Why do the current console struggle to hit 1080p/60fps?

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The new consoles have ushered in some great fidelity, and some amazing games – but so few of them hit that magical 1080p/60fps target that was supposed to define this gen. Ever wondered why that is?

Well, according to the chaps behind the Nitrous engine (which powers the first commercially available DX12 game) it’s all down to maths. Naturally, I understand close to nothing of what the Nitrous team says then.

“It’s simple math. Last generation consoles and this generation, I think the number I heard quoted was it was 6 times more powerful. That’s great, right? Then you do the math. You realize that if you’re running at 720p and going to 1080p you’ve doubled the number of pixels.

“If you were running 30 frames a second at 720 and you doubled your pixels and wanted to double your frame rate, you just used 4 more per and you have no more perf. Then you additionally want to increase the fidelity. You’ll see the same thing on 4K. It has 4 times the pixels as 1080. You need a GPU 4 times as powerful just to do the same thing you did before just at a higher resolution level with most engines. With Nitrous you actually don’t. That’s probably why you haven’t seen the big jump that some people were expecting.”

Not enough number for you? Here’s more. And while yes, the new consoles would be able to run games at 1080p and 60fps, there are a great many concessions that would have to be made.

“It also takes increased bandwidth, etc. etc. When you try to get a game down into the 16 milliseconds consistently, category, it’s amazing how those milliseconds add up. Going to 30 frames per second is like gaining those extra milliseconds really is huge in terms of flexibility you’ve got there. It’s very difficult. Every game generation you want to do something a little more ambitious.

“And to pack additional graphics plus additional AI, plus additional gameplay and everything else into 16 milliseconds can be really, really challenging. Especially when trying to do that consistently. The last thing you want to do is stutter between 60 frames per second and 30. You don’t want to jump back and forth there a whole lot. There’s a lot of people that will argue the development cost and the discipline it takes to make a game run consistently at 16 milliseconds is just very difficult to achieve.”

I think the gist of it is that the new consoles just aren’t powerful enough – but that’s something we know already. IT’s also very heavily dependent on the engine – and as we’ve seen in things like The Fox Engine, it is possible to make a game that runs at 1080p and 60fps – and looks great to boot.

Just don’t expect that as the standard. At least not this generation.

Last Updated: December 15, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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