Understanding Frame Rate – Uncovering The Truth Behind 30 VS 60 FPS

As someone who loves video games, I spend a lot of time discussing them on the internet via various Reddit communities, forums, and when I can stomach it; the YouTube comment section. One topic that seems to keep coming up in the ever-growing battle between PC and Console is the difference between 30 and 60 FPS. or rather the lack thereof, in the case of some arguments. In this report, we’ll be taking a look at some of these arguments and attempt to clarify some of the misinformation that is often used in them.

THE GREAT FRAME-RATE DEBATE

The fact that this is even being debated now, after so many years of both PC and console gaming co-existing seems strange, doesn’t it? Well, the reason we’re talking about this now is because with the latest generation of consoles many gamers were expecting to see console games that can rival even the most high-end PCs, in terms of graphical fidelity and technical capabilities.

difference between 30 and 60 fps

Unfortunately, more and more we’re seeing developers having to limit their games on the new consoles in both resolution and frame-rate (the former of which is a topic for another article) when compared to the PC version of the very same games, and even going as far as to justify these limitations as stylistic choices. Earlier this year, Ready At Dawn (developer of the upcoming game The Order 1886) actually stated that they chose to develop their game at 30 FPS because it delivers a “Filmic look”. It’s one thing to be technically limited when developing a game and being honest about it and it’s another to pass of the limitation as a feature or an art-style decision.

What’s worse, is that in some cases we’ve seen developers actually enforce these limitations on the PC version as well, even though they aren’t necessary. These limitations and attempts at creating artificial parity between the consoles and PC have caused these developers to receive much flak from PC gamers, while also igniting on-going debates between PC and console gamers. These debates tend to include lots of misinformation and unsubstantiated claims, sometimes mixed together with just enough fact to give them merit.

1. “The Human eye can’t see more than 30 FPS”

This one is one of the more interesting arguments because it actually starts getting into human biology. In the many debates among gamers you’ll find that this is one of the most used points from the side arguing for consoles. But, is there any merit to it? Is the human eye in fact incapable of seeing above 30 FPS?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to this question, which is probably why there is so much misinformation surrounding it. The human eye does not see in frames per second. So, it’d be fairly difficult to determine the exact amount of FPS the human eye can perceive. What’s more is that what the human eye can perceive varies greatly depending on specific situations and the person themselves.

For example, an Army Ranger will be probably be able to see objects clearly at a much higher speed than the average human being, as they’re trained to have heightened senses and to be on high-alert for potential threats.

difference between 30 and 60 fps

We do know that the human eye is designed to detect motion and changes in light, the world being an infinite place, our eyes are constantly being streamed information without pause. If your eyes could only see a max of 30 FPS, you’d likely miss a lot of things just because they happened too fast. If that isn’t enough here is a quote from an article from way back in 2001 by Dustin D Brand that was tackling this exact same question:

“The USAF (United States Air Force), in testing their pilots for visual response time, used a simple test to see if the pilots could distinguish small changes in light. In their experiment a picture of an aircraft was flashed on a screen in a dark room at 1/220th of a second. Pilots were consistently able to “see” the after image as well as identify the aircraft. This simple and specific situation not only proves the ability to perceive 1 image within 1/220 of a second, but the ability to interpret higher FPS. “

So you see, if this example is any evidence than the human eye can not only perceive images at greater than 30 frames per second, but well above 200 as well.

2. “There’s no difference between 30 and 60 FPS”

Many gamers will say that there is no difference at all between 30 and 60 FPS, or any other frame-rate above 30 for that matter. That as long as the frame-rate is a constant 30 FPS or close to it that it will be ‘buttery smooth’ and provide an enjoyable experience.

This is also false, not only if you consider all that we covered above but going even further than just perceived “smoothness” in an image. If you’ve ever played a competitive multiplayer game like a first person shooter or a real-time strategy game, then no doubt you’ve encountered the dreaded input lag. Input lag is the delay in time between when you click a button and when up you see the object or subject on the screen react.

Naturally, a slower input response time will be less immersive since as humans we’re used to seeing our actions instantaneously as we do them. If you thought about waving at someone and had to wait 30 milliseconds before it started to happen then you’d definitely feel like something was wrong.

Battlefield 4 – 30 FPS

Battlefield 4 – 60 FPS

If you’re playing your games at 30 FPS then the amount of time your display is sitting on one frame is 33.3 milliseconds. This means that when you move your mouse to aim at a target, it will take at least 33.3 milliseconds before you even start to see the cursor move. This delay is halved to 16.65ms at 60 FPS and so on. Of course this is without considering other factors such as networking latency (in multiplayer games) and monitor response time which can add additional latency.