Ever since Nvidia’s DLSS (deep-learning super sampling) was introduced along with similar downscaling and upscaling tech, there has been a noticeable trend for a lot of new, big-budget video games. Some of the most notable ones have been coming out with poor optimization, prompting a lot of gamers to ask ‘is DLSS ruining video games?’
DLSS, for the uninitiated, is a proprietary graphics tech from Nvidia that increases framerate or performance by downscaling the 3D image and then upscaling it with the help of artificial intelligence. It’s a massive performance boost at the cost of negligible blurriness (which is most noticeable for textures and during fast motion).
Hence, DLSS is steadily growing in popularity and almost all newly-released video games have incorporated it, along with DLSS’ AMD rival, FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution).
Recent releases for some of the biggest AAA video games, however, have been worrying a lot of gamers. Video games like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Forspoken, Remnant 2, Forspoken, Returnal, Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light 2, The Last of Us Part 1, and more– most of them are demanding video games.
More than that, all of the aforementioned big-budget titles have had a rocky release marred by what can only be assumed as poor optimization on the developers’ part. Apart from that, their other common denominator is that most of them feature Nvidia’s proprietary tech such as ray tracing, and– you guessed it, DLSS.
DLSS Is Being Used To Compensate
DLSS being used to cover up the aforementioned video game titles’ poor performance is no assumption or conjecture, by the way.
Even Nvidia itself has asked reviewers to use DLSS in their ‘reviews’ for certain games like Cyberpunk 2077 and its new, highly demanding ray tracing update. That isn’t to say you’re out of luck if you have an AMD GPU since FSR is available and is more or less on par with DLSS.
However, both AI GPU upscaling tech have their own glaring downsides; blurriness aside, upscaling tech also introduces image ghosting, latency, and artifacts, which is why a lot of gamers are still on the fence about using either DLSS or FSR.
The problem is that a lot of new big-budget games these days are coming out either with shockingly demanding specifications or vexingly poor performance. DLSS is to the rescue, of course, with performance boosts of around 50 percent or more at the cost of image blurriness and other packaged issues.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, for example, could barely maintain 60-70 FPS with an RTX 4090 (without DLSS) which is the most powerful GPU right now. You’d expect that current-gen GPU running a current-gen video game at a triple-digit framerate. Consequently, weaker GPUs (RTX 4080 and below) which the regular PC gamer can afford will suffer a lot more.
It’s this very practice in video game development that could be prompting the very concerns of gamers regarding DLSS ruining video games.
Is DLSS Mandatory Now?
By releasing a game with poor optimization and performance or with higher demands for hardware, gamers will then be forced to use DLSS in order to have an acceptable or comfortable framerate. This was not the case before DLSS was introduced.
DLSS went from something that could breathe new life into older graphics cards to a crutch for a lot of games and game developers.
Some games now even enable DLSS or FSR by default. That’s something you’ll want to check if you’ve recently installed a game.
With video game developers presumably building their games around DLSS or simply using DLSS to compensate for their rushed development schedules and lack of optimization for graphics, this trend can be viewed as quite a loss for the regular gamer.
If this continues, then not only can we expect PC gaming to become more expensive in the future, but the image quality of video games might take a considerable hit. There’s currently no such thing as a free performance boost without any image quality compromise. AI upscaling just isn’t there yet (though who knows in the near future).
Granted, DLSS and FSR are still optional at the moment. But ‘optional’ is quite a stretch here since performance for certain games running on the most common PC gaming hardware will suffer without upscaling tech.
More importantly, some games might become too sluggish to play without DLSS, essentially betraying the original visual experience that the developers intended since DLSS– as we mentioned earlier, tampers with the image and pixel quality. This isn’t a hypothetical case– it happened already with 2023’s biggest video games, specifically Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Remnant 2.
It’s an Anti-Consumer Technological Trend
You could also argue that DLSS ruining video games is a ‘chicken vs. egg’ debate. Or maybe that old assumption that giving a gun or knife to a psycho makes them bolder (bad analogy, we’re aware). But the same idea applies here; was DLSS the push that game executives and studios needed to embolden their approach in releasing poorly optimized products?
Regardless of whether it’s DLSS ruining video games or the actual game studios themselves, this kind of practice is just blatantly anti-consumer whether they’re aware of it or not.
You’re being compelled to purchase newer tech that can handle newer versions of DLSS to make games run more decently (in Nvidia’s case), otherwise, you’re stuck with either washed-out visuals or poor performance.
Truth be told, it’s hard to predict the trajectory of this phenomenon. GPU AI could drastically improve in the future to eliminate DLSS’ most glaring faults or it could go the other way. We can only hope that this relatively new tech fueled by AI won’t become the downfall of art and entertainment. Oh wait, never mind.