and gamers begin to change our ways of measuring quality in games.

While there are some who are very much welcoming of higher frame rates like the recently Halo Infinite 120fps Multiplayer rumor which Microsoft came out and confirmed on their Official Twitter Page – There are also some gamers who claim that focusing on 120 or even in some cases 60 frames per second will deprive them of the full benefits from higher quality graphics features like RayTracing and Global Illumination as well as True Native 4K resolution and the potential for 8K resolution output.

I felt the need to chime in with my own opinions and why I think that both formats have an important role to play in gaming, but that certain games are more well suited for performance versus visuals and the other way around. The real solution is in giving more control to the player, but on consoles this must be done without over-complicating things. That’s why the results have not always been satisfactory leading up until now.

For example, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is already confirmed to be giving players the choice of 4K 60fps with RayTracing off or a Dynamic Resolution with RayTracing turned on.

Likewise, we will probably find out that players on Halo Infinite multiplayer who aren’t running 120fps get more detail in their visuals as a trade-off of not having to render double the frames as usual.

Many recent tests over the past couple of years have demonstrated that experienced gamers will have a competitive advantage when playing at high frame rates. Other players who are only playing at 60fps will be essentially giving their opponents a head start on killing them every time.

Even though there are still gamers to this day who doubt the ability for the human eye to see 8K visuals, or even 4K visuals, and sometimes this crowd will also hesitate to believe humans can notice the difference between 30 to 60fps or even 120fps and above.

However, this is simply not true. When in-person game events start up again, attending one is a great way to see the technology for yourself. When you sit down at a 144hz PC Gaming Monitor for the first time, you will know right away what you’ve been missing if you’ve only been playing at 30fps for the majority of your life. Just like how stereoscopic 3D cannot be explained, it needs to be seen and played to be understood – down to each game being a varying level of quality themselves.

I saw this problem when Sony PS3 supported over 50 “3DHD” games but the industry and gaming community struggled to take the leap of faith and many never made it out to events and tried it. It was an incredible precursor to modern VR but unfortunately never caught on for console gamers despite being heavily supported by top games like God of War: Origins, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Crysis 1 and 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Uncharted 3, Splinter Cell, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance 3, Killzone 3, Gran Turismo 5, Batman: Arkham City, Mortal Kombat, Prince of Persia, Sonic, Sports Games, MotorStorm Apocalypse, and more.

Back to modern times, we are seeing new ways to measure what makes a game good arriving with the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

First and foremost, we have to recognize that both of these systems are using technology that most PC Gaming doesn’t fully utilize yet. SSD tech is great, and definitely better than normal hard drives. But it’s also very expensive. PS5 and Xbox Series X are pushing for the games industry to design the entire game around the power of an SSD. That means if you try running it on a normal hard drive, it will probably run like crap or won’t allow you to run it at all. Until now, games have only been enhanced by SSD, with normal hard drives also supported just slower. PS5 and XSX mark the start of games being designed exclusively for SSD, meaning even PC gamers will be rebuilding their rigs to keep in line as the next couple of years prove the concept to us.

Because of this factor, and an incredible leap in compute performance in consoles, games are just not going to be as limited as they were before. There will still be trade-offs, but skeptical gamers will be able to vindicate the claims developers and publishers make through independent third party review.

Games that are supporting 8K are using state of the art AI reconstruction instead of old school upscaling.

Advanced memory feeding solutions exist in both consoles and are custom-built to each console as a way to help the entire system cope with a much faster and heavier data flow than ever before.

So what does this mean? Which is better? Resolution or Frame Rate?

Competitive Games should have 120fps modes built in. It is true that not all TVs support the feature, but I’ve got a Samsung NU8000 from 2018 that supports 120hz (real, native refresh rate, not motion flow mode) and a Q70R from 2019 that also supports it. These were definitely not the most expensive TVs around, and newer models will have the feature for sure. Beyond that, newer TVs will also support higher forms of Freesync now including Variable Refresh Rate going to extreme rates to sync the frame data, and Variable Rate Shading to reduce unnecessary rendering with instant image loading (no pop-in).

It’s way more important that games run at 60fps minimum and maintain whatever resolution they can from that point forward. The compromise of 30fps should no longer be acceptable. Unless you are playing at 8K with RayTracing on there is no reason you should want to lower the frame rate to that point, even then there is support for 8K at 60fps on the new HDMI 2.1 standard anyways.

With that being said, Cinematic Games should give players the choice to turn on and off settings like RayTracing as well as clearly see the status of Variable Refresh Rate, Resolution, and Frame Rate. This will probably happen. It would be nice if we could get even more control, like on PC where we can fine tune every single detail of a game’s quality and performance, down to the draw distance and field of view. But we will likely be presented with two modes for games like this as in the Miles Morales example with 4K 60fps mode vs RayTracing mode.

I’m glad to see Microsoft embracing the 120fps standard for online multiplayer games, and I highly encourage everyone to try out higher frame rate gaming in person for themselves before deciding on their next television investment. Nevermind the massive benefit that you’ll get from going with a QLED TV for gaming purposes over OLED which is better for films, and normal LED TVs which are good but outdated.

8K Resolution is fantastic even though it’s a little too soon for us to really understand where the format is headed. I believe that games on the next-gen consoles need to strive for higher resolution and higher detail, and we can see that is happening. Some sacrifices will be made to frame rate and performance here and there, but we will likely be surprised just how many games are able to go Full 4K 60fps given how powerful the next-gen hardware is. The real question is how they will perform with RayTracing turned on and that is where the delicate balance comes into play of cinematic gaming versus competitive gaming.

Both are incredibly fun and both have their place.

Just like in VR, high resolution is needed to believe the image before your face, but high frame rate is what gives life to that image and allows the world around you to become real.

Until Next Time, Keep It Real and Keep It Gaming. Peace!