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Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Can See CXLVI Frames Per Second!

You can find a myriad of posts in gaming enthusiast forums debating the need, or lack thereof, of high frame rates in PC gaming. Inevitably, someone posts a claim that at least some 'X' frames per second are needed before it doesn't matter, or even that no such upper limit of  'X' exists, to which I usually reply with the title of this entry.

And just as inevitably, the 'experts' and 'pro gamers' chime in with claims that ridiculous frame rates are needed, and how they can see and notice a difference with hundreds of frames per second.

Invariably, these forum arguments boil down to someone referencing a Wikipedia article, or some other forum post, all of which seem lead back to the same 'authoritative' reference: a couple of 'articles'  (one a dedicated web site) by an 'expert' making ludicrous claims based on research done by the Air Force many years ago regarding the 'persistence' of vision to a rapidly displayed single image.

The problem here (aside from the fact that the Air Force study has no real relevance with respect to our ability to utilize rapidly changing scene information) is that these two 'articles' are written by someone with no background of note, nor any expertise of any sort in the subject matter that I could discern.

In my opinion, the 'author' may also be a 'kook', having published other 'articles' of such scholarly note as 'We Made Contact', an expose on their 'scientific' analysis of newly discovered crop circles, with the conclusion that these are a response from a message sent to a distant globular cluster as part of the SETI experiments. Complete with a 'decoding' of the alien message. This 'article' demonstrates such an incredibly naive understanding of the physics involved in the transmission, or a purposeful use of misinformation in an attempt to bolster the credibility and 'wow' factor of the 'article', or both, that I'm really not sure what to make of it! Read it at "We Made Contact" for a serious laugh.

The 'gotcha' there: even though the target in question would require a round-trip message time of tens of thousands of years, the 'reply' took only a handful according to the 'expert' author of the 'scientific' article, while a trivial analysis shows that the probability of some mystery planet hosting aliens being close enough and in the needed direction yet unknown to us is nonexistent.

All this is aside from the fact you would need to believe the conclusion of the 'scientific' research of the 'author' that these Aliens exist, have somehow violated Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and even bothered to respond to us by carving these circles (and the 'Face on Mars', according to the 'study').

If you need to use this kind of thing as your authoritative reference, you might as well stop playing games, and just check with Sylvia Browne to have her tell you what your scores and stats will be.

There is no academically, scientifically sound study that supports the outlandish claims of this 'author', or the logical leaps made by many based on the 'facts' from these articles, or the claims by gamers that wildly overestimate their own physiological capabilities.

I actually heavily researched this, and consulted with real experts in the field during a venture funding analysis.

I want to be clear: I am not saying higher frame rates are not beneficial.

I am saying that the value where the ability of even gifted humans to take advantage of high frame rates is lower by a large margin than the claims of this oft referenced 'expert' and that of poseurs in forums.

Think you know better than the experts? Think you have supernatural abilities?

I publicly state here that the first person to either:

(1) Show a peer-reviewed academic/scientific study that supports the hypothesis "Humans can effectively utilize frame rates over 300 frames per second and can demonstrate a statistically significant increase in target acquisition and game score (test score) compared to 120 frames per  second"


(2) Demonstrate such an ability under controlled and accepted scientifically valid testing protocols,

will be awarded a $100.00US prize by me.

Interested parties can post their acceptance of this challenge here or email the author. The precise terms and conditions will then be determined by both parties.

(As an aside: there is at least one game I am aware of where the physics algorithms of the game appear to be inexplicably tied to the frame rate limit settings. In this game, one can raise the default rate cap, and this allows slightly higher jumps, etc. to be accomplished. Obviously, such coding horrors do not mean the higher frame rates are the cause of better target acquisition by the player...)

My shekels are safe.

Dedicated to James "The Amazing Randi" Randi.
Debunker extraordinaire. A hero of mine.
See Google to find his $1,000,000.00 challenge to 'audiophile' kooks that think $25,000 cables sound better. Hilarity ensues with the funambulistc help of  Pear Cable, maker of goof-ball speaker cables.


  1. if its over 80 fps im good :)

  2. LOL - did you ever see the test where some engineers invited over several bigwig audiophiles (I think some were magazine writers) to listen to some high-end cables. Turned out the engineers were switching ins wire COAT HANGERS part of the time. None of the 'Golden Ears' could tell.
    P.T. Barnum had it right - there's one born every minute.

  3. I've heard over 30 and you cant tell the difference, but I seriously think that is too low. I think TV is 30 or something. Could be where that number came from. 300 is ridiculous. The Hz on your monitor is what? 60? 85 on a good one? It can't produce anything higher, so it is wasted anyhow, am I wrong?

  4. @Anonymous April 30, 2010 8:57 PM :
    From my research, for the kind of display technology and interaction of PC games, while 30 consistent frames per second is quite playable, there can be no doubt higher rates result in higher target acquisition success. As far as the rate limitations (refresh rate) of the display device limiting things, that is only partly true. While having a rate of scene change higher than the refresh rate of the display can lead to tearing, it also results in possibly higher average positional 'correctness' of objects displayed.
    The useful 'maximum' frame rate will depend on the scene characteristics, the interaction characteristics of the game, the person involved, etc. Regardless, the rate at which humans can actually tell a difference in frame rates (vs aliasing/artifacts/etc) is much less than the outlandish numbers often claimed, which itself is much higher than what can actually be effectively used to improve target acquisition (reaction time, neural processes, etc. must be taken into account.)

  5. Just found this blog ^Like xD

    For myself, a game should have at least 60 FPS.
    Im pretty sure could tell the difference between 50 and 100 FPS. But anything above 100 FPS is total BS.