The Curse of Bad Frame Rates
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Let's all mind meld for a bit here. Pretend we're grabbing our favorite beverage of choice, sitting in that one spot that we just love for gaming, and booting up whatever our hot pick of the moment is. We're past the game's title screen, and we've either loaded up a save or have started a new game. The gameplay starts, we've got our controller or mouse and keyboard in hand(s), and things are going great. The passage of time moves from slowly creeping by to practically flying. Just as we're almost completely immersed in our game, it happens: low frame rate. “Nooooooo!!!!” we scream to the wind as one single soul. The chorus of “Untitled” by Simple Plan starts playing somewhere in the background, and all we feel is pain. How could this happen? How could this game betray us? A hand rests on our collaborative shoulder and a soft crooning voice whispers, “It's not that bad.”

Maybe we've taken ourselves too seriously. Maybe that short moment of slower frame rates really wasn't that big of a deal. Did we psych ourselves up for nothing? I suppose it depends on who you talk to.

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The subject of frame rate drops is usually pretty one sided. “Don't let it happen developers!” everyone shouts with raised fists. The fact of the matter is that some times they happen. Lately frame rate drops have made the news thanks to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The game has been available on the Xbox Game Preview program and this is the one biggest problem according to both fans and critics. I myself have experience low frame rates on countless games over the years. When I was visiting with family pre-Thanksgiving, I noticed that Steep was suffering from some frame rate issues when my dad was playing it on the Xbox One. Around the same time, I had also acquired Pokemon Moon for my 2DS. On my system it was rife with low frame rates during the battles.

For games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, where every single second could mean the difference between life and death, frame rate drops are a huge deal. You need to be able to see things as they are happening in real time, or else you could find yourself in some serious trouble. While you're simply wandering around and scavenging, it's not a massive problem, but as soon as you encounter another person, all bets are off. So it's incredibly understandable when fans panic over low frame rates in games like that.

A similar, but slightly different, argument could be made for something like Steep. If you're gliding down a mountain at 90-100 miles per hour in a wingsuit, you might want to have stable frame rates. But if you're just casually slaloming your way down a hill on skis, it might not be that big of a deal. If you're racing against others and in the last second the frame rate drops, causing you to lose by a nose hair, it's sort of a big deal. But if you're just trying to figure out how all the snowboard tricks work in an unpressured environment, it probably doesn't matter. With a game like Steep, low frame rate can be a massive negative, or just kind of a “meh” issue.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Take another game like Pokemon Moon. The frame rate only really drops when in the middle of a battle. This is certainly irritating at times, but it's not taking away from the actual gameplay. If the frame rate drops while circling around my Litten, it's not really going to affect the outcome of the match. Thus in something like Pokemon Moon frame rate problems are sort of a non-issue.

If there's one thing about low frame rates that I'm sure everyone can agree on however, it's that it is a total immersion-killer. The moment the action starts to twitch, stutter, or otherwise behave inaccurately, is the moment the magic ends. When the frame rate drops, the party stops. We are completely taken out of the moment, and that sucks no matter who you are, what system you're playing on, or what game you're trying to enjoy.

Are there any games you've played with frame rate problems you've played that didn't bother you too much? Or do you abhor frame rate drops every single time they've happened? Let's hear about it in the comments!

April Marie
April Marie
@Legiodith

Contributing Writer
Date: 01/10/2018

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