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Frame rates in old games


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Zelda Ocarina of Time had a frame rate of 20fps. Goldeneye, 15fps and if you used the N-bomb in perfect dark you’d get like 1fps and I didn’t care.

 

I enjoy most of digital foundry's output but when they talk about a game dropping to 59fps from 60 during one tiny intense moment with an explosion or a cut scene they act like the game is ruined.

 

But it makes it all the more impressive to me that I could play these games (N64 games always seemed to run at the lowest fps, I don’t remember Saturn or PlayStation on average being this low) with no issue. Zelda is still an amazing game but even at the time I had no idea that the frame rate was the low. It didn’t feel jerky or slow.

 

Perfect dark certainly had its issues and pushed the N64 too far but even so those moments where the game did drop rarely hampered the game despite being so low.

 

The only time low frame rates ever bothered me was during Shenmue as there was no frame skip so everything would slow to a crawl for a brief moment.

 

Maybe you had to be there at the time and whilst playing a game at 60fps certainly is the more preferred experience it’s still amazing to me that so many great games ran at sub 20 fps and yet didn’t harm the games at all.

 

Any other old games you can’t believe had such low frame rates but we’re still great?

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I remember crawling through the Star Wars Rebel Assault games because I wanted to see it at high res. It worked fine and if anything it was really easy in slow mo. I was happy. 

 

I used to whack Grand Prix 2 up to full too. I'd still be able to break on time at 10fps. I usually went for quality over frame rate on PC. 

 

Also, I just remembered before I start work ... I'm well practiced at working at low frame rates when working on games with all the debugging on. It's not much fun wading through treacle for ages to reproduce a bug the tester did in seconds. But it's do-able :) 

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Yes, my first thought was Freescape / 3DCK games on 8-bit micros: Total Eclipse etc. Those were like 1 “fps” if you were lucky. Also flight sims and things like Battle Command

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I think it's very difficult to talk about frame rates now without prior experience and context of what was possible back in the 8 and 16 bit days. A good example is that new Amiga fps. It's a great achievement on a A500 but would you honestly want to play it at its current fps? I know I couldn't and I can still happily play BBC Elite and Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe etc.

 

However, its A1200 speed which looks nearer 20 (?) now we're talking. That's perfectly playable for me with no nostalgia driven experience. I suspect though that a player with no experience or enjoyment of older games would be able to put up with even the 1200s speed.

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the thing is when you talk about these old games, they were genuinely cutting edge and for many of us the first time we experienced these kinds of games so there really wasn't anything to compare it to.

 

PC gaming was slightly different because you could control to some degree what sort of experience you had (who else shrunk the window of various id games to a tiny size to see how fast they could get the game to run?) but when it came to console gaming, the idea of seeing bigger sprites or basic polygons was an exciting step forward.

 

These days art design goes a long way to cover for a drop in fidelity and the likes of DF don't really have a lot to comment on unless a port is garbage or running on last gen basic models.

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I play lots of older games and many are fine, especially PS1 which often operates at 30fps. 

 

Zelda is an interesting one, the frame rate was fairly low but the controls were always responsive so it felt good. 

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1 hour ago, Garwoofoo said:

I remember playing Driller on the Spectrum, which had a frame rate that was measured in seconds per frame, not frames per second. :lol:  It was still an absolutely incredible experience for the time.

And Driller on the Speccy was super-high frame-rate compared to the Amstrad CPC version!

 

Wildtrax (Stunt Race FX) is one old favourite that I can’t return to due to frame rate issue; I wonder how I played it back in 1995. Guess the imagination must’ve filled in the blank frames.

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When Quake came out on the Amiga back then (a real weird story behind that one), you really needed an '060 or PPC to get any sort of playable frame rate, but the forums at the time had people playing it at a literal 1 or 2 fps as a kind of strategy game or something, just for the sheer novelty of its existence.

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I never even heard of frame rates until the internet came along. I was aware that some games slowed down if things got frantic - if the game was good I generally didn't (and still don't) care. I would never be put off from buying a game because of reports of frame rate drops, it just doesn't bother me.

 

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1 hour ago, SozzlyJoe said:

When Quake came out on the Amiga back then (a real weird story behind that one), you really needed an '060 or PPC to get any sort of playable frame rate, but the forums at the time had people playing it at a literal 1 or 2 fps as a kind of strategy game or something, just for the sheer novelty of its existence.

That’s one of the most depressingly stereotypical accounts of post-1994 Amiga gaming I’ve ever heard. :lol: 
 

Anyway, a game that I think has aged well despite its relatively low frame-rate is Wave Race 64, thanks to its games design and control scheme – as long as you’re playing the NTSC version, of course.

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6 hours ago, Protocol Penguin said:

And Driller on the Speccy was super-high frame-rate compared to the Amstrad CPC version!

 

And let's not mention the C64 version as well... But at least we had great music ;)

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I think the thing for me was having a consistent frame rate. 

 

I found it much more jarring if a game chopped and changed between frame rates during game play than if it was a lower frame rate that was consistent/stable.

 

So playing something like Virtua Racing on Megadrive which I think is perhaps 15 frames per second but fairly consistent was a lot easier to adapt to than stuff that was sometimes 30 but sometimes 20 ;even though even at the lower frame rate it is more frames per second than VR if that makes sense)

 

Bit like how art direction (and perhaps more specifically animation) can make up for a lack of polygons in the 32bit era especially 

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The thing where old Rare games would tie framerate to the speed of the character models so that when the framerate dived, the characters just moved faster and so it "felt" like it was still performing regularly kind of astounded me when I first heard about it.

 

I've not played any of them, so have no idea if it "worked", but it's a hell of an audacious programmer-workaround compared to "let's just optimise the game some more, lads".

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On 09/09/2021 at 09:02, Garwoofoo said:

I remember playing Driller on the Spectrum, which had a frame rate that was measured in seconds per frame, not frames per second. :lol:  It was still an absolutely incredible experience for the time.

 

Compare and contrast:

 

 

 

 

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I played The Sentinel on the Spectrum and the agonising slowness of the response was the entire point of the game. Like being trapped in a nightmare where you can never respond as quickly as you need to. A unique, terrifying experience. 
 

Sentinel Returns didn’t get it at all. A total dud. 

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5 hours ago, shynra said:

I remember celebrating framerates, Guardian heroes/Bangaio etc it was a spectacle to see your machine struggle with the madness that was on screen! Joyous moments! 

 

Yes! Bangai-O played off this so well and was made with this kind of carnage in mind. Even the DS one held the same exquisite satisfaction of unleashing a 400 X COMBO MISSILE MEGA ATTACK or whatever and the DS just freezing, for a good while, enough time for you to put it down and have a breather. When you picked it back up the level would be cleared of enemies.

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3 hours ago, Garwoofoo said:

I played The Sentinel on the Spectrum and the agonising slowness of the response was the entire point of the game. Like being trapped in a nightmare where you can never respond as quickly as you need to. A unique, terrifying experience. 
 

Sentinel Returns didn’t get it at all. A total dud. 

 

I actually really enjoyed Sentinel Returns. The soundtrack by John Carpenter and the visual aesthetic helped. It played a bit differently from being faster but was actually an enjoyable game in its own right, if not as claustrophobic.

 

Edit: is YouTube embedding broken? This page is quite messed up on mobile now...

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