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Visceral: Why 60FPS is "a must" for Dante's Inferno

"Visuals benefit from higher frame-rate."

Visceral Games has said that Dante's Inferno is a better-looking console game because it runs at 60 frames per second, as opposed to more standard 30FPS.

In a wide-ranging interview with Gamasutra, creative director Jonathan Knight explained how the team had "a fair amount of angst" over the decision, but worked hard in evangelising the call to lock at 60 and getting the development team on-board.

"I think any artist would be lying if they said that they didn't prefer to have more bandwidth," he said. "Any milliseconds you give them, they're going to use it on just one more effect, or what-have-you. But what we found is, it's more of a question of willpower than a technology question. And you just have to commit to it, and say, 'Here are your budgets. Here's the box we're gonna play in.'

"30 frames is a very challenging box to play in as well, and so once you just get everybody bought into that, then what I've found is that the visual effects artists, and the environment artists, and so forth, they just found ways to make stuff look good at 60, and you just have to hold them to it."

Knight also believes that smoother motion helps improve the quality of the graphics:

"If you were to take a screenshot, you might be able to point out, like, 'OK, here's the compromise you made because of your frame-rate,' but when you sit and play the game, the overall visual experience is enhanced by the fast frame-rate. So, I can't really decouple graphics from frame-rate; I don't feel like it's an either/or situation."

The Dante's Inferno performance level certainly is impressive. In Digital Foundry tests on the demo code, the game performed at an almost completely uniform 60FPS in all gameplay situations, while in the recent Face-Off Dante's Inferno proved to be effectively identical in both visuals and frame-rate on PS3 and Xbox 360

Knight's comments are somewhat at odds with those made by Mike Acton of Insomniac, who has committed the PS3 developer to "the best-looking games", inferring that the more standard 30FPS is the best way forward. Our take is that it all depends on the game, a view shared by Turn Ten's Dan Greenawalt in an interview this week with VG247.

"It really turns into a trade-off for the type of visual direction you're trying to achieve, and with Forza Motorsport, the visual style is clear, crisp graphics, and highly-detailed environments and textures," he said. "But in truth, the decision is less about graphics than feel. We prioritise 60FPS as an important feature because it gives the games a feel you just can't achieve at 30; for instance, the responsiveness and feedback of the controls, or physics calculations and visual manifestation of that on how we model our tyre flex and body roll.

"While those calculations are decoupled from the graphics and run as high as 360 frames per second, we found that graphical frame-rate impacts the feel of those systems as well. Simply put, we couldn't have achieved the experience we wanted if the game only ran at 30FPS. I'm sure you would get a similar response from Infinity Ward regarding Call of Duty."

Greenawalt also agreed that smoother motion can produce better-looking visuals.

"The reality is that racing games running at 30FPS have to deal with visual shuttering artifacts in the environment and backgrounds that fly by your field-of-view when the car is traversing at high speeds. So you then go and mask that using motion blur for your environments, which end up eating into your GPU cycles, which take up resources from other features you want on-track."

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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