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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!)

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