The Art of Gaming

First Person Shooters (FPS)

Hello All!

This bit is dedicated entirely to first person shooters!  This genre has really made a name for itself in the past 10 years and has also broken into the forefront of competitive gaming.  In fact, most MLG gaming ladders and tournaments are focused on these types of games.  FPS demand lightning fast response times, pin point accuracy and very good shadow detail.

So, how do projectors hold up to the display challenge?

Well, for 99% of gamers, I’d say playing FPS on a projector is a real treat.   I’ve had countless hours of Halo on my 100” screen, all of which were nothing short of amazing.  And if you have your buddies over, a 120” split screen gives all four players a 60” screen to play on.  Anyone making excuses about “not being able to see their quarter of the screen” can just be laughed at.

I know many of you are probably curious about response time/input lag.  There is a lot of debate about this issue, especially with projectors.  And if there is a genre that is affected most by response time, it is FPS.   Obviously, variations exist between different titles and different projectors, but my qualitative opinion is, for most gamers, projectors are very comparable to LCD TVs in regards to response time. (I’ll go into more detail below)

What about frame interpolation?  If used appropriately, I’ve found frame interpolation systems can smooth out motion blur on some FPS pretty well.  Keep in mind, frame interpolation systems can help with motion blur, but they also hurt response time.   You need to decide what works best for you, and this may change depending on the game.

For most, I think projectors are great for FPS.  They allow split screen battles without having to squint to see your section of the the screen and make for an overall more enjoyable experience.   These days I always choose to play my FPS on a projector.   It’s just…better.

 

So, about the other 1%…

I was on a FPS binge a few years back when I played Rainbow Six 3 (XBOX) very seriously.  Many people don’t realize the steps professional gamers take to ensure top performance.  I remember turning the brightness settings on my TV all the way up so the screen was completely washed out to make sure I had good vision in dark areas.  I also refused to play on anything except my 14” flat screen.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but when money is on the line, picture quality is an afterthought. 

For any pro gamers out there, I think FPS are best left on a TV.  Here’s why:

First, pro gamers are playing all the time (at least 40 hours a week), including during the day.  Everyone knows projector image quality starts to deteriorate in non-light controlled rooms.  This is definitely an issue in a competitive scenario.   Also, at 40 hours a week, bulb cost becomes more than an afterthought.  Even though some tournament prizes are reaching the $100K mark, multi-year bulb replacement probably isn’t in the budget of most competitive gamers.

Next is the zinger…input lag.   Any and all common and current display devices have input lag.   If you are going to game in HD, it’s something you must put up with.   A really fast display will have  less than 10ms input lag.  For pro gaming, I think a reasonable number to shoot for is  less than 20ms.   It’s really tough to quantify these things, but I estimate my projector (Epson 6500UB) to be around  30-40ms (frame interpolation off).   Many LCD TVs have input lag in the 30-40ms range.  I personally can not tell the difference in input lag between my Sharp LCD TV and my projector.  I can switch between the two on games like Rock Band and not notice the difference.

Lastly, there is a strange phenomenon I encountered during my time as a competitive gamer.  I still have yet to figure out what causes it, but for the purposes of this blog I will call it “FPS large screen syndrome”.  FYI…FPS are the only genre I have found this to be noticeable.  For games like Rock Band, this does not apply.

There are many accounts of people that play FPS who have switched to larger screen sizes and noticed a drop in performance.  Most write it off as a fault of response time, but I have compared (somewhat quantitatively) the response times of projectors and LCD TVs and don’t think that is the full answer.  The readings I get from LCD TVs and projectors using the calibration system in Rock Band are very close.  Yea, I know…it’s not the most official of tests, but the results seem too close to matter (even with my reaction time…  ;)  )

However, I also cannot play first person shooters as well on a large screen as I can on a small screen.   I noticed this first when I played RS3 competitively.  (Remember how I said I refused to play on any TV but that 14”?)  I don’t know what it was, something was just…off.

If you couldn’t tell by the name I invented…I believe it has something to do with playing on a large screen.  Sadly, I don’t have much evidence to support my claims.  Maybe the brain can process visuals on a smaller screen quicker than it can on a larger screen?   All I know is, as a competitive gamer, there was a noticeable decrease in FPS performance going from a small screen to a large screen (both LCD) even if the input lags were similar.

For those curious, I did force myself to play only on a 100” projector for a while in hopes I could get accustomed to the size difference.  I was able to get somewhat acclimated to it, but I still could not perform as well as could on my 14” screen.  Furthermore, I tried this test on a number of larger LCD TVs with similar results.  Though my skills seemed to be inhibited less, there still was a noticeable difference moving from my 14″ to a 42″ LCD.  Which leads me to believe this “syndrome” is a function of screen size, NOT response time.

What puzzles me the most, is I don’t notice the difference when I play games like Rock Band (which also require fast response times)…It’s only in FPS…Who knows!!!???

Please, please, please…if you are not a member of the pro or aspiring pro FPS gaming community, do not be scared off by the “syndrome”.  I can say without hesitation that most people (including you naturally competitive folks) will love FPS on a projector.  I just thought it was worth mentioning for those people who can tell when they’ve skipped a day of “training”.

 

That’s all for now!

–Pete

(Also, if anyone knows a better way than Rock Band to test the response time of display devices – please let me know!)

News And Comments

  • Dan

    There is a device known as a syncheck (syncheck.com) which was designed to accurately measure a video display’s latency for correcting lip synch issues. It isn’t cheap, but it’s accurate and reliable.

  • Scott S

    I am one of the other gamers Art was talking with, I have not heard from him for a little while though. You can connect a laptop to the projector, and use this program:

    http://tft.vanity.dk/

    Take a picture of the screen, with the laptop in front of it, then check both timers. If there is any difference of the time on the clocks, then that’s your lag time. This makes it easy to check various lengths of HDMI cables as well.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/pete/ pete

      Ya, I was looking into this…

      However, the observed difference would be just that…the difference between the laptop’s response time and the other display’s response time, not the “true” input lag. It is definitely an option though, thanks for the link!

  • Eli

    Hello!

    Great article! I have an Epson 8350 in which play with my PS3 and I can confirm the experience is definitely amazing!! Much better than on a smaller screen…makes for a more immersing experience! I played CoD MW2, Bioshock, UT3, BF BC2, Orange Box for many hours….great!

    About the First person large screen syndrome…I believe it has to do with the perception of the screen size by the brain, like you said. Somehow the brain relates the size of the screen with the “distance” the pointer (gun) has to travel to hit the target. Especially a moving one. If you play on a 19″ inch screen the brain might calculate that its a smaller distance say from the center of the screen to the target and therefore you should be able to aim the target quickier than playing on an 85″ screen (my screen size). I’m not sure if I’m right on this, but it could make for a good experiment if you distance yourself from the projection screen enough so that your peripheral to the screen is similar to that of playing on you 14″ screen lcd (though by now it should a 20″+ monitor at least, c’mon!) And see if your performance gets better.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/pete/ pete

      I’ve tried a whole bunch of things, but there is definitely more playing around to do…still scratching my head on that one.

      I’m glad to see more people who also sense this sort of thing.

      And I’m up to a 19″ Dell thank you very much! (though I have my eyes on a 24″ Asus LED) ;)

      • John D

        I don’t think it is fair to characterize it as a syndrome. I’d go so far as to say that slower “human response times” are a predictable outcome of a larger screen. What follows is my hypothesis, not at all informed by trade, just intuition.

        The eyes take in a lot of information, both direct and peripheral. A smaller screen occupies a smaller portion of that information, and when you focus in on that smaller portion to play a game, your brain is able to discard a larger percentage of the information in your field of view. This process is very little work for the brain, and is practically instantaneous (consider as you’re reading this the small amount of conscious thought you’re devoting to the objects in view outside of your computer monitor; most likely you’ve forgotten they exist).

        In contrast, when you enlarge the screen such that the image fills more of your field of view, your brain needs to consider more of the information that the eyes are taking in, which is coming in at a higher level of detail, which means it has to do more work to filter this information, refactor it into abstract notions, and focus in on relevant details. Ultimately, with a larger screen, you sacrifice efficiency in mentally processing essential game information, in exchange for a larger sense of immersion than you would otherwise experience.

        Another factor is eye travel time. In an absolute sense, the eyes can move rather quickly to focus on things of importance, but when you systematically increase the distance they must travel, this reduces the efficiency with which they are able to take in information, which can also impact your reaction time. Think of a disk drive actuator as an extreme case (extreme, because hard drives have no periphery). One aspect of hard drive performance is measured in terms of average response time, the average amount of time it takes to position the actuator over the target media. These are typically very small numbers in the 5-11ms range. This average can go up with heavy disk fragmentation and with larger disk platters, and, as small as the number is, it can have an enormous impact on performance. One way to reduce these times is to reduce the physical size of the disks. In the same way, you can reduce the amount time your eyes spend in travel by directing your vision to a smaller screen.

        Here is an experiment you can run easily. Try reading a text-heavy web-page using a very large font, and again using the smallest font you feel comfortable with. Which is faster, or ‘feels’ more efficient (in words per minute)? Reading exercises both eye-tracking and peripheral information, so both factors play a role.

        Since the trade-off is efficiency vs immersion, it isn’t a clear-cut choice. Immersion is fun, but so also is winning. I’d probably prefer immersion in solo and co-op efforts (where ‘winning’ is more about facing a big challenge and surviving), and favor efficiency in competitive pvp scenarios (where ‘winning’ means beating people who may very well have smaller, lower-lag displays than you).

        • John D

          Oh, and Rock Band is still fine for you on a large display because it only requires focus on a relatively small portion of the screen: your column of instructions. It might be slightly harder for you to read ahead on a larger screen, but the difference is likely so small you don’t notice. In fact, it may even be that the language of the game is so simple that the the larger symbols are just as easy to parse on a larger screen as the smaller ones on a smaller screen, in which case your performance might not be effected at all. Normally, the further an object is from the center of your focus, the less resolution you have on that object, and therefore the harder it is for your brain to resolve. But, the objects you need to resolve in Rock Band are just simple blocks, which don’t require much resolution to recognize to begin with. As they grow in size with the screen, they may not be any more challenging to resolve.

          FPS games in contrast have a very complex visual language; you need to interpret visual cues of various sizes, facets, colors and complexities, and they can occur anywhere on the screen. So a larger screen is inevitably a larger challenge to peripheral vision and eye-tracking.

        • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/pete/ pete

          You’re guess is as good as mine, but I think what you’ve pointed out (distance of eye travel/immersion vs efficiency) is a good way to look at it. Regardless, it is something very difficult to measure/test and also something that people should be aware of when playing competitive games on larger screens.

  • Scott S

    That would be the only lag you would have to be concerned with when gaming on a projector. Lag can be caused by many things. You can get lag on a 24″ LCD monitor from your internet connection, PC, or the source of an online game.

    When I read a projector review, I would only want to know if there was a lag from the source to the projector. Some projectors will lag worse than others. Any other lag is not caused by the projector, so it would not matter in regards to reviewing the projector itself.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/pete/ pete

      Right,

      The primary focus will be “input lag”, however, it is also good to look at lag inherent in the display for things like motion blur. The latter is much more difficult to quantify and will probably be done on a qualitative basis.

  • Jerimiah W

    I too have noticed poor gameplay on my projector. I have not yet tried to measure the imput lag from the XBox to the projector, but that may be part of it. My wifes cousin came over and noted that his gameplay was worse at my house than at home on his 50″ HDTV. My screen is 155″ measured diagonally and I think the fact that I have to actually turn my head left to right to see is part of it. I sit about 10 feet from the screen that is 11 feet wide.