The death of native resolution? It’s not so simple

Alan Wake watching his own projection.
digital trends

The original resolution is dead, or the story continues. A series of PC games were released this year, the latest of which is alan wake 2, The original has faced criticism for requiring some type of upgrade to achieve good performance. Understandably, there has been some backlash from PC gamers who feel that the idea of ​​running games at native resolution is fast becoming a bygone era.

There’s some truth to this, but the idea that games will rely on half-baked upscalers to achieve reasonable performance rather than “optimization” is misguided at best – and downright wrong at worst. Tools like Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) will remain the cornerstone of PC gaming, but that’s why they can’t fully replace native resolution.


Let’s start with why PC gamers think native resolution is dead. The latest outrage comes to light alan wake 2 When the system requirements showed that the game was built with DLSS or FSR turned on. This is not a new scenario either. developers of relic 2 Confirmed games were designed around upscaling, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a AAA release in the last few years that doesn’t pack in upscaling technology.

You can see an example of the reaction on relic 2 Below focuses on the “consequences” of tools like DLSS on the gaming industry. Another example, which I won’t post, is when a commenter on Reddit jokingly recommended creating a self-harm cult so that “they will see the error of their ways and repent,” referring to the need for developers to upscaling. Happened. Obviously a joke, but it’s a good example of the PC gaming community’s general reaction to games relying on upgrading to improve performance.

A Reddit poster is complaining about DLSS.

The problem here is not just sublimation. For all the great games released this year, there have also been a series of disastrous PC ports. It’s understandable why PC gamers would look at this, factor in the increased requirements, and come to the conclusion that features like DLSS and FSR are a recourse for poor optimization. It makes sense, but that doesn’t make it true.

Native race gaming is over

On top of this, the larger PC community has doubled down on this conversation, further reinforcing the idea that upscaling has been a crutch for poor optimization. For example, a clip from the WAN Show podcast is titled “Native Race Gaming is Dead” and it talks about Nvidia’s new DLSS 3.5 feature. And in Digital Foundry’s Tom’s coverage of the hardware, an interview conducted with Nvidia, the headline reads: “Nvidia says native resolution gaming is out, DLSS is here to stay.” You can see a reader’s response to that article below.

A commenter on Tom's Hardware complained about DLSS.
Tom’s Hardware

As is usually the case, there are nuances in these conversations, but for PC gamers who are browsing the headlines with preconceived ideas about game optimization, it’s easy to see how tools like DLSS and FSR Why reacting against has become an easy, default position. And now that we’re seeing games that basically require upscaling to run, there’s a feeling of a slippery slope looming over the PC gaming community.

Once you look outside the PC gaming community, the progression of graphics in gaming starts to become apparent, and it hasn’t been a straight line.

Life Cycle

A small gaming PC next to a PS5.
Jacob Roach/

PC gaming can be separated from the rest of the gaming world. Xbox and PlayStation compete with each other so directly that players on one platform usually know what is happening on the other. On PC, at least, you can bury your head in the sand and mostly ignore what’s happening with consoles. However, they provide a lot of context for this conversation.

We’re reaching the point right now where developers are no longer releasing games on last generation consoles. We’ve seen a handful over the years, most of which were exclusive to one console or another. Now, most games are releasing exclusively on next-generation consoles, allowing developers to increase the quality. Here’s a small sample of the games released this year on next-generation consoles and PC that didn’t receive a last-generation version:

  • dead Space
  • Predicted
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivors
  • relapse
  • relic 2
  • baldur’s gate 3
  • and immortals
  • Starfield
  • payday 3
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
  • forza motorsport
  • lord of the fall
  • alan wake 2

With a few exceptions, all of the above games have released with some controversy regarding their PC performance. Conversely, games that were also released on previous generation consoles P’s lie, nuclear heart, And Armored Corps VI: Fire of the Rubicon Arrived without too many problems. New games being released on next-generation consoles are able to further enhance the visual quality, putting more strain on PC hardware.

If you turn the clock back to the previous generation of consoles, the situation wasn’t much different. like in a game hitman 2016, Which didn’t support the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, the GTX 970 couldn’t even reach 60 frames per second (fps) at 1080p, and that GPU was only two years old at the time. the same was true in me too block, Which was also not released on PS3 or Xbox 360.

Looking at PC Gamer review data from that time, you can see that games that were also on the PS3 and Xbox 360 Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor And tomb Raider Apparently that allowed the GTX 970 to hit above 60 fps at 1080p. It’s not that different from what we see now, but at the time, you didn’t have tools like DLSS or FSR to improve performance on a PC.

MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Armor 11G OC Review
Bill Roberson/

This painstaking explanation says just that: consoles are the lowest common denominator, and developers will design their games based on the console’s capability. Graphical fidelity does not follow a linear path where every year we see the same surge in demand for games. As consoles become older, developers must continue to dial down the visual quality to achieve acceptable performance on consoles. if you like games Starfield There are now releases at 30 fps on consoles, what do you think the games will do in two or three years?

Console gamers will have to wait for the next versions of Xbox and PlayStation to be released to see a big jump in graphics quality, but graphics cards in PCs will keep going in the meantime. In two to three years from now, when we’re a few generations down the road from GPUs, new games probably won’t look as demanding on PC as they do today, and will rely on upscaling to achieve the visual quality we see. Will happen. Today will become less important.

There will likely be exceptions as games pack in new forms of rendering to justify the need for more powerful graphics cards, but the visual quality we see in most games today will remain stagnant as consoles struggle to keep up. falls, while graphics cards move ahead. This is the pace we’ve seen for at least the last two decades, and even with GPUs getting more expensive and talk about Moore’s Law ending, the pace doesn’t seem to be slowing down. .

Upscaling and AA are two sides of the same coin

Anti-aliasing comparison in Marvel's Spider-Man.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

However, I don’t want to leave the impression that features like DLSS and FSR are stopgap solutions as games start taking advantage of the power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. It’s not like that. I suspect that DLSS, FSR, and Intel’s XESS will continue to be essential features and perhaps even requirements in games. But this does not mean that they will be on high level duty.

If you’re unaware of how these tools work, upscaling is only part of what they do. DLSS, FSR, and XeSS also handle anti-aliasing. You can notice in games like alan wake 2 You also don’t have an anti-aliasing option. Instead, the game relies on temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) inside DLSS and FSR, which is why you can’t turn off the features even if you’re running the game at native resolution.

It is clear that Nvidia and AMD, at least, believe that there will be games where you do not need to use upscaling. This is probably why we already have features like Deep Learning Anti-Aliasing (DLAA) and AMD’s FSR3 native AA mode, both of which remove upscaling for better anti-aliasing. If there’s a major trend happening here, it’s that more games are using DLSS and FSR for anti-aliasing rather than their own solutions.

We also need to talk about frame generation, which is a key feature for DLSS3 and FSR3. Frame generation enabled things like path tracing cyberpunk 2077 And alan wake 2, So the new goal for graphics cards will be to run these features Without Any frame generation. Once again, I’m sure we’ll see new ways developers will be able to push frame generation on PC, but right now it’s not clear exactly what those technologies are.

never simple

While trying to buck a trend in the world of PC gaming is never easy, its impact goes far beyond whatever Nvidia and AMD are doing at the time. For anyone worried that we’re headed towards a future where upscaling and frame generation will completely replace the need for graphics cards, it’s not a big issue right now. This may change in the future, but before then these features should be indistinguishable from the game as originally introduced.

My prediction in the short term is that the need for upscaling and frame generation will begin to slow down as consoles age, with developers limiting the scope of their games to support the most common platforms. Ultimately, we’ll be in this situation again when the next next-gen consoles are released. But making predictions about what it will look like now is a fool’s errand – for better or for worse.

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