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WipEout HD's clever 1080p workaround

WipEout HD's clever 1080p workaround

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Germany — 

So-called next-gen games have gotten more and more demanding over time. More realistic, and more visually-stunning scenes demand more performance, something consoles can only offer at a limited level with their limited resources at hand (see RAM, GPU, and so forth). From day one, Sony announced WipEout HD as true 1080p title. But sadly so, that's not quite the case. Only most of the time Sony's futuristic racer runs at 1080p as Richard Leadbetter has found out at his DigitalFoundry blog. Instead of plaguing the gamer with slow-downs or momentarily disabled visual effects in the game, WipEout HD comes with a clever solution to a seemingly complicated problem, the 1080p console dilemma. WipEout HD's answer to that is frame-by-frame scaling to keep a steady 60fps at--for most of the time--native 1080p.

True HD in 1080p not only means that the final video output ought to be 1920x1080 but that the game's native resolution (the one that it runs at internally) should also sponsor that exact same resolution, 1080p. Games like GTA 4, just to name one example, upscales to a HD resolution from a lower native resolution [To be exact: On the PS3 GTA 4 runs at native "640p" which is not considered HD at all. In contrast to that, the Xbox 360 version runs at a native HD resolution of 720p]. That's also the reason why GTA's picture quality wears a slight veil of blurredness on both next-gen consoles.

How does Sony Liverpool achieve a constant 60fps at 1920x1080 with their great-looking racer on the Playstation 3 though? Instead of causing a slow down in the game itself, they let WipEout HD recognize, on a frame-by-frame basis, whether the rendering of a scene will involve performance loss. If that is the case, the game chooses to down-scale that frame's native resolution. At a constant game speed of 60 fps, the player will hardly notice the lightning-quick resolution-switching, though: from a maximum native resolution of 1920x1080 (picture 1) to, for example, 1550x1440 (picture 2) to a utmost minimum of 1280x1024 (picture 3), which is still much better than 720p (1280x720), the game always picks the best one depending on the current scene at hand with the target to always aim for the full 1080p. Sadly though, this can involve some minimal screen-tearing at times as can be seen in picture 3 above.

In more techie-speak by DigitalFoundry's Richard Leadbetter:

Basically WipEout HD is the first game I've come across that seems to be operating with a dynamic framebuffer. Resolution can alter on a frame-by-frame basis. Rather than introduce dropped frames, slow down or other unsavoury effects, the number of pixels being rendered drops and the PS3's horizontal hardware scaler is invoked to make up the difference.
WipEout HD surely deserves an award for innovation for this clever 1080p workaround. It's certainly better than leaving a game run at a low native resolution all the time, disabling effects in the game, or torturing the gamers with endless stuttering.

The action-oriented racing game WipEout HD, developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (Studio Liverpool), is available via Playstation Network for $19.99 (£11.99) on the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system.

Flo_the_G
405 EXP -
September 26, 2008 - 21:03 #

The link to pic 3 somehow got screwed up.

In other news: How come this type of game is never ported to PC? I can recall enjoying playing Wipeout on a PS1 at a friend's place back in primary school, and I'd really like a decent racing game again (futuristic or not) that lets me shoot my opponents. :(

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
September 26, 2008 - 21:23 #

Thanks for pointing out the incorrect link to picture 3 (which I corrected now). One reason I could see why WipEout HD doesn't get a PC port is that Sony totally and fully wants it to boost their PS3 and games sales in the console war. For $19.99 the game is also a real bargain on PSN.

MasteRehm (not verified)
0 EXP -
September 27, 2008 - 11:18 #

Hmm, sorry, but I see no different!?

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
September 28, 2008 - 10:32 #

If you don't notice any difference, then the WipEout guys have done it quite right. Remember, while the screenshots are all in 1080p, their native resolutions are not (pic 2 & 3).

Vincent
1555 EXP -
September 28, 2008 - 20:44 #

I still cannot understand the fascination behind racing games (doesn't matter if they're realistic or arcade). It's just an obsolete genre (everyone hates me right now) ...

Vincent
1555 EXP -
September 28, 2008 - 20:46 #

... such a provoking statement ;-)

Flo_the_G
405 EXP -
September 28, 2008 - 21:14 #

Have you played Flatout? Ramming into your opponents until their cars burn is strangely gratifying.
Realistic racing games, however, are far too complicated for my taste. Now Flatout with weapons, that would be something worth playing...

bolle
2208 EXP -
September 28, 2008 - 23:17 #

It started with Mario Kart on the SNES, and since I got my MOMO Force FF Whee, I love this genre. Realistic or Arcade its much more fun with a wheel. And Racing games are as obsolete as all other games :)