I have been watching some YouTube videos and they talk about how next gen console games usually run at 30 fps where 8-9 years ago console games ran at 60 fps. A few months ago controversy rose when the upcoming The Order: 1886's developers said they intentionally are keeping the game at 30 fps to emulate the feeling of a movie. Is there ever a valid design reason for a game today to run at 30 fps? And why are more games running at 30 fps such as the upcoming WiiU game, Bayonetta 2?
As you can probably guess, the main reason that frame rates are set at 30 so often is because of technology. When you need that much data processed each second just for video, you run into hardware limits when you have to pile other things on like animation data, pathfinding algorithms, artificial intelligence, and so on. But why would somebody want to purposely adjust the frame rate down? Well…
Meet Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN. This fighting game, nonsensical name aside, uses a 3D engine to make a 2D game in order to take advantage of all the benefits 3D offers over their traditional 2D sprite work. The game is actually running at 60 frames per second most of the time for purposes of gameplay and timing. But they purposely eschew the super smooth animations for their characters because they want them to seem as if they are running at a lower frame rate. Why? Because the entire game is like a long-running anime story, and to be true to its anime roots, it should actually be running at 24 frames per second, since that’s true to the source material.
You’ve probably heard of this movie, right? Peter Jackson filmed it at 48 frames per second, but a lot of moviegoers who saw it at that frame rate complained about it. They didn’t like it, it just made them feel uncomfortable. There have been a good number of complaints about this filmmaking decision - it feels weird to the viewers. It’s hard for the layman to put a finger on it, but it just feels foreign.
The main reason most of the new generation of games is running at 30 frames per second is because they are still getting used to new technology. A lot of the software and driver support for the new platform isn’t as robust or efficient as the old stuff, and all of the new games are running at 1080p as their native resolution. This actually raises the amount of video data required to process by a factor of about 2-3x each step the resolution is increased. As technology improves and becomes more efficient, we’ll see more games come with 60fps standard.
As for why Bayonetta 2 in specific is running at 30 frames per second? I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure it’s because the WiiU is effectively a PS3 or X360 in terms of hardware. I’ve heard the Wii U described by developers as “two Wiis duct taped together”. Which really isn’t too far from the truth, especially since the Wii itself was also described as “Two Gamecubes duct taped together”. That said, it’s all just hearsay to me since I’ve never actually worked on the Wii U, just the Wii (and the Gamecube). The comment about two Gamecubes duct taped together is pretty accurate though.
Sorry, Pikachu, but you know it’s true. If there is interest, I could probably write something up about the base technical requirements for frame rates at the different resolution steps. I actually started writing that as part of the answer to this question, but I decided against it since it would have made this post too long.