Unpopular Opinions about Framerate

Nothing too serious here, just a few thoughts I had.

So I recently saw many gamer critics take not of Deadly Premonition 2. While there some discussion of it’s content, one thing I did notice was that many players seemed to agree on at least one thing: the low framerate and general performance. Now I’ve never played Deadly Premonition, I literally have no stake in this game, but I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. The reception of the game’s performance reminded me of some thoughts I still hold strong, those being:

I think people like making a fuss about framerates because it’s easy criticism that doesn’t require much thought.
Also because we still see games as pleasure products first and foremost.
Also because we feel entitled to “the best performance available, and if it isn’t to our standards then devs should fix it.”

Basically, I do a heavy eye roll when I see a bunch of gamers dogging on FPS. It distinguishes old from new, bad from good, pleb from elite, and so on. Whenever anyone says “this game runs like a PS2 game,” I can’t describe how annoyed I get. I think it’s weak criticism, bordering on invalid. And I also find it funny that dunking on FPS is like an “across the isle” agreement that ALL gamers seem to share, regressive and progressive alike.

So yeah, just my thoughts. This topic doesn’t even have to be about framerates, it can just be whatever unpopular opinion you have!

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FPS is such a tricky discussion as it intersects a lot of areas of game design and is very much subject to individual interpretation. So I’ll just preface what I’m about to say as only speaking for myself.

First off, I’m of the opinion that a “good” framerate is typically one that is a) stable and b) suitable for the game type. Stability to me is critical as a varying framerate often messes with my timing in more action oriented games, and simply annoys me in less demanding games. So I’ll happily take a rock solid 30 FPS over a wobbly 60.

As for suitability, what I mean by that is I would prefer a racing game, a shooter, or a Platinum-style action game to run at 60 FPS or higher, even at the expense of resolution or environment detail. In those sorts of games, how the game feels is paramount and a buttery smooth framerate helps immensely. On the flip side, I actually prefer 30 FPS for more filmic games like God of War, just because it’s closer to film’s 24 FPS standard. Cut scenes rendered at higher framerates have that soap opera effect to me.

So that’s my opinion on it, and even then I’m not too fussed if compromises need to be made. Like, Overwatch on Switch has a real wobbly 30 FPS presentation, but I’ll take the trade off for the convenience of playing the game in bed. So yeah, in conclusion the FPS debate is a land on contrasts.

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My unpopular opinion is that I have no idea what frame rate most games run at just by playing. Last of Us 2 was 30, I assume. FFVII Remake was probably 30 too.

Didn’t particularly affect my gaming one way or another.

Frame rate discussions are for gaming dudes what film stock discussions are for movie nerds. Unless it’s shitty 8mm or shot on terrible home camcorders, I really won’t notice. Yes, shooting on 70mm film is probably better and so is 60 FPS over 30 FPS. But it’s not a nitpick I have.

(PS: I’m not sure if there’s a game that is improved by a lower frame rate but I can think of a few movies improved by using 8mm or shooting on cruddy digital - Tetsuyo the Iron Man and Inland Empire come to mind. There’s probably a way to use lower frame rates as an artistic advantage I haven’t thought of yet.)

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I generally agree with your takes here. I just get frustrated when there’s a big deal made of it I suppose.

I sometimes feel many gamers and critics would rather have a bland, uninspired, repetitive action game at A BUTTERY SMOOTH 60 FPS than something more interesting or daring that happens to run less optimally. It’s not as black and white as “all we care about is graphics and performance, there’s no creativity,” but I do think the tendency for almost everyone in the gaming space to vocally lambast poor performing games does at least have some affect on how we collectively see games, how we see value in games, and the types of games we tell pubs/devs we want to see more of.

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I love playing a game at a silky smooth frame rate! I love booting up Hitman 2 and walking through a large crowd without any dropped frames! I definitely notice it pretty intuitively at this point, and sometimes I even get a little sick returning to 30 FPS games until my eyes get used to it again.

BUT

A bad frame rate never affects my opinion of a game unless it makes the game less playable. Even then it’s not a huge deal for me. I really loved Bloodborne despite it running sub 30 FPS for most of the game.

So, yeah, I think you’re right that frame rate is centered a little too much in critical discussions of games. It’s nice when a game runs well, but it shouldn’t be used to declare certain games “bad” like I see all to much in certain communities.

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Bloodborne is a great example! Good call out!

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Some of my thoughts

  1. Gaming technophilia is annoying and so are the endless, often very reductive, framerate debates

  2. Low and unstable framerates can induce motion sickness for some, so mind the accessibility of the game

  3. Unstable (fluctuating) frame rates often feel bad because you do not feel in as much control of your character as you are used to. Of course to some extent this goes for stable but low rates, since the response time increases. For most games I like a fluid response and 30 -> 60 fps is noticeable. Few 3d games on N64 feel good to me.

  4. I keep thinking of an article I read about how (IIRC) Bangai-O regulates its difficulty with the frame rate. The framerate plummets when a ton of bullets and explosions hit the screen at once because the machine can’t keep up. But, since the game speed is tied to the refresh rate, the game becomes slower and gives you a slight edge to dodge all of it. that’s cool

  5. Low framerates can help sell the illusion of something out-of-this-world, a beast too large or impossible for your machine to render

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I care if I’m in a fighting or racing game, but not anywhere else as long as it’s consistent. But a fighting game especially it’s gotta be 60 consistently, or everything else just goes to shit.

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The only time I start to quibble with framerate is when it starts to impact my enjoyment of a game. Control had moments on my old normal PS4 where it dropped to Powerpoint FPS in the middle of a firefight and I died as a result. That’s not okay. I don’t ask for 60 FPS after hearing Dave Lang talk about it on the Bombcast several millennia ago (something something clock speed something something), but it needs to work.

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Holy shit, that’s absolutely true, and I’ve never thought about it that way! I wonder if any games have done that on purpose.

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As someone who recently played another Swery game with a bad framerate (The Missing), I feel qualified to speak on this. The framerate in that game is so all over the place that it had a direct, negative impact on how much I enjoyed it; not for any aesthetic reasons, but because sections of it felt awful to play through. I’m thinking of one particular area where I kept dying because the framerate made it impossible to judge when my jump would start and end. That’s an extreme case though, and framerate is generally very low on the list of things I care about in a game.

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I know Insomniac was aware of that from their playtesting of Ratchet and Clank on the PS2. Their players thought it was cool when the game chugged from all of the particle effects from all of the explosions, so they didn’t bother doing anything about it.

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Drakengard 3 is still to this day the only game I’ve ever played with a framerate that made me physically ill. It wasn’t even that it was just low, it was the way it chopped up and fluctuated so aggressively. It made the entire game have this weird swimmy feel that made me nauseous.

Other that than though I’m usually very forgiving about frame drops. They just don’t impact my experience all that much with the types of games I play.

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I want every game I play to have stable, smooth frame rate, preferably pretty high. But I never play games on PC so how much can I really care? It’s nice is all, so people who are like “60 or bust”, I do find them a little silly and tiresome.

And I also do think games should be criticised for running like garbage if they actually do. It’s maybe not the most important thing, but the technical qualities of a game is surely part of the whole.

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Original PS2 Shadow of the Colossus was pretty much this, although saying it was on purpose is probably generous. Honestly didn’t mind it as a kid (didn’t even know what framerate was), but don’t think it’d really work for me now. Ignorance is bliss.

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This is something that’s begun to bother me a lot as I’ve moved away from… gameplay-focused? “mainstream”?, idk - games crit, as someone who really notices and cares about framerate and a game running smoothly. Like I understand that talking about graphics and performance is an obvious critique and is often used to shut down discussion of a game’s other strengths, harass developers etc. but like, the game is something I have to look at and engage with, and if the framerate is all over the place it feels really bad to play! Even if it doesn’t affect how well I can perform in the game, it still feels bad when I enter a Wild Area in Pokemon and the game chugs or I zoom out in Three Houses and the cursor suddenly feels like I’m dragging it through mud.

I guess my main thought is I think that criticism of basic components of games is still important? Like I don’t think it’s become a minority opinion or anything, I just see discussion in these sorts of spaces talking about moving past talking about stuff like graphics, performance, controls etc. as we move away from thinking about games as products but those things are the foundation of a game to me. And unless it’s a concisous decision in service of something (as has been brought up above), I don’t think critizing performance issues is anywhere close to invalid.

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When it comes to a game like Deadly Premonition 2? I couldn’t care less. Decent performance is absolutely not what I would play that game for.

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It’s funny you mention controls here. I spent most of last year very envious of the people who apparently achieved enlightenment in The Outer Wilds while I was over here screaming at the controls to behave themselves. I’m not demanding that games invent a brand new kind of collapsible mesh technology to make cloth physics realistic enough that a character can remove a shirt in a cutscene without clipping. I’m not demanding that every game run at a buttery smooth 60 FPS. I don’t need every game to feel as good as Spider-Man’s swinging. But if those “technical”
(I’m using quotes here because The Outer Wilds was a design choice I disagreed with rather than a technological problem) aspects are actively standing in the way of my participation with a game, I’m not playing that game.

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Anything above 20ish I cannot tell the difference between.

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I will say that if I was playing a game at 60 FPS, and then it starts running at 30 for some reason, I will notice the difference. But if I had started playing at 30 FPS? Wouldn’t notice at all. So if I get used to a certain rate I will notice when it is not there, but otherwise all this stuff is fairly meaningless to me.

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