Cities: Skylines 2 devs considered release delay to boost performance, but decided it’s “not a dealbreaker”

Cities: Skylines 2 developers Colossal Order and publisher Paradox Interactive have penned a letter to their community about the game’s launch performance problems and other technical troubles, sharing details of forthcoming updates and smaller bug patches while also assuring players that “the issues are not deeply rooted in the game’s foundation”. The developers include a few thoughts about what performance means for a management sim like Skylines 2, revealing that they considered delaying release to improve and stabilise the game, but felt that postponing launch would be “unfair” to those who are less bothered by such things.

In a “note on release timing” on Steam, the developers comment that “while some setups on PC have challenges, we concluded the performance is not a dealbreaker for all the players”, based on pre-launch verdicts. “For us,” the note goes on, “the number one priority is for the players to have fun with the game, and we had seen enough feedback from players enjoying the game that it would be more unfair to postpone. We know we will keep working on the game and do our best to fix issues as fast as possible, so we wanted to respect the announced release date and allow people to start playing the game.”

Elsewhere in the Steam post the developers attempt to give “context” for Cities: Skylines 2’s current technical difficulties – which have contributed to a Mixed user review rating on Steam, based on 8303 reviews – and share tips for players experiencing lower or uneven frame-rates. “We want to assure you that the issues are not deeply rooted in the game’s foundation, so we fully expect to be able to improve performance going forward,” the post promises. Apparently, the current performance issues “are tied to the rendering”, which means you can address them by lowering or toggling off “eye candy” settings like depth of field, global illumination and volumetrics. The developers also suggest dropping the resolution to 1080p.

As for game updates, you can expect “a series of small patches (and likely a big one) as we significantly improve different areas of performance”. The developers are currently looking to remove stutter caused by “some synchronization condition in the simulation”, which can “vary greatly from one CPU to another, as well as how your city is built”. They’re also looking at reducing the number of vertices processed per frame and optimising the aforesaid depth of field, global illumination and volumetrics effects.

Colossal Order note that balancing GPU performance doesn’t necessarily mean reducing overall quality – it could be a question of “taking fewer samples with smarter distribution to achieve identical or very similar results”. They’re also thinking about upscaling solutions, going beyond AMD FSR1 “which does not look that good when the scale ratio is 50%”, but which “made sense” to include at launch as the Unity engine supports it out of the box.

And then there’s the question of anti-aliasing. “Both FSR2 and DLSS2 require the use of Temporal Anti-aliasing, which is not possible at the moment due to some objects being incompatible with that technique,” the post continues. “We are currently working towards making this possible, which will not only help to boost performances but also provide a better quality anti-aliasing solution than the one we currently use (SMAA by default).”

And now, the spicy bit. Unlike many of the game’s players, the developers don’t think Skylines 2 needs to be a 60 frames-per-second affair. Much like Remedy’s Thomas Puha, they think videogame target frame-rates should vary by genre.

“There is no real benefit in a city builder to aim for higher FPS (unlike a multiplayer shooter) as a growing city will inevitably become CPU-bound,” the post insists. “What matters more with this type of game is to avoid stutters and have a responsive UI.” Achieving 60FPS “does not hurt”, the developers add, “as it can contribute to better visuals in relation to temporal effects”. However, “we just don’t believe there would be a long-term benefit in setting the target to 60fps, especially because we face rendering challenges both from close-ups and far distances.”

If you’re wrestling with low or uneven Cities: Skylines 2 frame-rates, you might want to check out our James’s guide to the best Cities: Skylines 2 PC settings. In RPS’s Cities: Skylines 2 review, Sin Vega described the game as “an engaging zone-based city builder that balances simulation with ease of play, but offers little that feels substantially new or improved enough to warrant a sequel”.

Fingers crossed they can make it run smoother, at least. Mind you, I feel compelled to note here that you young whippersnappers don’t know you’re born. One of the first strategy games I ever played was Warzone 2100 on the PS1 and let me tell you, that game practically sent you each frame by carrier pigeon. Double-digits performance? Bloody luxury.

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