If you’re using software to measure the quality of your gaming experience, you’re missing something.
We’ve been working for years to analyze and improve the gaming experience for our customers. What we found is what many customers have long noticed: the most common software tool for measuring a game’s performance – FRAPs – doesn’t always capture what users are seeing.
Particularly when using multiple graphics cards, users are noticing that the action can often pause and stutter even when their software tools are telling them they should be seeing silky-smooth action.
The problem: FRAPs accurately measures frames when they are transferred from a game engine. But a lot happens between that point and when a game gets to the screen. In fact, we found that gamers weren’t imagining things: there can be a big difference between what users see on FRAPs and what they experience.
Two of the problems: what we call ‘drops’ and ‘runts.’ Drops occur when frames that are counted by FRAPs are never displayed. Runt frames, by contrast, are displayed, but only for a few lines of the full 1080p that should be displayed.
Sometimes these drops and runts can cause visible ‘tears’ in the scene being put on the screen. Other times they’re too small to see, but like drops they break the smooth flow of the onscreen action, resulting in a stuttery experience.
So, to better understand what was going on behind the scenes and to help make the overall gaming experience as good as possible, we devised a solution that we call Frame Capture Analysis Tools or FCAT for short.
Capturing the data and properly analyzing it isn’t a trivial task. It includes the use of a special capture card, special overlay software that shows a ‘color bar,’ or fixed color sequence on the display, and scripts that help analyze and graph the data.
By using the capture card with the on-screen color bar we are able to compare the content that’s actually shown on the screen with what we know should be there and correlate that to what the real gaming experience is. Simple.
We’re proud of the work that we’ve put into this – and we think it can help gamers get the experience they’re paying for. So we’re opening up our FCAT solution, making the scripts and software associated with FCAT freely-modifiable and redistributable. The technical press has already dug in, and the results have been dramatic.
Our hope: that third-party apps can replicate and replace our tools, giving gamers what they need to be sure they’re getting all of the graphics quality they’re paying for.