Plus: Horizon Forbidden West state of play reaction and patch analysis.
We tried not to talk about it, we spent almost an hour avoiding the subject but in the end it had to come out: Alex is pushed to the limit by the fact that so many major titles come out on PC with problems of stuttering. Kicking off this blatant assault on gameplay was Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s bizarrely poor conversion, followed quickly by Elden Ring and last week’s Shadow Warrior 3. But that’s not a new problem – games like Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Ghostrunner, and Sword and Fairy 7 launched with similar issues. Typically, this stutter is caused by shader compilation – the process by which GPU code is compiled on the fly during gameplay – and seems to be particularly annoying on Unreal Engine titles.
Why compile on the fly – and why doesn’t the same problem affect consoles? The two issues are related: shader code can be pre-compiled on consoles as they are fixed platforms and the data is included on disc or in your download – things are trickier for PC as each revision of GPU and driver requires a new set of compiled shaders. Adding to the problem – and perhaps explaining why the code arrives at the end user with such difficulty – is the fact that once the shaders have been compiled on PC, they are cached to disk and reused in when needed without recompilation. Visiting the same area again should result in smooth gameplay, leading many (maybe also QA?) to think the issue is fixed. The number of responses we receive about this problem (“the latest patch fixed it” or “simple for me now”, etc.) does not change the fact that first contact with an uncompiled shader will cause the problem .
Can it be repaired? Absolutely – either compiling shaders while loading (The Ascent), compiling them before even starting the game (Horizon Zero Dawn at launch), or compiling them in the background (the recent Horizon Zero Dawn patch). Other options may be available, such as crowd-sourced shaders on a platform like Steam, but ultimately we can only hope that by highlighting this issue it will be sorted, without recourse to Alex Battaglia launching an Angry Alex YouTube channel.
- 00:00:00 Presentations
- 00:01:05 Reactions on the state of play
- 00:14:04 Horizon Forbidden West Patch 1.07
- 00:20:26 Dying Light Next-Gen Patch
- 00:25:44 F-Zero X is coming to Nintendo Switch Online
- 00:29:55 Media.Vision announces five games in development
- 00:31:38 OLED switch 3600 hours burn-in test
- 00:38:31 DF Supporter Q: Do you think the “burn-in crisis” is exaggerated?
- 00:42:37 DF: Guardians of the Galaxy content discussion on GamePass / DF Retro update
- 00:51:02 DF Supporter Q1/2/3: Elden Ring performance questions
- 00:58:35 First impressions of the Elden Ring PC patch
- 01:02:57 DF Supporter Q4: What would you prefer? Locked 60fps or 60-80fps VRR?
- 01:06:22 DF Supporter Q5: Why is it so difficult to produce OLED displays for the PC market?
- 01:14:32 DF Supporter Q6: Do you have high hopes that the incorrect frame timing will be resolved in the next Switch?
- 01:16:42 DF Supporter Q7: Do you think Super Switch will be able to match or even surpass the visual presentation of the new Sony and Microsoft machines?
- 01:19:07 DF Supporter Q8: The Bubsy Curse Rumor
But before the tirade on PC gaming‘s biggest problem kicks off in earnest, there’s plenty of discussion to go through, starting with our picks from last week’s Sony State of Play – mostly focusing on Japanese developers, thus giving us respite from the triple-A onslaught we have been through in recent months. There are a few interesting titles we’ve highlighted, but it was a bit frustrating to see so many of them crossover in nature. Yes, it looks like the PS4 will be with us until 2023!
There’s also talk of the latest Horizon Forbidden West patch, with tweaks to address complaints about “flickering” on vegetation, especially in performance mode. I had the launch code installed on my PS5, so I was able to compare the before and after. It seems the effect is reduced, but far from eliminated – and it would require a fundamental overhaul of the anti-aliasing system which would reduce the overall level of detail. Our view is that the mip-map texture is scaled down to a lower quality version on some vegetation, which means less extreme detail is packed into pixel real estate – a tweak, but not a solution that changes the given. Meanwhile, John feels that the quality mode has also changed…
And as always, we’re answering a bunch of questions from backers of the Digital Foundry Support Program. Yes, we walk through the expected performance demands of Elden Ring, touch on realistic results we can expect from DLSS on the mentioned “Switch Pro”, and discuss frame rate vs. frame duration when exceeding 60 frames per second. Is 60-80 fps (12.5ms to 16.7ms) with VRR better than locked 60 fps – 16.7ms flat frame duration? We suggest not doing this, but when you hit 80-100 fps (10ms to 12.5ms) that’s a different story. You can get a better idea of what we do on the support program herebut for the full DF experience, we (obviously) recommend it!