- Jun 13, 2020
Very interesting article on Verge about Xbox Series S and whether it will be a "problem" for next-gen or not.
I quote below some important things:
“We did a lot of analysis of what it would really mean to run a game at 4K with 60fps and then to scale that down to 1440p at 60fps,” says Jason Ronald, Microsoft’s director of Xbox program management, in an interview with The Verge. “The reality is you don’t need as much memory bandwidth because you’re not loading the highest level MIP levels into memory. You don’t need the same amount of memory as well.”
Microsoft believes developers have a number of ways to build Xbox Series X games for 4K resolutions and then downscale them to 1440p for the Series S. “Developers have a whole host of different techniques, whether that’s changing the resolution of their title, things like dynamic resolution scaling frame to frame — that’s something we’ve seen a lot of adoption of, especially towards the end of this generation,” explains Ronald. “And obviously the ability to enable and display different visual effects, without actually implementing the fundamental gameplay.”
So how will the Xbox Series S compare to the older Xbox One X? It’s easy to look at the raw teraflops numbers and immediately think 6 teraflops is better than 4 teraflops, but it’s more complicated than that. The Xbox Series S runs AMD’s latest RDNA 2.0 architecture, while the Xbox One X was based on AMD’s older GCN architecture.
“With RDNA 2 we get basically a 25 percent performance uplift over GCN with no work by developers at all,” claims Ronald. “There’s a significant amount of efficiency we’re getting out of RDNA2 relative to GCN. Then we look at other things like using float 16 or variable rate shading, and we’re seeing on the order of 10-20 percent performance benefits from there as well.”
That should mean raw GPU performance on the Xbox Series S is similar to the Xbox One X, but the target resolution is 1440p instead of 4K. This is why the Xbox Series S will play games designed and enhanced for the bigger Xbox Series X, alongside Xbox One S versions of games that haven’t been tweaked instead of Xbox One X enhanced titles.
“In general on the GPU side the Xbox Series S is effectively the same performance as an Xbox One X GPU, but it brings all the next-gen features like ray tracing, VRS, mesh shaders, and obviously when you look at the massive leaps in CPU performance and I/O performance, that’s why Xbox Series S is designed to deliver that true next-gen experience just targeting a lower resolution than Xbox Series X.”
The CPU improvements and addition of an SSD for the Xbox Series S will mean games can run a lot more smoothly than they ever did on the Xbox One X. “There are also opportunities where we can enhance the titles on Xbox Series S even further than what we can do on Xbox One X,” says Ronald. “If you look at the raw power of the Xbox Series S, if a title wants to go in and double its frame rates it’s actually really easy, because we’ve more than doubled the GPU performance and more than doubled the CPU performance, so it’s relatively easy for a developer to go in and enable that if they choose to update their title.”
“Historically, console generations have really been defined by how games look,” says Ronald. “This generation a lot of it is going to be how do they feel? How do they play? When you think about these large open worlds and keeping players immersed in it, I don’t want pop in, I don’t want load times.” Ronald says buttery smooth gameplay is going to be a priority for Microsoft over the generation of both of these consoles.
Microsoft is also relying on a technique called sampler feedback streaming in the Xbox Series S and X to improve the efficiency of SSD bandwidth. Sampler feedback streaming gives developers much more control over how data is delivered to the GPU for rendering, meaning only the textures that a GPU needs for a scene will be loaded into memory. This should provide some significant performance enhancements alone.
“When we think about the Xbox velocity architecture or sampler feedback streaming, those are areas where we expect a lot of innovation over the generation,” explains Ronald. “With something like sampler feedback streaming, it can deliver performance well beyond the raw hardware specs itself. So much of this generation is about efficiency.”
The article references every single tweet (now deleted) from developers expressing some concern,
and in fact Tom Warren is chasing them down for further comments:
So, expect more I guess
Here’s what’s really going on with the Xbox Series S
I will also stick here another interview regarding Series S, with David Springate, game director of Dirt 5
When asked about Series S console, Springate said it's really easy to develop for the console, which he described as just a Series X console that targets 1440p instead of 4K. He explained that developers can easily dial back the resolution and sometimes lower the crowd numbers or intensity of the weather when tuning the game for Series S.
Springate made it clear that Dirt 5 won't have a 30 FPS option on Series S as that does not make any sense since the console is "a great piece of kit, it's amazing". However, a 60 FPS mode with better visuals may be something that they offer in the final version in addition to 120 FPS mode.
Codemasters Technical Director David Springate has offered his thoughts on the Xbox Series S in the latest interview. Springate says Series S is a great console and very easy to work with.