Over the years, gamers have gotten used to highly detailed games that drop frames and get distractingly choppy when the action gets too intense (a deep pain I’ve personally been suffering through since at least Gradius III on the SNES). Now it seems some developers are toying with the idea of dropping a few pixels of resolution in those cases in order to keep the frame rate silky smooth.
The technique is called dynamic resolution scaling, and a recent analysis by Digital Foundry goes into some detail about how it works in Halo 5: Guardians. Basically, the developers at 343 have prioritized hitting 60fps consistently through the entire game, a big boon for a twitchy first-person shooter (and a first for the Halo series). The level of graphical detail in some game scenes, though, means that such a high frame rate can only be delivered at resolutions well below the Xbox One‘s highest 1080p standard.
Instead of just statically setting a low resolution ceiling for the entire game, though, Halo 5 dynamically changes the resolution based on the detail of the current in-game scene. This on-the-fly adjustment takes place on both the X and Y axes, with resolutions jumping from as low as 1152×810 to as high as 1536×1080 in Digital Foundry’s analysis. The apparent on-the-fly change in resolution wasn’t even noticeable to my eye during some recent testing.