We tried not to talk about it, we spent almost an hour avoiding the topic but eventually it had to come out: Alex is being driven to his wits’ end by the fact that so many major titles are shipping on PC with a stuttering issues. Kicking off this egregious assault on gameplay most recently was the bizarrely poor conversion of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, followed up swiftly by Elden Ring and just last week, Shadow Warrior 3. But it’s not a new problem – games like Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Ghostrunner and Sword and Fairy 7 launched with similar issues. Typically, this stutter is caused by shader compilation – the process whereby GPU code is compiled on the fly during gameplay – and seems to be particularly bothersome on Unreal Engine titles.
Why compile on the fly – and why doesn’t the same issue impact consoles? The two questions are interlinked: shader code can be pre-compiled on consoles as they’re fixed platforms and the data is included on the disc or in your download – things are trickier for PC because every GPU and driver revision requires a new round of compiled shaders. Adding to the problem – and perhaps explaining why code makes it to the end-user with so many issues – is the fact that once shaders have been compiled on PC, they’re cached to disk and re-used when needed without re-compilation. Revisiting the same area again should result in smooth gameplay, leading many (possibly QA too?) to think that the problem is solved. The amount of replies we get about this issue (“the latest patch fixed it” or “smooth for me now” etc) doesn’t change the fact that first contact with any non-compiled shader will cause the issue.