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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Short rant on video game usability and 3D acceleration

Photo by poolzelio from flickr (CC-NC)
There's one thing that pretty much every PC game does, and what I really hate. It's using "constant rendering quality" paradigm instead of "constant FPS" paradigm.

PC hardware differs a lot, with some people using older hardware and wanting to play games even if the rendering is only so-so, while other who have just bought shiny new graphics cards demanding really awesome effects from them, more to impress their friends and stimulate graphics card manufacturing than to actually improve gameplay. What pretty much everybody wants is the highest rendering quality that still gives them reasonably FPS rate.

That's what game engines should do - monitor FPS and increase or decrease rendering quality if FPS is not in some predefined range. But not a single game I know does so. Instead they all opt for providing "constant rendering quality" - maintaining some level of rendering quality whether the game gets unusably slow, or has a lot of free GPU cycles. Often both situations happen as player moves from one location to another. Changing graphics setup every few minutes would distract too much from playing, so most old hardware owners either set the quality low enough that they always have good FPS, even if for 90% of the game GPU is half idle, or accept occasional low FPS in exchange for better rendering quality. Or they solve this software problem in hardware and buy a better graphics card.

Oh, and the graphics setup. Instead of having one big "I want that many FPS" slider and then the game filling in details, there are usually dozens of confusing options - some of them affecting rendering speed considerably, others barely at all.

Time to get a new card, the one bought year ago isn't good enough any more.

2 comments:

Jeff Atwood said...

> That's what game engines should do - monitor FPS and increase or decrease rendering quality if FPS is not in some predefined range. But not a single game I know does so. Instead they all opt for providing "constant rendering quality" - maintaining some level of rendering quality whether the game gets unusably slow, or has a lot of free GPU cycles.

Actually, that's not true-- Shiny's Sacrifice uses dynamic rendering to scale the number of polygons on screen at any given time.

Very hard to find references, as the game was released in the ancient year of 2000, but you can see a forum post here:

http://www.rage3d.com/board/archive/index.php?t-7003.html

Pretty interesting stuff, but it never took off, as you note.

taw said...

Jeff Atwood: That's truly awesome, thanks for info. All games should work like that.