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Microsoft on 1080p Games |

Microsoft’s Andre Vrignaud, the Director of Xbox Live Technical Strategy, wrote another piece criticizing 1080p. He consulted with a Microsoft senior software design engineer to back his argument with a technical explanation. His fundamental reasoning goes like this:

  1. 1080p is a higher resolution than 720p
  2. Higher resolution = More pixels. To be precise 1080p has 2.32 times as many pixels as 720p. (1920*1080 / 1280×720 = 2.32)
  3. Rendering more pixels per frame requires more processing resources to render
  4. More resources used rendering pixels means less resources are available for other tasks which means that there will be a loss in quality in other parts of the game.

1-3 are definitely true. 4 is a misleading half-truth:

Any game could be made to run at 1920×1080. However, it is a tradeoff. It means that you can show more detail (although you need larger textures and models to really get this benefit) but it means that you have much less time to run complex pixel shaders. Most games can’t justify running at higher than 1280×720—it would actually make them look worse because of the compromises they will have to make in other areas.

Does adding a more complex physics simulation system require compromises to the A.I system? Does using a more complex animation system require sacrifices to the number of models that can be shown on screen at any given time? In some ways they do. Any resource consuming feature competes for the same finite system resources as the other pieces of the game. It’s the job of the game developer to decide how to best utilize those resources to make the best game possible.

In some cases, 1080p may require compromises and it might not be the right decision to make. In other cases, the developer may be able to optimize their software and get 1080p resolution along with all the other graphics, effects, and functionality that they had planned on without any compromises at all. And this isn’t just for simple mah-jong type games either. We are seeing previews of several graphically and resource intense 360/PS3 cross platform titles that support 1080p only on the PS3 without any sacrifices at all.

Also, if Mr. Vrignaud claims were true and higher resolutions really do impose such substantial losses in quality, why even use 720p? Why not stick with lower resolutions and get even better image quality?

Yes, even Resistance has fallen off the bandwagon and admitted they can’t hit 1080i/p as previously claimed.

This is false. I have never seen Sony or Insomniac claim 1080x for Resistance anywhere.

55.5%: that’s how much less time you have to spend on each pixel when rendering 1920×1080 compared to 1280×720—the point being that at higher resolutions you have more pixels, but they necessarily can’t look as good

Of course, higher resolutions require more resources, but his numbers stem from the invalid assumption that if you double the number of pixels, you have half the amount of time available to process them. (55% ~= 1 – 1/2.25) There are a lot of processing tasks that are not affected by display resolution including game logic, physics, AI, processing, model, and many polygon calculations.

How about some benchmark data to back up my claim? This data was obtained from AnandTech’s benchmark of the PC game F.E.A.R at many different resolutions on many different video cards. If rendering 2.25x as many pixels resulted in 55% less time available to render each pixel, we would expect that doubling the quantity of pixels per frame would halve the FPS and that the pixel-per-second output rate of the hardware would be a roughly constant number. In that case, the plot below would have horizontal lines for each video card. Instead, we see a pronounced effect that while FPS clearly drops at higher resolutions, the overall pixel per second output rate increases with resolution.

Pixels per Second

Frankly, I was particularly curious about why Sony has continued harping on 1080p as being “TrueHD”

Well, one good reason that Sony has been “harping” on 1080p is that Microsoft guys such as this one have caused quite a stir in making the false claims that it couldn’t be done and that there would be no 1080x titles this year.

F.E.A.R Benchmarks
Clarifying Thoughts on High Definition Game Rendering

  • tooms

    I find this blog to contain some false statements… Which is bemusing since it itself is claiming false statements from Microsoft.

    First, the developers of Resistance: Fall Of Man did in fact state they would attempt to reach 1080p (they did not promise 100% for sure) and they then stated they could not do it because a) it was consuming too much VRAM, and b) it made the discs so large they took too long to burn, thus slowing down their QA department which would have delayed the game.

    In addition, there are no 1080p games this year… That is games specifically developed to run at the native 1080p, and not simply “up-sized” to fit that resolution. There will be no game in 2006 that looks better (native resolution) on a PS3 than it would on the 360 – this is a fact…


  • Martin Hansen

    Ridge racer will be at 1080p, so you are wrong. Read the IGN preview of the game and you will se that they say that 1080p DO matter. Also Virtua tennis has 1080p(?)

  • First of all, Insomniac !! TRIED !! to hit 1080P, which is NOT saying they can do it. They NEVER said, RFOM WILL BE 1080P. Ok, I am nitpicking here, but so are many others, and I am just precise here.

    Second, upping resolutions is not a linear decrease in performance. As Henning said, many other things are calculated, which do not affect the graphics output. First of all, you dont need 4xFSAA on 1080P, 2x is enough, as the 2fold increase in resolution makes this unnoticable, second, and this depends on how you write software, I does not affect your resoultions (if the bandwidth, which is the limiting factor here is enough). As the PS3 has twice the normal bandwidth compared to the 360, this will affect the PS3 less. Ok, the 360 has these 10 eDRAM, which sort of compensates this hit, but ALREADY doing FSAA the eDRAM is too small, so you need to tile your output, which will be a major performance hit.

    And the “claim” that the “BDs neede to long to burn” because of 1080P is PLAIN stupid. Upping the output resolution does NEVER affect the disc size, or do you need to buy specific game discs of FEAR which support higher resolutions, never to be thought of in development (1080P for example). The only difference I could think of, is that they used higher resolution textures in 1080P which then would contradict with the statement, that they already didnt have enough RAM for 1080P in the first place. The pre rendered videos will still likely be 1080P, because theres no problem in handling this…

    And… well done MS… An article which needs to be dismembered to be found untrue is really a nice accomplishment on your side. I mean, the other statements (no 1080P games in 06…) were pretty much debunked on release…

  • tooms: the statement about more disk space and taking long to burn was to do with PAL videos. They decided not to include the PAL versions of the videos, thus reducing the amount of data to burn. Nothing has been said about 1080p textures.

  • Xjavina

    b) it made the discs so large they took too long to burn, thus slowing down their QA department which would have delayed the game.

    You speak bullshit!
    No games company burns games, no one! All Consumer brough discs are “etched” which is why they last longer than home made discs. Also ATM resistance uses no compression, so all they would have to do is use compression to take the same space….either way ur statement is false.

    Also i dont see how console companies complain about only having 256mb of video ram. Taking a look at the x1900xt 256mb vs x1900xt 512mb the performance advantage is about 10% at best. Heck in FEAR, running at ABOVE 1080P RESOLUTION, there is a mere 2fps difference

    I play alot of games at 1920×1200 just fine, on a mere 7900gto. It all depends on how well the developer codes a game, and how they use shaders and AI. Expect majority of games to be 1080p compatible and look twice as good as the launch titles within 8 months, due to dev’s getting better at utalising resources better.

  • Gone are the good old days when it was all about enjoying the games and not about why they say this and they say that..

  • The truth of the matter is that it is in Microsoft’s best interest to downplay 1080p, since their direct competitor is touting it as an advantage to owning their system. The truth of the matter is that native 1080p games are possible (virtua fighter being one of them), and current 1080p are by no means sacrificing graphical quality. As for there only being 256mb of video ram, there are ways to get around that, allocating other resources to do essentially the same job. However, I dont see this being much of a concern, because there are bottleknecks in the 360’s architecture as well.

  • Resistance does use compression. That’s been confirmed.

  • Darrin

    fleakitten, great point! I don’t want this blog to be all political posts like this one and I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to post this.

    I’d like to see this blog help people enjoy games and savor the anticipation of such a huge event as the dawn of the PS3. But notice, my earlier politics-free and argument-free post of the day on Ratchet & Clank got 0 comments while this one has pulled in 8 and counting.

  • Jimmy

    b) it made the discs so large they took too long to burn, thus slowing down their QA department which would have delayed the game.

    You speak bullshit!
    No games company burns games, no one! All Consumer brough discs are “etched” which is why they last longer than home made discs.

    For _testing_ purposes they may well have burnt discs. The QA team would probably be getting frequent builds of the game before it is released to manufacture and be testing them from disc to ensure there are no issues with loading times, streaming data etc. Once it clears certification it would have an etched disc produced for manufacture and release to the public.

  • The original blog post from the Insomniac employee detailing their process in reducing disc size and finalizing on a 720p resolution can be read at

    Whether they really said they would try, or said they would promise is irrelevant. Developers try their best with the resources they have in the time they have available to them. So, semantics aside, it is a shame Resistance went back to 720p. Specifically because it is a PS3 flagship launch game, meaning it is one high profile game less to support their 1080p “TrueHD” argument.

    Which kind of makes me wonder what the post of this original article is. Everything the Microsoft employee stated is correct. Up the native resolutions means more resources per frame are required, meaning less resources are available to other areas.

    Now, it is only true if you make one assumption and that is the most important one that has been left out in all discussions regarding this subject. In this resources debate it’s vital to take a game that utilizes the hardware for a near 100% at that current time. While Darrin’s FEAR argument is true, it remains irrelevant. FEAR is not a game that meets this assumption anymore. It is similar to putting fl0w from 720p in 1080p — all of those numbers are still most likely true, the PS3 can easily take the performance hit in a way where those numbers do not directly correspond to an equal performance degradation.

    And if you read the comments, he acknowledged he was incorrect when he predicted there would be no 1080p launch games. I think Darrin was just trying to reconfirm that but still uphold the fanboyish reputation of this PS3 blog. 😉

    But really. Who cares? Some games do not rely on many bells and whistles in the graphical department and prefer 1080p (Ridge Racer 7, for example) and some do and while find that 720p is indeed the sweet spot in this next generation (Resistance Fall of Man).

    Insomniac might say that they try to make their future games 1080p, but would you want that? Because given the aforementioned assumption, it means a less than would-have-been possible graphical experience. Personally, I’d prefer 720p. Partly because my TV doesn’t do 1080p 😉

  • Another fanboy rant article full of total shite. Well done.

  • Keith Andrew


  • Well for me, if given an option for 1080p (but lower FPS), I’ll choose the 720p for smoother (higher) FPS.

    1080p is another Sony’s hype number… just like the dual HDMI.

    And this make be offtopic, if not for the Tekken series… I love everything about Xbox360. Including the designs of the box and the controller and the Menu.

    The only thing I don’t like about xbox is that it doesn’t have TEKKEN… waa.

  • Darrin

    Sorry that many of you didn’t enjoy the post. While I think I made some well reasoned points, it was an argumentative post and it’s best to limit that kind of thing. Most of my posts and the other posts on this site aren’t like that, but sometimes it’s hard to resist.

    Anyway, keep checking back for more positive and constructive news, opinion, and discussion related to the PS3.

  • Animadverto

    Hmm… MS downplays 1080p as unrealistic, but pretty sure my 360 just updated itself last week and is now running at 1080p on the dashboard … and my FFxi game is also displaying at 1920×1080 according to my monitor … and yes I do notice a difference.

    My .02 cents, 1080p is a BIG deal because the consumer is making it a big deal. Techcentric geek arguments aside, what the mass market feels they need will be the deciding factor, and 1080p is the standard.

  • matt

    1080p does not matter. So few of them are on the market that do 1080p/60fps that the whole argument is silly. Do not waste your money on a 1080p unless you are going larger than 50″ or you sit too close to the tv. 1080p for movies looks no better than a 1080i movie. Their will be no broadcasts above 720p/1080i for atleast 5 yearsand even that is modest. The only thing that 1080p really matters for is gaming.

    The electronics companies are pushing 1080p so hard because the profit margins are much, much higher than 720p. They are in business to make money after all and you are falling for their PR junk.

    Buy an HDTV that fits the size of your room. Take some measurements and head to the store. There will be a 720p that is more affordable and larger than any 1080p you could afford.

    I am sick and tired of 1080p discussions. 97% of the gaming public “knows” that 1080p is a huge improvement over 720p. The funny thing is these people are still watching a 27″ 480i tv. They will claim they are going HD and when it comes down to it they won’t get one for a few more years.

    I cannot stress this enough. Buy the largest 720p HDTV you can afford. It will most likely be under 60″ and will look better than you ever imagined. Don’t get caught up in the hype. 1080p is just the beginning. They are already working on much higher resolutions and within a few years they too will be out. They will have 50″ 1600p (which will be of no use unless you sit 1-2 feet from the screen).

    Wise up and do some research. 1080p is a technology that 99% of us have no use for (yet).

  • Pc

    Regardless of what everybody says, the 360’s video card is not capable of outputting 1080p, they have to use a patch to uprez. The PS3’s video card is doing the 1080p output and as of right now…1080p is the best you can get as far as tv’s go (im pretty sure you can find monitors that have higher rez, but when im playing a console..i want to play on a big tv). Since 1080p is the best right now and the PS3 is almost out (also the fact the the PS3 plays blu-ray movie in 1080p), i’ll deffinately be purchasing a 1080p tv with atleast a 50″ screen.

  • satz

    Pc – My advice is to base the console purchase on games you want to play, not on an interface spec. The 1080p hype machine is alive and well on both consoles.

    My guess is the initial ps3 titles that supposedly support 1080p are doing so via upscaling on the GPU – the framebuffer is rendering at 720p. The xbox 360 is also capable of doing this. The supposed RSX specs from

    128-bit memory bus (same as 7600)
    8 ROPS (same as 7600)
    24 pixel pipes (same as 7900)

    Another interesting thread on the topic of the RSX gpu:

    The RSX is basically a hybrid 7600/7800, theoretical performance may be somewhere in between. I doubt the RSX could push a 1920×1080 image with any type of AA and heavy shader effects – true 1080p on either of these consoles is pretty much nonsense.

  • hollywooda

    jesus look at what you’ve all become……. it’s a ****ing games system not a life saving unit
    on a intensive care ward!….. man, when did the resolution of games start getting more press
    than the games?.