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Bungie prioritizing “simulation” over frame rate for console Destiny 2

August 23rd, 2017

Our own Mark Walton plays Destiny 2 at 4K and 60 fps on PC.

Here at Ars, we spend a lot of time talking about how developers deal with the trade-offs between resolution, frame rate, graphical detail, and simulation complexity they face at the top end of modern console and PC hardware. Quite often, the first-blush “wow factor” of more pixels and higher frame rates wins out in this constant balancing act. For Destiny 2, though, Executive Producer Mark Noseworthy says the team prioritized the complexity of the game itself over hitting a frame rate higher than 30fps.

In a Twitter thread back in June, Noseworthy said that the CPU limits on current consoles mean the game had to scale back to 30fps “to deliver D2’s AI counts, environment sizes, and # of players.” In the latest issue of Edge magazine (excerpted by WCCFTech), Noseworthy expands on the reasoning behind that choice:

It’s about the simulation of the Destiny world. Thirty AI at once, large open spaces, six players, sometimes with vehicles, and dropships coming in; that’s where we’re using the CPU.

Could we make a Destiny game that ran at 60fps? Yes, but the space would be smaller, it would be less cooperative, and there’d be fewer monsters to shoot. That’s not the game we want to make.

First and foremost, we’re trying to make an incredible action game. We don’t feel we’ve been held back by the choices we’ve made about world simulation versus frame rate; in fact, we think we’re offering a player experience you can’t have elsewhere because of the choices we’re making.

Put like that, the trade-off doesn’t sound like a bad one. Yes, a game that’s locked to 30fps looks markedly worse than one running at 60fps or more, all things being equal. The resulting lack of smoothness is especially noticeable in a reflex-based shooting game like Destiny 2 (though the server’s internal tick rate has arguably more impact on how the game feels). That said, a smoother Destiny 2 with fewer simultaneous enemies and fewer player characters in smaller battle locales would probably be noticeably worse to play, too. As long as the game can run steadily at a playable 30 frames per second, without dips, that sounds like a perfectly acceptable trade.

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