Dynamic resolution scaling: Advantages and disadvantages

The dynamic resolution scaling, or DRS, is a technique employed by the video game developer Firaxis Games for their turn-based strategy game “Civilization V”. The company uses this technology for each frame rendering at an internal resolution higher than the one visible on screen. By doing so, additional performance can be achieved and stuttering minimized.

What is dynamic resolution scaling?


Dynamic resolution scaling

Dynamic resolution scaling is a technique used to avoid excessive hardware requirements and improve the performance and framerate. Instead of rendering everything at native screen resolution, which tends to be too heavy for current mainstream GPUs, developers render major objects at much higher internal resolution than that visible on the display through an effect called downscaling. Read more: IT Product Development: Games vs Apps

What are downsampling and supersampling?

Downsampling is an image reconstruction technique to reduce the number of pixels in each dimension (usually width and/or height) without affecting the level of detail. Thus, it reduces computational costs thanks to a lower frame buffer resolution. Supersampling is basically downsampling with an improved anti-aliasing filter that gives quality close to the one of a rendering at full resolution.

What is the difference between downsampling and supersampling?

The main difference is that downsampling reduces dimensions while supersampling increases them. For video games, it means that with downsampling, performance will increase but details on objects will be lost as the perceived quality of an object diminishes as its size decrease. Supersampling is closer to a 4K rendering and will give the best possible image quality but performance will be significantly reduced.

What are the advantages of using dynamic resolution scaling?

First, it allows developers to solely focus on one aspect of their game: gameplay. Second, it can make a game look better without requiring more powerful hardware. Finally, it reduces the number of assets rendered, which means less GPU power consumption and memory usage.

What are the disadvantages of using dynamic resolution scaling?

The main drawback is performance loss. It takes a lot of computational power to render objects at higher internal resolutions and it can sometimes result in a lower framerate. Supersampling is more CPU-intensive than downsampling and might be difficult to implement for some.

Does dynamic resolution increase FPS?

In theory, dynamic resolution scaling can give a maximum of 40% increase in FPS. In practice, it is more likely to see a 5 to 30% improvement.

Why no one uses this technique? The first reason is that it adds a lot of work for the developers as they have to optimize objects rendering at various resolutions and maintain a constant frame rate. The second reason is that it might result in a lower framerate than the one achievable without this technique.

What PC games use dynamic resolution scaling?

The only game to use dynamic resolution scaling so far is Firaxis Games’ turn-based strategy game “Civilization V” (2010).

In conclusion, dynamic resolution scaling is a technique used by developers to improve performance and reduce the number of assets rendered. It is designed mainly for strategy games but it could also be used with third-person or first-person shooters.

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