Beyond Target Framerate

Most game developers are already great at optimizing our games to save limited resources – how else would we get games to run at 30 or even 60 frames per second? But when it comes to saving electricity, performance is really only the first step.

Traditional performance optimization ends when we are below our target frame rate. It’s all about lowering the peaks so that no frame takes longer than the allotted time and the game chugs along at a consistent pace. Traditionally, optimizing past that point, deepening the valleys, is only done one mobile devices where battery drain is a very direct end user concern. But the same mindset can be used in PC and console games, often with massive, cheap opportunities to Reduce Electricity Use at Runtime.

A lot of the time, you will find that traditional performance optimization leaves some really low-hanging fruit still ripe for picking. Energy optimization is less complicated because everything counts. Are we above or below our target frame-rate? Doesn’t matter. Are we CPU or GPU bound? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is how much energy we can save, versus how much work it takes us to do it. Start looking in the places where the player spends the most time, and times of less intense gameplay. Chances are there are massive gains to be made here.

And of course, most crucially: resist the urge to spend all your new wiggle room on new bells and whistles! Just because your game can run at 120FPS doesn’t mean it’s worth the environmental cost.