GameTime outside America

GameTime outside America

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Björn comments on my previous post:

The default 60Hz-because-of-TV-refresh makes me wonder: does this change to 50Hz when the XBox is connected to a PAL TV? Or - from a not too serious POV - is this just another default chosen in the spirit of "We are Americans and deal with i18n issues in v.Next"? :]

For American readers: PAL is the television format used by the rest of the world. It runs at 50 hz, as opposed to the 60 hz of the American NTSC format (except for Brazil, which confusingly uses PAL but runs it at 60 hz).

This obviously makes no difference if you are using variable timesteps: your game will work the same whatever refresh rate the output device may be using.

For fixed timestep games, things can go a few different ways.

In the bad old days, some games used to just change their fixed timestep to 50 frames per second when running on a PAL device, making the gameplay run 1/6 slower as a result. European gamers who remember the days of the SNES and Megadrive will be all too familiar with crappy ports of Japanese games that felt sluggish as a result of this!

More polished games used to change their fixed timestep to 50 frames per second, then adjust all their speed constants to compensate. Old-skool European gamers will remember the frustration of waiting six months for a PAL version after games were released in Japan and the US. Part of that delay was tweaking the gameplay to work at the new framerate.

Modern games often leave their fixed timestep set to 60 hz even on a 50 hz TV. This keeps the gameplay the same with minimal effort, at the cost of a slight visual stuttering. The resulting glitches and tearing drive some people up the wall, but others will never notice it: your mileage may vary.

Fortunately, this problem is in the process of going away entirely. Modern PAL televisions are capable of displaying both 50 and 60 hz signals, so you can run at 60 hz and know every gamer with a decent TV will be able to see your game as it was intended, no matter what continent they may call home. People with older televisions will see some stuttering, but hey. If it bothers them, that's a great excuse to splash out on a new widescreen plasma display :-)

  • Most modern CRT PAL TVs double the refresh rate from 50 Hz to 100 Hz, resulting in flicker free image. However, when they're fed a 60 Hz signal they usually don't double this to 120 Hz, so the image won't look nearly as good. Since more and more games are 60 Hz only, this means that using an Xbox 360 on a PAL CRT TV doesn't make much sense, to get a decent picture you should hook it up to an LCD TV or LCD VGA display (not an VGA CRT, since it will only run at 60 Hz).

    I noticed that some games will run fine and smooth at 50 Hz except for the cut scenes, which were apparently pre-rendered at 60 Hz and have a lot of stuttering. An example is Kameo (Elements of Power).

    Also, "PAL is the television format used by the rest of the world" is not exactly accurate, many countries still use SECAM (such as French and former colonies, Russia and other countries from the former USSR, and some countries in Asia).

  • > European gamers who remember the days of the

    > SNES and Megadrive will be all too familiar

    > with crappy ports of Japanese games that felt

    > sluggish as a result of this!

    I always felt the 'star worlds' in Super Mario World were not nearly sluggish enough :p

    Please revist the comments on your previous post, I kinda like the current timestep behavior.

  • Actaully many countries also use NTSC (Not just the US).

    See: http://www.kropla.com/tv.htm

  • This is very good news.  Thanks for the informative article.  I'm glad we don't have to worry about these things.

    P.S.  In firefox 3.5, the code required for comment posting doesn't appear.

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