UPDATE: It has been confirmed by Mark Rubin from Infinity Ward that the Xbox One version of Call of Duty: Ghosts runs at 720p, whilst the PS4 version runs at 1080p.
Hey, been on the road last couple weeks so haven’t had a chance to update, but wanted to confirm that for (cont) http://t.co/du9QZJNkLm
— Mark Rubin (@IWMarkRubin) October 30, 2013
ORIGINAL: Much has been made of the speculation last week that Playstation 4 will run Call of Duty: Ghosts in full HD (1080p) following an IGN preview event, which seems to be confirmed by the listing for the game on the PSN store. Then came ‘confirmation’ from a number of sources within the industry on Twitter that Xbox One would only run certain games at 720p:
I’m not reviewing any Xbox One games so I will tell you right now, Ghosts on XB1 is indeed 720p vs PS4′s 1080p. Could that change? Maybe? — David Abrams (@CheapyD) October 26, 2013
The smoking gun according to some speculators though, is that Microsoft have neither confirmed nor denied the rumour, with one Microsoft employee connected to Xbox One simply stating:
I’ve seen COD: Ghosts running on Xbox One. It looks f’n amazing. Wait for real footage, then judge for yourself. — Albert Penello (@albertpenello) October 23, 2013
Which is a fair comment, but not the confirmation of output resolution that the public now demands. There’s an adage in my industry worth remembering, which states “if it’s not written down, it isn’t true’.
Now let me set out my stall; I’m not here to speculate on the veracity of these snippets, but someone asked me the other day if it really matters if the Xbox One will only output some games in 720p? Please be clear, I’m no Xbox fan boy looking to justify my decision to pre-order this particlular flavour of console (full disclosure, I have a PS4 on pre-order); for the past decade I’ve been a professional scientist and this is a look at some of the science behind screen resolution and how you perceive it to add informed opinion to the 1080p vs 720p debate.
Based on the work of Dr. Hermann Snellen, who was also responsible for this:
We know that we can calculate the optimal viewing distance (VD) of a screen of any given diagonal size (DS) in inches, if we know the native horizontal and vertical resolution of that screen (NHR and NVR) and the horizontal resolution of the content being displayed (CVR) in pixels, or the more catchy:
VD = CS /((SQRT(((NHR/NVR)^2)+1))*CVR*TAN(1/60))
So using this equation with fixed native resolution of 1080p I have calculated the optimal viewing distance for a range of screen sizes for media being displayed at 720p and 1080p:
But what does this really mean to you?
Draw a line up from the bottom axis depicting the size of your TV and a line across from the right, showing how far you sit from the screen when you’re gaming/viewing (actually, please don’t draw on your screen.. imagine the lines). If the point at which they cross is in the shaded zone, then you should be able to notice the difference between output at 1080p and that at 720p.
The interesting question is, how many of us will really notice this? I have a 40″ television but when sat on my sofa, I am around 8′ from it so can’t actually tell the difference between 720p and 1080p.
Regulations in the UK state that a living room should not be smaller than around 12 feet by 12 feet, couple that with OFCOM figures which show that the majority of televisions sold in the UK have screens smaller than 42″ and it is reasonable to speculate that a great deal of people won’t be able to notice the difference either. That said, the percentage of 43″ or larger sets in increasing year on year and it’s reasonable to assume that people who are willing to spend hundreds of pounds on a console, are also willing to spend on a larger screen to enjoy it on; our straw poll of gamers on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ indicated an average screen size of 45″.
Saying that screen resolution alone is the only measure of image quality is a dramatic oversimplification; dynamic light and polygon count are two of a myriad of factors, but there is a less significant visual enhancement between current and next gen owing to diminishing returns from increasing polygon count as seen below:
The real benefit of the next generation will be the increased computing power which will allow developers far greater resources to produce games that look great and play well, a point that I feel the more militant gamers miss. Whilst graphical improvements are desirable, I want to play the game; people talk about immersion in a game, but when you are truly immersed (deeply mentally involved) you will suffer a degree of in-attentional blindness as shown in the famous experiment below.
With limitations on graphical output, it’s possible to use this selective attention to your advantage; as evidenced by the recent hit Killzone: Mercenary on the Playstation Vita. In this game the dynamic resolution system was Guerilla’s Gorilla walking through the scene. When you are stood still in the game, the native resolution is maintained allowing frame-rate to drop; when you are moving it allows a reduction in resolution to maintain frame-rate. This means that you can see the image quality when you are most likely to observe it (i.e. stood still, taking screenshots etc.) but that the frame-rate is maintained when you are moving and shooting and the key thing is, you don’t even notice when you’re playing… selective attention.
We are at the start of a new console generation and I suspect that developers will find the tricks and tweaks for the different flavours of console faster than ever before, ensuring parity, so we shouldn’t really be worried if a few games run at a resolution that’s not discernibly distinguishable for the majority; of course we gamers are fickle beasts and this will just be another weapon in the arsenal for the ongoing fanboy wars.
My advice as a gamer and professional scientist is thus: If your TV is so big and/or your room small enough that it makes a difference, then yes, consider your choice of console at launch carefully. If not, get the one your friends are going to be on 😉