We're big fans of Digital Foundry's work here at Nintendo Life, and the team's breakdowns of game performance always throw up some interesting findings. The guys are back with some more evidence on how Nintendo has managed to produce such an incredible visual spectacle with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - basically, the game dynamically scales the resolution to keep things around the 30fps mark.
While the process isn't entirely elegant, Digital Foundry's Tom Morgan has nevertheless been able to spot dynamic resolution scaling in captured screenshots taken when the Switch is in portable mode (like the one shown above). The results suggest that when the game hits the limit of the system's power, resolution drops to 90 percent on both axes. That means that in portable mode it dips to a resolution of 1152x648 - 81 percent of native 720p in total.
These findings initially seemed to give evidence as to why the game runs better in portable mode than when docked, but Digital Foundry subsequently discovered that the game employs the same scaling when played through the TV as well:
...further investigation confirms that the same scaling tech is utilised when Zelda is docked as well, with a native pixel-count of 1440x810 at stress points, dropping down from its usual 1600x900. Tellingly, this is also a 90 per cent scaling on both X and Y axes, just like the handheld scaling implementation.
It's the same 56 per cent increase in resolution between the two modes, whether the dynamic scaler is active or not, so the bottom line is that Breath of the Wild's increased performance level in handheld mode isn't explained by the game's ability to change its native rendering resolution. The comparatively small bump in memory bandwidth between mobile and docked configuration remains our best theory here. Undocked, Switch runs its LPDD4 modules at 1331MHz, rising to 1600MHz when plugged into the dock. That's only a 20 per cent increase in bandwidth to sustain a 56 per cent uplift in resolution. Meanwhile, both CPU and GPU are tapping into that same pool of bandwidth, possibly causing contention issues.
The discoveries don't end there, though. It has also been found that the Wii U version of the game uses dynamic scaling as well:
As things stand, the dynamic scaler also doesn't explain how the Switch version is capable of outperforming Wii U comprehensively in GPU-bound areas because - yes, you've guessed it - the same scaling technology is also deployed on the last-gen version of Zelda as well. We used Kakariko Village here as an established testing point where performance is poor in order to confirm this. Wii U matches Switch's portable profile, offering up a 1152x648 resolution in these areas.
What's striking about these findings is how well Nintendo has implemented this system; as Digital Foundry admits, this really should have been spotted earlier, but it's so well utilised that it hasn't actually cropped up until now.
While Breath of the Wild isn't without its technical quirks and performance bottlenecks, it's a staggering achievement on a device which is a fraction of the size of a traditional games console - and can be carried around in your bag, to boot. The use of resolution scaling on the fly is just one of the tricks Nintendo has used to hit this goal.
Yeah this is actually pretty amazing that they pulled this off on such low power systems. Absolutely loving this game and already cannot wait for the inevitable "Definitive Edition" on the New Switch Pro XL running @ native 1080p and 60fps!
Digital Foundry throws up interesting finds alright. Usually ends in mud slinging too. :/
Still as I said on another site...
DRS is a very handy technique and it is very good to see Nintendo and partners not only implement it, but implement it to a point it isn't super noticeable. I haven't noticed it at all at least.
All to keep the FPS up and stable (I don't care what the FPS is, so long as its mostly stable, gimme 20 for all I care) which is what determines inputs and fluidity of motion in a game, rather than the focus the power twins have on resolution (I cant even view half of the benefits to 4K anyway, thanks colour-blindness) which determines the space of detail within an image.
In a game where the main focus is the part called gameplay (No duh), you want the motion of actions that make up that gameplay to be as stable as possible first and foremost. Now 60fps smoothness is nice too, especially for some games more than others, but stability is key as it correlates near directly to gameplay.
And that's my opinion on which is needed in game design XD
Not fully sure what all that means but I know that the game looks gorgeous. There have been some dips in frame rate here and there but it hasn't bothered me in the slightest.
from EZA, the wife of one of the guys in their podcast (jones) said his wife was watching him play - or was playing, i forget. he was pointing out to her where the frame drops were and she didn't notice a thing. i think a lot of this is perception. when you know what to look for and look for it, you'll see it. if not, then nothing. it's like learning to taste wine jsut so you'll hate the wine you've enjoyed before because it's got the wrong this or that to it.
I get the impression that only a few people would be upset with this information. As in previous Nintendo console releases the power of the system isn't the selling point. As long as the games are fun right?
@SLIGEACH_EIRE Basically what all the technical jargon means is that the resolution dips for areas that are out of/at the peripheral of vision... this frees up some power to make things you are concentrating on run all the better.
This isn't too uncommon & I believe many AAA titles like Dark Souls 3 use a form of this as well. On an episode of Boundary Breaks, it shows that characters out of shot are reduced to near PS1 quality (in DS3)... even though the PS4 etc. can easilly handle them being full res.
I might be mistaking this for another trick, but Mario 64 drastically reduced the character model quality when you were in motion as it was hard to tell. Sneaky power saving tricks in most games.
@DanteSolablood thinking of a different trick there but it is in the same line of thinking.
@snintendog Thanks. Well I did admit I might have been thinking of a different trick, but it's more or less the same principle. Dynamic conservation of resources.
I'm enjoying this on Wii U at the moment. Still very early on, I haven't made it to a village yet, but my goodness I'm already noticing obvious frame rate dips at stables and woods! Not looking forward to getting to my first village. If it was more frequent it really would impact my enjoyment of the game but luckily that hasn't happened yet. Very disappointing though, I always think frame rate should be prioritised over graphics, certainly if there are dips to 20 or below as it really impacts playability.
The worst frame rate dip I've seen is in Kakariko village. It by no means ruins the experience. It's there if you are doing a 360 scan.
I used to love playing arcade games years ago. I always got pleasure from slowdown on the screen, i don't know why.
The slowdown on Wii u is nothing by comparison. Just to finish; BOTW is a "staggering achievement" on any console, not just Switch. I love my Wii u again.
@gatorboi352 That " New Switch Pro XL" you mention will most likely just be a new Dock that houses an SCD with internal GPU. An add-on for the current Switch, not a replacement.
This is fairly impressive, insofar as it's relatively transparent.
As an example from another platform, the dynamic res scaling on Nioh, on a PS4 Pro of all things, is painfully obvious when it degrades to keep it at [email protected]
Wow. What happened to the real @SLIGEACH_EIRE?
@yuwarite Wouldn't the original hardware need to be designed in such a way to disable the Switch GPU and use the GPU in a new dock though? The current dock really only allows for output capability through HDMI and charging the console.
If it wasn't originally designed to run like that, I don't see that really working. Also, with all of the Nintendo Switch teardowns we've seen so far, someone would have mentioned if something like that was possible.
@Ernest_The_Crab @yuwarite Pretty much all the Switch would need to work with an additional dock CPU is the appropriate firmware & an extremely fast data connection to the dock... say a USB-C port which could be considered an over-kill for it's current use.
After all, Nintendo does have the patent for supplemental computing technology, it could have been Nintendo's intention all along to hold onto this until later in the Switch's life.
Edit: Ernest, you do state that the Switch would need to disable it's own GPU and enable (slave) to the dock's GPU... why? If you have multiple GPUs in a gaming PC you don't need to disable one inorder to get the benefit of the other.
@DanteSolablood Would something similar to SLI work in this case? I'm just asking since they could potentially lower their own costs if they can just add a similar card to the one in the console into a newer dock. Or would that take more than a firmware update (some Nvidia cards like the 1060 don't have SLI support built in)?
For some context on the image, in one of DF videos they explain their method of counting pixels, which surprisingly, is just opening an image in MS Paint and counting the "staircases" in diagonal lines.
Breath of the Wild is just incredible it truly is, I'm playing it on Wii U and it's something else, staggering achievement, magical.
@Ernest_The_Crab It all depends on whether the Switch was designed with SLI capabilities baked in. As of yet, I'm not aware of any x-rays or analysis of the SoC which would tell us this. But between Nvidia's SLI technology & Nintendo's supplemental computing device patent, it's not something that can be 100% dismissed at present.
Really like the game so far but yeah the FPS is one of the biggest flaws of the game. 20 frame villages are gross, but tolerable. The worst is when I'm in a battle with 4-5 enemies and and I need to line up a shot with my bow but then the framerate dives to 15 and makes it near impossible to track with.
Still having fun but considering the gamepad doesn't get used for anything this game would've seriously benefited from being on any other more powerful system
I've been playing the Wii U version for roughly 20+ hours now and gosh, it's the darnedest thing...
I've just been having fun and not looking for reasons to complain and be outraged! So if there have been any framerate drops, I can't say that I've really noticed. Maybe there was a hiccup once or twice? It's kind of something I've come to expect as a gamer for the past several decades. Can't say that it really detracts from the gaming experience.
If the game starts stuttering and freezing the moment any action hits the screen, then I think you'd be justified in complaining, but otherwise, ehhhh...
@JohnSReid What do you mean? I'll gladly give praise when it's deserved. This game is a masterpiece. It's very early days but it could be a contender for Greatest Of All Time(Super Metroid is my all-time favourite). If I don't like something, I say it. No sugarcoating. Hated Skyward Sword. Absolutely awful. I was so disappointed. Only Zelda game I never enjoyed.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE Doesn't hurt it's on the Wii U either.
@DanteSolablood I'm talking about the Wii U version.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE So glad to hear that it plays well on the Wii U.
I must have good, young eyes then, because it's easily noticeable on my 42 inch 720p plasma TV lol
especially in portable mode, you can clearly see the grass at a lower resolution than Link and then you go down a bit more and there's so much grass it has to lower the resolution of the entire screen
Nothing that impacts gameplay though, the low foliage resolution can be distracting (especially when you're looking for the Blupee) but it's implemented very well imo
More importantly than dynamic resolution, Fast RMX devs need to tone down the default volume lol
Nintendo should be taking some 3rd parties to school with techniques like this. It's not a surprise because they always been good at getting the most out their own hardware. Good read!!
I called this. In fact. I was the one to alert Digital Foundry on this when I played the demo and looked at screenshots.
OH! The Wii U version is sub-HD too???? Assassin's Creed III did push the system harder then....
It's the fact that Nintendo managed this vast and varied world in under 14gb that amazes me.
I spotted it first
Worse frame rate dip for me was korok village. Man when the wind blows in the game, it takes the FPS pretty low
Cool piece to read and barely (not at all) comprehend, but I'm just a simple rube; a poor mark whose in-game bafflement at the results of such technical feats makes me happy to still be a gamer in 2017 each and every time I fire up BOTW.
GOTY best game ever so beautiful so amazing best game in existence best game of the century best game for the next 20+ years!
@yuwarite I also think this will be it.
@memoryman3 To be fair Nintendo haven't made a game of grandiose proportions in YEARS, arguably their last complex tech pushing days ended in Major's Mask on N64. The fact they managed an openworld is a feat in itself, yet alone the complexities.
As for Assassins Creed 3, it was ported by a team of less than 40 people in two months. To be honest it could've been optimised alot more. Assassin Creed 3 world is far less complex than the one Nintendo created.
Ah yes, dynamic resolution scaling... Because consoles don't have manual settings like PC's. I'll say this, Cemu is able to run BotW at up to 15-20 FPS now (not fully optimized yet), with an accompanying FPS read at the top, and that looks slow as molasses to me. I wouldn't mind a constant 30 FPS, since that actually looks more cinematic than 60 FPS or more to me. (There's 144 FPS/144 Hz on PC games now) At this point, though, I've tasted the fruit of PC too much. I will buy BotW, but I won't actually play it until Cemu can at least run it between 30-60 FPS.
I grew up with the N64, and all those games like Perfect Dark which had massive slowdown when a bunch of explosions went off. Ironically, it was Nintendo that trained my eyes to notice FPS drops. You can still have fun with it, if anything, it adds an extra element of imagination. ("Why is a time-space anomaly affecting my perception of a pseudo-medieval or near future world?") But yeah, I'm not going into denial, not even for the sake of one of the best games of all time. I'll wait until the Cemu alternative makes for an even nicer experience, unless the NS version can be further improved beyond the 1.1 patch. No, it's not necessary. But what's the harm in it?
Is the Kakariko Village performance the same on Wii U and Switch, or is it marginally better on the Switch?
@Dpullam Performance ranges from marginally to noticeably better across the board on the NS version, especially after the 1.1 patch.
@PlywoodStick Has there been any mention of that Wi-fi issue fixing the framerate in Kakariko Village when turned off?
@GravyThief the dip in villages is not worse, it's the same dip you expirience in stables and other places
@yuwarite that'd be nice. If I were to own a Switch it'd only ever have it docked anyways.
@Ernest_The_Crab Since it uses USB type C, my guess is it'd work similar to how an EGPU + laptop works. Or it could work completely independant of the Switch and basically be a standalone system, which doubles as a dock and lets you use the Switch and TV together like the Wii U. There's a couple of ways they can go about it.
Additionally, I think they will release a smaller Switch (same specs, no dock), made primarily for the portable market.
@PlywoodStick Buy the game you bum
@Dpullam Well, apparently that article made NL a little more famous.
I don't think NintendoLife has reported on this yet, but allegedly, it's due to a firmware design flaw which drains more GPU resources than it should. In other words, the current NS firmware version is not fully optimized for the hardware. (As if we weren't aware of that already )
This information was conveyed through an interview conducted by Eurogamer's Digital Foundry with Shin'en Multimedia on the topic of Fast RMX not currently being able to sustain full 1080p when docked. Once the next firmware revision comes out, issues like this should be fixed. It remains to be seen if this is related to the Wifi issue.
@EternalDragonX I will, I'm buying the Wii U version! I just want to play it with better settings than the Wii U hardware can offer.
@PlywoodStick Very interesting. I hope it helps fix Zelda too then!
I hate it how some people have made it sound like the game was barely functioning technically, even though the reality is that the frame rate dips are barely noticeable and definitely not worse compared to other similar games.
Ocarina of Time had frame rate troubles at its time, and they were a lot worse.
The game is great, that's all that matters!
Love the graphics too. With Skyward sword I had the feeling: Maybe it would have looked better on stronger hardware. But here with Breath of the wild (on my Wii u) it just feels right. Looks like Nintendo finally found a more mature cel-shading style that clicked!
That said: If they have a crazy idea for a different art-style for the next Zelda, go ahead! Keeping it fresh!
Man, they really weren't kidding when I heard they did zero optimization for the Switch port...
The game itself is truly stellar and l'm really enjoying it, but they could have done so much more graphically if they bothered to have it utilize Tegra's resources to its fullest extent like they did with Wii U's PowerPC architecture.
If Shin'en can do it with flying colors for Fast Racing neo/Fast RMX transition, why not Nintendo?
@SLIGEACH_EIRE I'm glad you're enjoying it so much
Was just a jibe as I don't think I've actually read such a singularly positive post from you before.
Tap here to load 50 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...