In 2005 the father of PlayStation claimed that the PS3 would be able to support 120 frames-per-second. We all laughed and felt vindicated when the console eventually released in 2006 with games that often struggled to hit 30fps. There was also the more obvious fact that HDTVs didn’t even support such a high frame-rate and, most likely, would never need to.
How times have changed. With the advent of 3D television and gaming almost upon us, 120fps is central to the technology. The reason? A separate image must be sent to each eye, and to avoid flicker, each should be rendered at 60fps.
So how in the hell are games going to be able to render two separate images at 60 fps each, or 120 fps total? Surely that’s not a task for this generation of consoles?
Many games may not be up to the task, and many, like Avatar, will have to reduce the resolution of both images to achieve it. It’s games that originally rendered at 1080p that’ll likely see more gains; such as Gran Turismo 5, WipEout HD and Super Stardust HD. The latter game rendered at 1280 by 1080 pixels and 60 frames per seconds, so to bump that up to 120 fps was not as hard as say Uncharted 2.
But still a significant task it was for the game’s developer, Housemarque. The first solution was to drop the resolution to full 720p for each eye (just a bit less than full 1080p when combined). But still, the framerate has to be doubled. Housemarque solved this by moving many of the game’s original GPU tasks to the Cell’s SPU. Housemarque’s engine lead, Seppo Halonen, told Digital Foundry:
For the first thing, we took SSHD and made it use the current revision of our game engine with over a year of additional development. As the engine is highly modular it was mainly a matter of adding stereoscopic cameras and configuring the engine to render everything twice. That was of course just the beginning: after that we had to optimise a lot, as we now had 8.3ms instead of 16.7ms to render a frame. Luckily we had 50 per cent of the SPU power left, so we tapped into that. The current version of the game heavily pre-processes the data that goes to RSX to make sure it can chew through it as quickly as possible.
Yes, Kutaragi’s Cell Processor was in large part what enabled 120fps gameplay, and thus, 3D for Super Stardust HD. Who’s crazy now?
Credit to Double H of NeoGAF for the amusing image.