Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

Digital Foundry’s analysis shows how occasionally the resolution drops Halo 5 runs at 60 fps.

Over the years, gamers have become accustomed to highly detailed games that drop frames and become distractingly jerky when the action gets too intense (a deep pain that has personally bothered me since at least Grade III on the SNES). Now it seems that some developers are toying with the idea of ​​dropping a few pixels of resolution in those cases to keep the frame rate silky smooth.

The technique is called dynamic resolution scaling, and a recent analysis by Digital Foundry takes a closer look at how it works in Halo 5: Guardians. In short, the developers of 343 have prioritized hitting 60fps consistently throughout the game, a big boon for a nervy first-person shooter (and a first for the Halo series). However, the level of graphical detail in some game scenes means that such a high frame rate can only be delivered at resolutions well below the Xbox One’s highest 1080p standard.

Instead of just statically setting a low resolution ceiling for the whole game, Halo 5 dynamically changes the resolution based on the details of the current in-game scene. This on-the-fly adjustment occurs on both the X and Y axes, with resolutions jumping from as low as 1152×810 to as high as 1536×1080 in Digital Foundry’s analysis. The apparent on-the-fly change in resolution wasn’t even noticeable to my eye during recent testing.

While Digital Foundry says “the game spends the vast majority of its time well below full 1080p,” this dynamic resolution scaling means pixel counters can get the very best visual fidelity at any given time without the usual frame rate. The game also uses other tricks to maintain the overall frame rate, such as using less detailed, “half-speed” animations for distant enemies (like many other games, Halo 5 also uses less detailed polygonal models to save cycles when rendering distant objects).

This isn’t an entirely new feature for gaming, even on the Xbox One. Earlier this year, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt dynamically upscaled from the standard 900p resolution to a more detailed 1080p when possible. But Halo 5‘s system seems much more robust, operating on a sliding scale designed to squeeze as many pixels as possible from each individual scene.

However, other developers have shied away from similar resolution adjustments for their games. While working on the PS4 reboot of The last of usNaughty Dog programmer Drew Thaler tweeted that while this kind of resolution scaling worked wonders in a fast paced racing game like Wipe out“[to be honest] racing games are special; it would probably look bad in most other game genres :)”

Overall though, we’re optimistic about this technique for any genre where smooth 60fps refresh rates are important, i.e. any genre where fast reflexes are involved. It’s no secret that many games have struggled to consistently reach the 1080p ideal on the latest generation of console hardware, especially the Xbox One. However, dynamic scaling and similar techniques can help games look as good as possible during relatively simple scenes, while still animating smoothly during busy and chaotic sections.

Getting a game to look its best on static console hardware is always a difficult balancing act between resolution, frame rate, and the amount and detail of the moving parts in a scene. Instead of forcing developers to choose one static maximum on all those axes for an entire game, Halo 5 proves that some dynamic allocation can make the most of the set hardware at any time.

By akfire1

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