Driveclub, Forza Horizon 2 & Magic Computer Beans

This week’s announcement of Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One has got videogamers on many forums spouting the same old rubbish we’ve heard time and again about frame rates. The nonsense intensified earlier today as Playground Games revealed Horizon 2 would run at 1080p30.

Come on guys, most of you are smarter than playing out this silly 60 vs 30 argument all over again. Playground Games has chosen to make this game 30fps, rather than 60fps. Why? Because it’s a good compromise for this kind of sim-lite open world action. You can put lots of silicon horsepower into making the game beautiful.

Could it be 60fps? Of course it could.

In every console you’ve got 100 magic computer beans as a developer. You can spend them on pretty, you can spend them on frame rate. It’s entirely up to you. Some games you’ll choose frames – because your game is a sim racer and response is everything. Hardcore racing fans will forgive a lack of visual splendor if response is the priority. Meanwhile the more casual crowd playing sim-lite or arcade racers wants amazing vistas, splendid sunsets and dynamic Another – and so a developer will use a higher percentage of the hardware’s available power for beauty rather than speed.

This is not a function of a console being low powered. These compromises and choices exist in any hardware generation. The original Gran Turismo had a technical demonstration track that would run at 60fps. Yes the original PS1 could run Gran Turismo at 60fps. But that was at the cost of losing lots of trackside detail. It ably showed why the game ran at a frame rate lower than this – Polyphony chose to lower the frame rate and give us better image quality and art on the regular circuits.

There isn’t going to be a point any time soon where some hyper-powered console hardware comes along that can run everything at 60fps. Because a developer will still look at his/her game and say “you know, if we gave up half the frame rate we could make out beautiful game look twice as beautiful.”

I’m not an apologist for games that run poorly nor am I an advocate for the stupid 24p cinematic game argument (which is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how film records motion). I hate judder and screen tearing. It’s sad that recent Gran Turismo games haven’t prioritised hitting 60fps over visual fidelity. The result has been a halfway house that hasn’t worked either way. And for sim racing games yes I want 60fps, by all means give me a 2D crowd if that’s what it takes. But for Forza Horizon 2 I completely understand the choice behind 1080p30 (and frankly I’m surprised we’re not getting 900p30).

I imagine most critics of Horizon 1’s 30fps update haven’t played the game. Playground Games’ debut was silky smooth thanks to a motion blur technique which blurred objects based on their size and distance from the player. The result was a very smooth responsive fun sim-lite game with a beautiful open world to explore and some of the cleanest image quality of that generation of hardware. Forza Horizon was an amazing technical achievement that vindicated the design choices behind it.

I expect Horizon 2 will be much the same.

So let’s not do the same old silly arguments about 60/30 or erroneously compare Horizon 2 performance with Driveclub, Forza 5 and whatever. These are all different games with different aims, audiences and priorities. And frankly it’s getting a very tiresome debate among people who don’t seem to understand the issues at hand.