Only second to the calls for video games to wholeheartedly embrace diverse characters and storylines, the debate over whether or not games developed in this day and age need to have eye-popping visuals that your retinas can barely recognize is as alive and as polarizing as ever. On one hand there are those who make a case for big name publishers and developers with just as big development budgets to splash that cash on pretty visuals, while opponents to that suggestion are all about developers doing whatever they please and ‘if the 8-bit shoe fits’ et. al.
With the current generation of consoles only paving the way for the graphics-related flames to continue like a yellow brick road that eschews Tin Man and Cowardly Lion for matchsticks and lighter fluid, the arguments don’t look set to go away either. Especially not as gamers and developers alike are chiming in with opinions that keep the debate alive — case in point, The Witcher 3 dev who stopped just short of calling the entire argument a farce.
Not only is it leading to plenty of shouty, caps lock phrases and yelled obscenities (hopefully these stick to the Internet), it’s also leading devs to qualify their games almost in an effort to pander to gamer expectations — lest potential fans become put off upon reading pre-release reviews. The latest in this line of ‘qualifying quotes’ is Naughty Dog’s Community Strategist Arne Meyer who explains how and why the developer behind Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be pushing for 60 FPS in 1080p before the game ships.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Meyer practically pummeled the wind out of the debates powered by those in favor of 60 FPS, 1080p as the standard, by saying that he’s “not a frame-counter” and that in practice “It’s not going to be something massive where you’re going to tell the difference”.
Continuing to explain the furor that surrounded upcoming next-gen re-release The Last Of Us Remastered on PS4 (where it will be known as The Last Of Us: Remastered) and the fact that it includes a 30 FPS locked mode in addition to a 60 FPS standard, Meyer said this,
“When we came out and said we’re trying to hit 60, we saw that there’s a lot of debate between that, so why not cater to both sides of that. If you’ve really got a strong preference for that, why not provide that customization for you? Speaking of NeoGAF, there was a guy saying he gets more nauseous at 60fps than 30fps, so he’s loving it. It’s kind of an anomaly, and most people are like – why are you doing that? It’s great that we’re able to include it.”
While there’s no doubt that Naughty Dog’s thinking here makes clear-cut sense (in times when the debate on both sides — for and against — has undoubtedly become nonsensical on occasion) many still want answers when it comes to the PS4-exclusive release of Uncharted 4. The next game to feature adventurer Nathan Drake in all of his treasure collecting, globe-trekking glory already racked up high praise after its tiny showing at E3.
With Meyer speaking for the entire Naughty Dog team and their intentions, he did explain that that jaw-dropping level of visual fidelity is indeed something that they would like to continue, both now and in future games (it’s worth noting that Naughty Dog is rumored to have an original project on the go alongside The Last Of Us’ rerelease and Uncharted 4),
“A lot of it was because we could try something out on our PS4 engine. How far can we do it? Can we do a 1080p, 60fps game? We always wanted to do that, but for the types of effects we wanted to put on screen 720p30 was just fine. Now with the push to go even further that’s not fine enough. So we’re trying to rise to meet that kind of challenge too…I think that’s what we want to push for with anything we’re doing on this generation. That’s sort of the mandate from when we were building the PS4 engine. Let’s see if we can do this and hit it. We hit it with The Last of Us Remastered, so why not stick with this?”
Perhaps that will be enough to satisfy frame rate fanatics too. However, there is a massive concern here that in getting caught up with frame rate debates and worries that a game ‘just isn’t good enough’ on account of a low-res art style or an engine that just doesn’t cut it, the original and genuinely brilliant ideas for games will be lost in the cracks and screen tears like coins down a cavernous space between the couch cushions.
Journey didn’t suffer for having slightly lower visuals than we’d expect and it became one of the most important titles of the last generation. No one even balked when The Last Of Us’ original outing on PS3 couldn’t muster more than 720p and all of the great games that we’re holding candles for — Final Fantasy 7, any of the Crash Bandicoot games or Grand Theft Auto 3 and its protagonist that didn’t even have distinguishable fingers — got there without any of the graphical flourishes that we’d expect today.
So will it be 60 FPS at 1080p only from now on? It’s unclear if this debate will have a long-lasting impact and what kind of legacy it’ll have in the macro of video gaming things but in Naughty Dog’s case at least, the road to exclusively top notch visuals appears to be the route in which we’re heading.