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Gears 5 Dev Explains Why They Refused To Compromise On Frame Rate

CurryPanda

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Mar 4, 2019
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Gears 5 Dev Explains Why They Refused To Compromise On Frame Rate

Q&A: We speak with The Coalition's Colin Penty about the big changes with Gears 5.


Microsoft's next big game, Gears 5, is out now on Xbox One and PC. Following 2016's Gears of War 4, it is developer The Coalition's second brand-new Gears of War game since studio owner Microsoft bought the franchise in 2014 from Fortnite developer Epic Games. To get a closer look and deeper insight into the game and the franchise in general, GameSpot spoke with studio technical art director Colin Penty.

He spoke about a number of different topics, including the thinking behind Gears 5's noticeably brighter colour scheme, the technical challenges of creating the most expansive and sprawling levels the Gears franchise has ever seen, and how The Coalition is now hitting its stride and gaining the confidence to take risks and try new things with the franchise following its run at Epic Games.



Penty also told us about how Gears 5 will perform on the OG Xbox One and Xbox One S, stating that its campaign will run at 30fps on the older machine just like Gears of War 4. That being said, Penty said The Coalition applied some technical wizardry to get more juice out of the older hardware through temporal upscaling. Additionally, the studio was able to achieve the smooth 60fps frame rate for all of the game's multiplayer modes--Versus, Horde, and Escape--on the older Xbox hardware, which is something Penty said he is proud of.

On Xbox One X, Gears 5 runs at 4k/60fps across campaign and all multiplayer modes. Penty said the team refused to compromise as it did with Gears of War 4. "We put a line in the sand early on in development of Gears 5 that we wanted the campaign to be 60fps on Xbox One X," he said. "We didn’t want to have a compromise like Gears of War 4 where you had to choose 1080p/60fps or 4k/30fps. It was a large amount of work across a lot of disciplines to pull it off, but I really think it was worth it and is probably the best example of harnessing the additional power of the Xbox One X."

Also on the subject of hardware, Penty said he is "definitely super excited" about the forthcoming release of Microsoft's next-generation console, Project Scarlett, in Holiday 2020. "We don’t have anything to announce right now in terms of Gears with the new hardware--but I’m definitely super excited about what the new hardware could do. Having dedicated ray tracing cores is huge," he said.

You can read the full interview below.

Gears 5 is available now on Xbox One and PC. You can buy the game outright or subscribe to Xbox Game Pass to get it at no extra cost. GameSpot's Gears 5 review in progress currently scores the game a 7/10.

After playing some of Gears 5 I was immediately struck by the brighter colours, especially in the snow and the red sand. The Gears series is known for dark and grimy scenes, so can you talk about the art direction for Gears 5 and what you wanted to achieve? Was it a purposeful change to introduce brighter, more colourful environments?

Looking back, Gears of War 4 was a game that dominantly took place at night as that fit the tone better. While being still quite a colourful game it was also quite dark as a result. With Gears 5 we were excited to have gameplay levels that mostly took place during the day and that was definitely a deliberate decision. Having the majority of the game set during the day makes the game feel much brighter and compared to Gears 4 allows a lot of the vibrant colours to come through as a result. We also improved the HDR output tremendously from Gears of War 4 so the vibrancy of the image in HDR is amazing.

With Gears 5, you're multiple entries into a franchise people know very well and have strong feelings toward. What were some of the challenges of staying true to the heart of the series as it relates to the art direction, but also pushing things forward and trying new approaches?

This is something our art director Aryan Hanbeck could probably answer better than myself. I will say that after shipping Gears: Ultimate Edition and also Gears of War 4 the Coalition art team has a pretty good feeling of when something “looks” like it belongs in the Gears universe or if it doesn’t. I think this frees us up to experiment with more confidence in Gears 5 and know that we will be able to keep the look authentic to Gears ultimately.

Moving on the subject of technology, Gears 5 is releasing about six years into the Xbox One's life cycle. What kind of experience can people expect on the OG Xbox One hardware?

For the Xbox One and Xbox One S we were able to squeeze a bit more performance and quality out of the older hardware. Our campaign on Xbox One is running at 30fps just like Gears of War 4, but we were able to improve the image quality substantially in Gears 5 by using Temporal Upscaling – this way we always render at 1080p having a much sharper image, and only scale the “internal” resolution if needed for GPU performance. We also pushed to get Horde and Escape mode running at 60fps on Xbox One for Gears 5 so that way all of our MP modes are a consistent 60fps on Xbox One. I think gamers will appreciate that.

For Xbox One X, what kinds of things have you done under the hood to take advantage of the increased horsepower and speed of the console?

We put a line in the sand early on in development of Gears 5 that we wanted the campaign to be 60fps on Xbox One X. We didn’t want to have a compromise like Gears of War 4 where you had to choose 1080p/60fps or 4k/30fps. It was a large amount of work across a lot of disciplines to pull it off, but I really think it was worth it and is probably the best example of harnessing the additional power of the Xbox One X.

For multiplayer on Xbox One X we were able to introduce additional rendering features since we are running the same frame rate as Xbox One. We have screen space reflections and higher quality ambient occlusion as result.

Our cinematics also have much higher quality reflections, lens flares, depth of field, and motion blur on the Xbox One X compared to the original Xbox One and Xbox One S.



Gears of War 4 was released in 2016, and in terms of technology, that's a long time. So what's an example of something we'll see in Gears 5 that maybe wasn't possible technically last time around?

Being able to achieve more with technology is probably 50% the technology itself and 50% the teams ability to execute using that technology. So I think with Gears 5 certain things would fall into one or the other category. Something like Temporal Upscaling was technology that just didn’t really exist in a useable state in 2016. On the other hard large overworld levels in Gears 5 we wouldn’t have been able to pull off in Gears 4 from a technical stand point--partly because our team wasn’t quite ready to take something that complex on, and partly because some of the technology wasn’t quite ready yet. For example having dynamic shadows that can be seen for kilometers in the distance wasn’t something we were capable of in 2016 technologically while maintaining performance.


"We had to deal with a lot of technical challenges due to the larger worlds. Issues that were just minor annoyances in our linear levels became massive problem for our larger levels" -- Colin Penty


Something else that I’m really proud of is the investment from our team in character materials, models, and facial animation systems in Gears 5. We created a dynamic iris caustic system that simulates light bouncing around the iris, as well as implemented proper sub-surface scattering on the eye and many other improvements. We cleaned up our facial wrinkle maps and blood flow tech to really make it sing with our skin material and facial animation. All of these improvements were mostly things we learned while finishing Gears of War 4 that we wouldn’t have been able to properly do without that experience doing 2016’s game.

One final example I can think of is our tessellation and cone step mapping technology – both of these weren’t really possible to a high level of quality--at least for us--in 2016. Employing these on Gears 5 allowed our materials to have a lot more depth and allowed us to do some pretty incredible snow and sand deformation around the players feet and from the skiff.

One of the most striking parts about Gears 5, at least in the amount I've played thus far, is that the levels are far bigger and more expansive. What were some of the technical challenges related to taking this approach? And on the other side, what opportunities does this present?

We had to deal with a lot of technical challenges due to the larger worlds. Issues that were just minor annoyances in our linear levels became massive problem for our larger levels such as streaming, memory, 60fps performance, snow and sand deformation, and visual pop-in. Opportunistically I actually think it forced us to make systems that were more scalable and robust than anything we would have normally built--thus helping us on our linear levels, split screen modes, and other SKU’s such as PC that could harness these new scalable systems.

The ambition of Gears 5 is immediately noticeable with its massive levels and more open-ended structure. What had to happen under the hood, technically, to allow this to happen?

We had to learn how to stream our game in a different way – we ended up splitting our streaming sections in the overworld levels into granular sub-components like “large, medium, small” so we could stream areas in at different speeds. We also had to get familiar with Unreal’s landscape system and train our art and design teams on how to get the most out of that system – then had to augment it a lot with some of Epic’s latest Unreal Engine work as well as some modifications of our own.

We abandoned baked shadows and go to a fully real-time shadowing system as we couldn’t afford to store kilometers of shadow map data on disk or in memory. Our shadows in the distance are real-time ray-traced. We focused on writing a sand and snow deformation system that did a proper displacement on the sand and snow when the player foot pressed into the ground.

We made the system persistent so the trails would stay for a long, long time. Finally, we wrote a paintable volume fog system that allowed the artists to paint fog in the world wherever they wanted it – this gives the overworlds a great sense of atmosphere while maintaining 60fps on Xbox One X.


"I’m definitely super excited about what the new hardware could do. Having dedicated ray tracing cores is huge." -- Colin Penty


A new Xbox, Scarlett, is coming in about a year. I've read that The Coalition plans to support Gears 5 for a very long time after release. I know you can't talk about unreleased hardware, but at a high level, what are your thoughts on even more increased power with the new console in terms of what it will allow you to do technically, but also creatively?


We don’t have anything to announce right now in terms of Gears with the new hardware--but I’m definitely super excited about what the new hardware could do. Having dedicated ray tracing cores is huge.

On the multiplayer side, what are some of the technical innovations you're implementing to make Gears 5 a top-notch multiplayer experience?

I’m probably most proud of being able to achieve 60fps on Xbox One and Xbox One X for Versus, Escape, and Horde. It really helps with playability and consistency. We also brought a lot of our campaign tech into our multiplayer maps--for example we use volume fog in some of our MP levels and some levels also use cone step mapping. Our MP levels always output at 1080p due to temporal upscaling and all outdoor MP levels use shadow cascades for dynamic crisp shadows, which is a big step up from Gears of War 4’s soft baked shadow maps.

With Gears 5, this is now The Coalition's second brand-new Gears game after taking over the franchise from Epic. Do you feel you're now hitting your stride and blazing your own trail?

I feel like we have more confidence with the franchise now and are more comfortable taking risks. I’m really happy with how we were able to add new gameplay elements like Jack and the overworlds and not break the core loop of what makes Gears feel like Gears.

I understand you're also able to talk about the development of new and existing characters in Gears 5, so at a high level can you talk about Kait and her trajectory in this game?

Gears 5 is all about Kait’s journey and her discovering what is the nature of her connection to the swarm. I don’t want to spoil anything!

From what I've played so far, the relationships between the characters--old and new--are more nuanced and dynamic than ever. Can you talk about the kind of story you wanted to tell in Gears 5 and how you go about balancing and pacing a story with so many different characters and interwoven storylines?

Gears 5 is all about Kait’s story, but of course we also wanted to develop and flesh out the other characters as well. To get the pacing of the story correct it’s a lot of collaboration between Rod Ferguson our creative director, Matt Searcy our Campaign Director, Bonnie Jean Mah our Narrative Director, and Tom Bissell our writer to get the story and pacing correct throughout the campaign. It’s a delicate art!
 
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Mista

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60fps just needs any justification. Its the damn right way to go
Who is fucking sane to prefer 30fps over 60fps?

Thought the same thing, until I read (from a poster in here) that 60 fps is not needed in this types of games, 30 fps is more cinematic and that some people don't realize that high frame-rates are better for gameplay.
Whoever said that is full of shit. 60fps is better in single-player and multi-player. So I don't understand why anyone would complain
 

NOLA_Gaffer

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Thought the same thing, until I read (from a poster in here) that 60 fps is not needed in this types of games, 30 fps is more cinematic and that some people don't realize that high frame-rates are better for gameplay.
I mean cinematic is technically 24fps, so even 30fps is too many frames to be considered cinematic.

Also that poster is a dummy.
 

Lupin3

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Since my PC is killing the game, this doesn't really affect me. But I'm still glad they didn't compromise. I remember playing 4 on One, and finding Horde nearly unplayable. Not that I play Horde anyway, but still...

30 fps is a thing of the past. On PC, at least...
 

ZywyPL

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Asking for 60FPS from a hardware than barely handles 900p at 30, some of you guys are on some serious stuff... That being said, I'm still amazed they still achieved 60FPS on the X, since it's the same old Jaguar CPU. First Halo 5, then FH4, now Gears 5, we can clearly see MS pushing for 60FPS whenever possible, so next-gen titles can get only better.
 

GermanZepp

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Driveclub was 30fps
Still amazed by how smooth the game feels🤔
I used to be a believer like you, then i took an arrow.... i mean . I used to think that solid 30fps was fine, played rocket league and then launched driveclub after and it felt choppy as FUCK. Destiny was solid, Horizon ZD, feels solid too but guarantee you that if you play a game at 60fps and then change right after to a "smooth" 30fps you gonna felt the same.
 
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Spukc

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I used to be a believer like you, then i took an arrow.... i mean . I used to think that solid 30fps was fine, played rocket league and then launched driveclub after and it felt choppy as FUCK. Destiny was solid, Horizon ZD, feels solid too but guarantee you that if you play a game at 60fps and then change right after to a "smooth" 30fps you gonna felt the same.
Bullshit i game at 120hz all the time.
Got a great ultrawide 3440x1440 gsync. I know what pc gaming is.
Driveclub does not look like 30fps.
There is something weird about that game
 

DeepEnigma

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Bullshit i game at 120hz all the time.
Got a great ultrawide 3440x1440 gsync. I know what pc gaming is.
Driveclub does not look like 30fps.
There is something weird about that game
Yeah, I do not know where he gets "choppy" from. The game never dips frames, if at all ever, even with the insane weather effects.

Some voodoo magic 30fps going on. Possibly a very well done motion blur solution and sense of speed with a locked framerate.

While I do prefer 60fps over 30fps if I have the option, DC is no slouch.
 

DocONally

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If only all developers put such care into framerate.



If you're gonna be an ass and shitpost, why post at all?
Fair point, sorry! Honest answer: I was bored at work.

On topic, I've only had time to play the training mode, but I love the smoothness. Been watching the kids play it, and it all looks fairly standard by today's, er, standards. But still, I can't wait to dive in (Xbox One OG).
 

manfestival

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In 2019, developers do damage control of why it was 60fps and not 240fps. Why can't you fully utilize my $800 gaming monitor on these consoles devs?!
 

Barakov

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If it was a locked 60 I'd be good with it. Buy from what I've seen on the X it ranges from a locked 60 to the high 50's. Honestly, I would've taken a solid 30 with better graphics and effects. It's pretty apparent and unsurprising that they had to make some sacrifices to get to the (nearly) 60fps target they were aiming for on consoles. And the cutscenes still run in 30fps to boot. Still think you need to play this on PC to get all the bells and whistles.
 

Panajev2001a

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Mista Mista c’mon, implying that for a third persone cover shooter there is no possible reason to go 30 FPS with motion blur over 60 FPS is borderline disingenuous (we are not taking about DOOM 2016 here). You have over twice the CPU and GPU budget at 30 FPS than 60 FPS.

As a developer you balance everything, so it is up to The Coalition to decide and gamers should respect their decisions, but respecting it and for some people wishing they pushed the graphics and physics envelope further are not mutually exclusive.
 

urmie

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60fps will always be great. Since games will be backward compatible next-gen, I'm curious if some games will receive something like "Scarlett enhanced" patches.
 

pawel86ck

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If it was a locked 60 I'd be good with it. Buy from what I've seen on the X it ranges from a locked 60 to the high 50's. Honestly, I would've taken a solid 30 with better graphics and effects. It's pretty apparent and unsurprising that they had to make some sacrifices to get to the (nearly) 60fps target they were aiming for on consoles. And the cutscenes still run in 30fps to boot. Still think you need to play this on PC to get all the bells and whistles.
It's 60fps for the 99% of time and even performance mode in GOW4 run worse. So performance is good and if someone game on freesync monitor/tv it's perfect.

GOW4 was extremely laggy on xbox and 30fps mode was horrible to play. So 30fps in Gears 5 was never a good idea, and no wonder Gears 5 is 60fps game.

But I have to say in GOW 1-3 inputlag wasnt a problem for me and 30fps felt good enough. I'm replaying these classic gears of war games from time to time and I dont even mind 30fps on them (sub 30fps sometimes😅). I dont know why, but 30fps in GOW1 felt perfelctly smooth, yet the same 30fps in Gears 4 was laggy to the extreme. Maybe it has something to do with vsync on xbox one?
 

Mista

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Mista Mista c’mon, implying that for a third persone cover shooter there is no possible reason to go 30 FPS with motion blur over 60 FPS is borderline disingenuous (we are not taking about DOOM 2016 here). You have over twice the CPU and GPU budget at 30 FPS than 60 FPS.

As a developer you balance everything, so it is up to The Coalition to decide and gamers should respect their decisions, but respecting it and for some people wishing they pushed the graphics and physics envelope further are not mutually exclusive.
Gamers have always complained and cried “we want 60fps” and now when it’s actually there they say we want 30fps? What kind of a shitshow is this?

Do you play Gears competitively? Do you know how much the 60fps made the gameplay smoother? To hell with the graphics, I’d take 60fps over 4k/30fps and over everything else

Every year, all the games people asks for 60fps and now suddenly 30fps is what they want? What a joke
 
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JLMC469

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That’s one of the things that I will remember most from this gen (unfortunately). Devs sacrificing gameplay for prettier graphics.
 

~Fake

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60 fps will always be better than 30 fps no doubt, but a smoth 30 with decent motion blur is still enjoyable. I mean, people being fine playing old consoles games that can't barelly archieve stable 30. People act like they can't survive playing 30 fps game. The horror replaying my n64 games...

Two facts he need to know:

- Players ask for 60 fps, but what is the price for doing so?
- Options is always better. You can't go wrong here.

For me? A option for a fixed stable 30 fps plus native 4k pushing much high details at possible and I good. Nobody is asking for remove 60 fps option because I probably use for multiplayer matches. Of course, if the 30 fps was a mess in terms of stability, so is better they never exist.

Next gen need to be about 'options'. Give player choise whatever dafuk he want.
 
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pawel86ck

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Jan 27, 2018
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60 fps will always be better than 30 fps no doubt, but a smoth 30 with decent motion blur is still enjoyable. I mean, people being fine playing old consoles that can't barelly archieve stable 30. People act like they can't survive playing 30 fps game. The horror replaying my n64 games...

Two facts he need to know:

- Players ask for 60 fps, but what is the price for doing so?
- Options is always better. You can't go wrong here.

For me? A option for a fixed stable 30 fps plus native 4k pushing much high details at possible and I good. Nobody is asking for remove 60 fps option because I probably use for multiplayer matches. Of course, if the 30 fps was a mess in terms of stability, so is better they never exist.

Next gen need to be about 'options'. Give player choise whatever dafuk he want.
IMO 30fps on old consoles was much better experience than the same 30fps on xbox one and PS4.

For example gta 5. On PS3 and xbox 360 game run at around 25-30 fps yet I could aim easily even without auto target lock. On current gen version however aiming feels very laggy, like moving underwater. I dont know why these current gen games are so laggy, but because of that it makes 60fps a must.
 
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Jigsaah

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Um...skew me.

I played Versus yesterday and it was a sub 30fps disaster. Is my X broken?
 
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As a PC gamer all my games hit 60 and the ones that can't I just manually change settings. I kinda wish there was no compromise if a game is going to be on multiple platforms including PC. It's just more gimping a game for people who don't need it gimped to please console owners. The problem is having to hit 4k all the time, which is ridiculous, part of why I always hit 60 on PC is that I don't play games in 4k almost ever. The 4K target for the X is just ludicrous and no game should be gimped to hit it.
 

Hackz

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I've been gaming on a high end PC with a 144Hz monitor for so long now that 30fps just feels awful, it really does.
 

Jigsaah

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Thought the same thing, until I read (from a poster in here) that 60 fps is not needed in this types of games, 30 fps is more cinematic and that some people don't realize that high frame-rates are better for gameplay.
60 fps...is not needed in an action shooter? WHAT!?

Who said this...I'm very curious? If they haven't before, they definitely exposed themselves now.
 
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Jigsaah

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If you are playing on a X then yes very broken. Only time I've seen a noticeable drop is when there are a lot of particle effects and shaders onscreen and even then never to the point of sub 30, more like just over 50
I'mma try it again tonight or I'm reinstalling. It was unplayable for me. 2 matches in a row, and my ping was 70. I know for a fact my internet gets 250 mb download. So the only thing I could think of was the connection to the servers or my X is dying.
 
Jan 29, 2019
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If only all developers put such care into framerate.



If you're gonna be an ass and shitpost, why post at all?
Honestly that was pretty funny given that the studio also claimed that the game was "grounded in diversity".

Stop with your white knighting, it's no fun, and just as offensive.
 

thelastword

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"On Xbox One X, Gears 5 runs at 4k/60fps across campaign and all multiplayer modes. Penty said the team refused to compromise as it did with Gears of War 4. "We put a line in the sand early on in development of Gears 5 that we wanted the campaign to be 60fps on Xbox One X," he said. "We didn’t want to have a compromise like Gears of War 4 where you had to choose 1080p/60fps or 4k/30fps. It was a large amount of work across a lot of disciplines to pull it off, but I really think it was worth it and is probably the best example of harnessing the additional power of the Xbox One X."

Really?


Driveclub was 30fps
Still amazed by how smooth the game feels🤔
This is from Perkins DC's tech lead.......Hope he gets a gig at PD or Sony's next big arcade racer...…..There is always truth and knowledge about the details.....This was DC;s demo before release, so not final code......So you can get an understanding on how they achieved it......

----------
"From a direct digital feed of Sony's live Gamescom demo, it's a convincing, constant 30fps for the Scotland and Norway stages. And thankfully there are no frame-pacing issues to speak of, nor tearing during the PS4-driven gameplay. Save for the introduction of tearing during a debug 'orbital' mode towards the demo's end, it's a perfectly locked experience during regular gameplay. But surely the game's internal systems work at above this 30Hz cap?

Talking briefly on its physics engine, Perkins explains how the game's handling model is designed to keep latency as low as possible. "The update rate for how it comes into place, tyre to surface, suspension to car, is much quicker than the actual refresh rate."

"The latency is as small as we could possibly make it. One of the things we [also] did when we were coming up with the PlayStation 4 itself was work heavily with the guys designing the controller, to make it much more responsive and much easier to use with driving games as well."
----------

The 1886 devs also did something similar with the controller, not the refresh rate as DC, but they cut down input latency to probably the lowest you will find in a TPS.....Personally I wanted Evo to be around just to see what they would do on a PS5 at launch...….Their tech prowess was simply bonkers....
 
Aug 28, 2019
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"gotta compromise physics based stuff for 4k/60fps"
"the multiplatform video game Control aggressively exists while this idea is espoused"
 

thelastword

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So I don't get this, you butcher ATD for 60fps, when there are platforms (PC) which could run this with good physics and with everything we saw in Gears 3 at 60fps....And uhmm 10 years later? why not plop even more ATD over what we saw in Gears 3...….So perhaps now, the videos we would be seeing would entail; "Hey! watch how Gears 5 takes physics and ATD to a next level over Gears 3", Props Coalition.....Of course, you would think that would be the natural evolution of things or technology...…..but, NO.....This is what we get and now it's being justified?

Then when next gen arrives and all games are bonkers with new physics technology and ATD, you BC this gears game to 4k 60fps, but it's soul is bland, lacking so much ATD and detail from games that came out the same generation and even ten years before it.........So when I boot Uncharted 4, LOU 2 through BC at 4k 60fps or even the remasters for that matter, the ten year old games, I can still enjoy the physics and go wild with attention to detail in their world. but when I boot Gears 5 it would feel like watching paint dry relative to interactivity and immersion......I swear,,,,,,,,, soon, someone will justify that the utter butchering of physics and ATD from Gears 3 to Gears 5 is an artistic decision......Notwithstanding that the XBONEX hardware is leagues faster than the 360...…..

Hell, where is Phil Spencer these days anyway.....He said there would be no compromises with XBONEX...…..I haven't seen or heard from him in a while, has he bolted?
 

Yu Furealdo

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IMO 30fps on old consoles was much better experience than the same 30fps on xbox one and PS4.

For example gta 5. On PS3 and xbox 360 game run at around 25-30 fps yet I could aim easily even without auto target lock. On current gen version however aiming feels very laggy, like moving underwater. I dont know why these current gen games are so laggy, but because of that it makes 60fps a must.
Are you sure that you didn't get a new tv or something that introduced input latency?
 

01011001

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Dec 4, 2018
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I'm in Act 3 and so far this is by far the best Gears game to date, don't @ me

I'm playing it on a PC, my brother plays on an Xbox One X and the game looks amazing on both...
also that PC port is basically flawless,
like Total Biscuit would literally make love to that options menu if he was still here to see it (😢)
 
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