Wading into the FPS/Reso Fray

I’m not one to really talk about these issues usually, as controversial as they seem to be to the vocal. But in recent days and weeks I’ve found my self baying for a chance to speak my mind in this topic and (while I haven’t asked) I’m most sure that my work colleagues at the Torch EG wouldn’t want me to speak on the topic. My opinions are usually not the part of the majority but their usually not controversial either. Maybe at some point this might get a re-write and end up on the site. Anyway…

Frame-rate, Resolution and Me.

As most know by now, My history comes from photography and film-making. I’m trained in both to a quite high degree. If you want to be specific, I trained as a writer and a camera man but also as a landscape and urban photographer. All don’t involve talking to people and working with other humans so it suited my secluded self. But this also means that frame-rate and resolution are mainstays of mine. As photographer resolution was key. Taking and getting the highest fidelity image possible because photographs could be used in advertising that takes up the whole side of a building. And in film-making, the standard is 24 frame-per-second on film, digital, and editing programs. It is the most efficient. You can go higher like Peter Jackson and double it to 48 frames-per-second but then it becomes expensive to produce, like shooting a film in 3D with 3D cameras. Films are already extremely costly (when it comes to Hollywood style productions) so adding to the cost to get some more frames is something most don’t really think about. Maybe in the future but now it is extremely rare. But on top if this, films are shot with the same “highest fidelity image possible” idea as photography forcing the idea that frame-rate might as well stay at 24 because it means the fidelity can get better, like IMAX showings.

In the case of video games, frame-rate is important. A higher frame-rate when playing a game means that there is less delay between you pressing a button and the action happening on-screen. But the same case can’t be made to resolution. There is the “highest fidelity image possible” idea but a lot of games are set in a graphically stylized world of fiction it doesn’t matter. Although, for games like “Call of Duty” and games set in the ‘real world’ (that being this world with humans but still as fiction) it sort of does. But does it?

Resolution is a thing that is nice for a game to have but the impact is has on the game is minimal. Graphics don’t make a game, the game makes the game. Look at the past eras of gaming. Back in the DOS years, there was no frame-rate or resolution debate. But as the games moved into 3D and 3rd/1st person the debate started. Slowly, more and more, the debate rose up to become the leading debated point between platforms. This came to a head when consoles like the Dreamcast said that they were the best graphical machine. (This ended up being their downfall ultimately because the PS2 and the GameCube shipped a year later with newer hardware.) But like I said, high frame-rates for games are good because there is less delay for the player making a more enjoyable experience. This just means that frame-rate (on the whole and generally speaking) is more important than graphical fidelity and resolution.

But why then the debate? Well as High Definition [HD] became a thing for film/television/photography it became a thing with games. High polygon models and high particle effects where already a thing because that is the of natural progression of game graphics, the same way that better ISO counts and higher film grains was the natural progression of films tapes for photography/film/television. It creates a better image, not necessarily a bigger image but better and more clear image. HD creates a better image but is that what gaming needed? It all depends on the audience. Time for some films theory.

There are widely seen in film theory as two types of audience, ‘passive’ and ‘active’. Passive audiences are mentally disconnected while active audiences are mentally engaged. Traditionally, film, television and photography has a passive audience because the audience is just sitting in a room watching, having no control over what they are watching in any way. This is the reason why film making throughout history have dappled with ways to make audiences more engaged with the film they are watching. This varied from things like “smell-o-vision“, 4D showings that are used in theme park rides, all the way up to the most recent return of 3D. Games on the other hand are active audience because that are interacting with the world they are watching through the player character. This means that the mental cognition of the audience is different, meaning that the finer details are not noticed because the audience it mentally doing something else. This is different to the passive film audience because will notice finer details because their only mental cognition is to watch the film. Things that the player will notice is things like a delay between pressing a button on a controller to the action happening on-screen. This again means that fidelity and resolution are secondary to the faster reaction time that higher frame rates bring.

But what happens when they combine? YouTube recently activated their 60 frame-per-second video player because gaming is big business on the site. Many already have taken advantage and uploaded many 60 frame-per-second videos. But does it matter? While playing a game at 60 frames-per-second is good for the person recording, it (on the whole) is not necessary because the audience that watches 60 frame-per-second videos is a passive audience. Considering that 60 frame-per-second player is only available to videos that are 720p HD or higher, it forces another boundary to people who want to come into the YouTube gaming space and those who are already in it. While recording software for PC’s is relatively cheap, same can’t be said for console recorders, (recorders that aren’t controlled and limited by the console maker) PCs and editing equipment that is capable to play, record and edit 60 frame-per-second videos. Total costs can easily rise into the several hundred or even over thousand. While it may be nice to watch videos at 60 frames, it on the whole doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter.

So to clearly state my place;

  • Frame rate matters when playing a game,
  • But doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) when watching it.
  • Resolution should be considered secondary for game,
  • But frame-per-second should be primary.

But as a final thought, both frame-rate and resolution should be considered secondary to getting good games. I don’t want graphics and frame-rates to take over to the point where that is all that matters so all that gets released is graphical tech demos that are mediocre games.

I Am Here (Update: 16th Sept, 2014)

I have not posted anything here in literally months. April I think was my last post.

With everything getting moved about a bit and with a moment were I don’t know what to do, here is whats been going on.

That was about a week ago now but not that much happens to it’s still pretty right.


 

As for my videos;

I’ve finally got round to making an opener for “Open Letter” so that series should start soon. Don’t know how often it will be though.

I want to start-up both Nerdcrafteria/Nerdfighteria series’ again but I need to re-do some intros before I consider it. Haven’t been on the server much recently.

My rant-y series “Opinionated” should take a few more steps soon, one I get round to doing it.

All other writings are stopped till I can sort out a schedule for everything else.


As for the Torch: Entertinament Guide;

There wasn’t a “Retro Monday” this week. Mainly because I forgot more than anything. I’m still doing it.

I’ve applied for an MCM London Press Pass. If I get it, would be my first ever press pass and the write-ups I make from it should open up more press passes in the future.

I’ve finally finished the “Blackbay” review, several weeks late. I think it shows how much of an imprint it left on me. If your interested, I gave it 2/5. Gory for the sake of it with insane design but has decent puzzles and some bum clenching moments. Not sure when it’ll go up, if it isn’t already.

Web Game Reviews” videos back next week. I’ve just called it a series break so I can tweak stuff. “Week in Game News” still went/goes up as normal.

I’ve made the first part of a 2-parter called “A Retro Gamers Buyers Guide“. Not sure when it will go up.

Things are a bit in the air as the Torch is concerned as Kennie and Chris just moved to I haven’t had much talking with them recently.


That should be everything. If I’ve missed something then go to comments and ask.

Missed Friday Videos

Hello Internet,

Some people may be wondering why there was no videos on my YouTube yesterday. It’s because an electric company *cough, Southern Electric, cough* cut the power to most the street so I couldn’t record/edit/publish any videos.

I haven’t gone anywhere. It was just that the whole house didn’t work. So I went to Oxford Street to sort out Christmas.

Back to normal on Monday, and hopefully more video on top.

Wil.

So, The New CoD

So, there is a new Call of Duty out. From what I’ve seen it doesn’t swing to far from the tree. Campaign is short, but eventful, Multiplayer is the stand out with hit-and-miss game modes and the addition of a Black Ops style zombies mode called “Extinction” is always welcome.

If you don’t like fast-paced shooters it doesn’t look like its going to change your mind. But if you’ve thought about it, it’s worth a shot. Ghosts looks like the best chance to get into the series. Plus it’s not those darm Commie Ruskies this time.

At least this time it has peaked my interest in getting it rather than it just been another expansion pack on the series.

Retro Friday: Black

Retro Friday: “Black

Developer: Criterion Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Released: 24th February 2006 (EU and me)

28th February 2006 (North America)

Black” was the first modern shooter, or more affectionately known as ‘spunkgargleweewee’ by some, I played way-back- when on the PlayStation 2. But that leads me into a predicament. I am not a fan of the modern shooter. But I must have mellowed in the last few years because I just don’t like “Call of Duty” but I don’t mind “Battlefield” and I’ve always liked “Black”. Why must my mind torment me so! So while I’m talking about “Black” let’s have a look at what it does right and get to the bottom of the mental conundrum.

Black” is a first person shooter set in the modern age, with you playing as black ops agent Sergeant First Class, Jack Kellar. So same protagonist then as always. The story leads you though Chechnya and has you fighting the evil terrorist organization ‘The Seventh Wave’ being led by ex-CIA agent William Lennox. Almost the same villain. Least it’s not those Ruckies being all commie. It’s less CoD, more “The Expendables [2010]”. And that’s not in the only way.

One of the big mechanics in the game is that most of it can be blown up. Not in the spectacle way but in a ‘there’s a man up there, take the building down’ way. Your given/find RPS and grenades in most levels rather abundantly and even unlock an infinite amount of under-slung (or’ Noob Tube’ for the more stupid people out there) 40mm grenades so you can blow stuff up to your heart’s content.  I like that. Rather than the game holding your head in place and saying ‘look at this explosion! Appreciate the game engine!’ and acting like a Michael Bay movie, you can just blow stuff up. That’s the point of a shooter. Look at the new “Grand Theft Auto V”. What did most people do when you first played it? Looked for the missile launcher or just the biggest gun they could find to blow stuff up and cause a minor disaster.

The cut-scenes in the game are live action. It was the thing back then. And yes, we Brits can film this sort of Americanized espionage stuff. All of the live action stuff what shot just in one plain white room because it is only Kellar recounting events after being ‘arrested’ and all of the actors where American actors but still. This leads to an interesting thought. There are no cut-scenes that take control away from you in-game. You play, it fades to black, live-action cut-scene and it loads the next level. You don’t have control rested from you to have exposition spouted at you. This leads to something film critics have said recently as well. Many modern films over-do the CGI and just film stuff because it’s just going to be filled in with huge CGI monsters or explosions later. But way-back-when there was only puppetry, animatronics, prosthetics and actual explosions/gunfire. Just look at the recent “Pacific Rim [2013]”. The shots of the giant-ass mechas/monsters complement the CGI rather than just being another shot.

You may have noticed that I’ve talked about films in the game review. That’s because they wanted the game to have a film feel. Another way they did this was in the sound editing. They use gun noises from films and pitched the noises hen there were multiple enemies firing.  I noticed neither of them when I was played but someone must have noticed because they were nominated for a BAFTA and won another award (jointly with their other, slightly more famous, series “Burnout”, you may of heard of it) for sound.

I can’t help but look at “Black” and think that is a spunkgarggleweewee game. But it is a good spunkgarggleweewee game. So I am torn between praising it for it’s not being like one, or crucify it for being one. I can come up with a recommendation rather than a compromise.

If you’re in the camp that doesn’t like modern shooters and calls them spunkgargleweewee and every opportunity, play “Black” and see if it is the substance of spunkgargleweewee you don’t like or if you just don’t like spunkgargleweewee. Because, frankly, I don’t mine spunkgargleweewee as long it’s “Black”.

And if you don’t get the spunkgarggleweewee reference, watch “Zero Punctuation” on the Escapist.Com are come back tomorrow.

Retro Score: 4/5

Today Score: 4/5

Retro Monday: “Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy”

Title: Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Developer: Midway

Publisher: Midway

Released: June 14th 2004 (North America)

October 1st 2004 (European & me)

 

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy” has a history that is… complicated. First it was released around the same time as “Second Sight”. Made by awesome guys (and I’m not saying that because they are/where a UK company) Free Radical Design [Now Crytek UK] and released by Codemasters. “Second Sight” was a game about a US government special agent who loses his memory and develops psychic powers when he regains his memories. Not to be compared with “Psi-Ops”, a game about a US government special agent who loses his memory and develops psychic powers when he regains his memories.

It was then compounded when a man by the name of William L. Crawford III in 2007 filed a copyright claim against Midway saying that they had ripped of his screenplay called “Psi-Ops” that shared a similar premise, characters and psychic abilities. (Not be compared with “Second Sight”, a game about a US government special agent who loses his memory, oh wait…) Midway, as-per policy, never openly talked about the law suit. But in December 2008, the United States District Court for the Central District of California (thank you Wikipedia) ruled in favour of Midway, finding no evidence of copyright infringement. This added to the pressure that was on Midway at the time because a year later in 2009 Midway filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors.

Well, some of it did. Midway Studios (Chicago) was bought by Warner Brothers and became NetherRealm Studios, Midway Studios (San Diego) was bought by THQ (which filed for bankruptcy in 2012) and a lot of its publishing arm was divided and regionalised to other, more local, companies.

Anyway, back to “Psi-Ops” the game. (Not be compared with “Psi-Ops”, a screenplay about a US government special agent oh wait…)

You play as Nick Scryer, a man with no memory, who is implanted by the US government into (well… captured by) a terrorist group called ‘The Movement’. The Movement is made up of former special agents, who have psychic powers, from various governments. So I call them “The International Cavalcade of Evil Psychic Evil Doer’shfekjhbwflkbgjnhte THE MOVEMENT IS GOOD. THE MOVEMENT IS SAFE. PRASE THE MOVEMENT.”

Throughout the game you get the ability to move stuff, set things on fire, see/project through walls and mind control. And you can shoot guns. There are always guns.

The psychic powers add a depth to combat that would otherwise be a bland 3rd person shooter. Gun-wise, you get the usual assortment of pistol, shotgun, machine gun with an added assault rifle (which just replaces the machine gun after a point) and sniper rifle. You also can get flamethrowers and missile launchers as special weapons but considering you can make fire (after a point) and missiles are rather scarce in all but boss fights (and considering you can only have your pistol and a second gun at a time) you will always end up picking the machine gun/assault rifle or the shotgun depending on the situation.

As you play, a conspiracy is laid out before you, concerning your past and lost memories, blah, blah, blah, we have danced this dance so many times since then there is no point in going through it. There are a few well laid out twists in the story but with all the games/films/stuff that have come out since some people will see some of the twists coming.

That doesn’t mean that the story is bad. Two sections stood out when I played through. One section in Asia that is based around illusion that weirds me out and another section in an Aztec style pyramid that is based around an invisible dimension parallel to ours. It’s scary. Not scary as in “Slender” or “A Machine for Pigs”. It’s scary as in “Limbo”. That sense that there is something bad out there and it wants to eat your face. You can see the monsters with one of your powers but you can’t have it on all the time and one can quickly turn too many and you can find yourself over your head easily.

The characters in the game are what you’d expect. Even the way they are laid out as bosses. You gain a power at the start of a stage, learn to use it through a level and then fight a master of that power. Although it usually ends up with you just throwing stuff at them and/or their object du jour rather then using other powers or even shooting at them. I was quite impressed to see that Ed Boon lent his voice to the game. Not as any of the main characters. In the credits he was listed under ‘Additional voices’. Still, shows he had commitment when he was working at Midway. (You know, after voicing Scorpion in “Mortal Kombat”.)

I have to mention the ending. It ends on a cliff-hanger with the lead saying the immortal words “I remember everything” and then goes straight to a black screen with “To Be Continued” on it. If you remember from the start of this I told you the story about how Midway no longer exists via bankruptcy. So there will never be a sequel. At least it is very, highly unlikely there will be one. And that makes me said.

 

Looking at the game now, people will see that it is dated. It’s certainly ‘of its time’. But at the time it was great. Not outstanding. Just great. Time has only weakened it because it gets compared to other games that have seen its story and gone ‘I’ll have a bit of that’. But it still is a substantial game even by today’s standards.

Retro Score: 4.5/5

Today Score: 3/5

Update: 29 Sept’ 2013

Hello there,

I haven’t updated in a while. No, I have not been in Germany all this time. In the time I have;

1) Been to Paris taking pictures. (Some will go on RedBubble soon)
2) Got back in to video making on the YouTube. Here’s the latest;

3) Writing for Torch Guide again. (By using the YouTube),

So I am here making stuff and my hiatus from YouTube is over.

Wil.