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Xbox Series X: What do game developers say about next-gen? We asked several for their thoughts.

sonomamashine

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The Xbox Series X is upon us. But what do game developers think of this next-gen beast? We spoke to several to find out their thoughts.

With the Xbox Series X and next-gen just months away, speculation about the capabilities of next-gen systems is heating up. As always, the proof is in the gaming, and we may not have to wait much longer to see what the Xbox Series X is truly capable of.

The sheer volume of technical wizardry, both from Microsoft's engineers and the game developers themselves, cannot possibly be understated. To that end, the raw specs of the Xbox Series X only tell part of the story, of course. We have new APIs, new developer tools, new graphics features, and various other improvements worth taking into consideration.

To get a better understanding of what that means for game developers and architects, we spoke to Microsoft and various third-party game devs to get their thoughts on what next-gen truly means for Xbox fans, and what aspects of the Xbox Series X are most exciting.

Jason Ronald, Director of Program Management for Xbox
To set the stage, Jason Ronald, who leads Program Management at Xbox, gave us some details on the thought processes that went into creating the next-gen Xbox Series X, putting game development at the fore. We asked Ronald what is the most significant potential game-changer for game developers on the Xbox Series X.

We knew with the next generation of Xbox, we needed to rethink and revolutionize the traditional console architecture to deliver consistent, reliable, and sustained performance never before seen in the living room with no compromises. Whereas past console generations have primarily been defined by increases in graphics innovation and performance, game developers' creative visions have become increasingly constrained by technical limitations such as I/O performance. With Xbox One X, we reached the upper limits of performance in traditional rotational drives. To unlock the creativity of developers to create transformative gaming experiences, we knew we needed to also invest in SSD level I/O speeds and innovation.
This became the foundation for the Xbox Velocity Architecture, which comprises our custom-designed NVME SSD, a custom dedicated hardware decompression block, our new DirectStorage API which provides developers with direct low-level access to the NVME controller, and our innovative Sampler Feedback Streaming solution which acts as a multiplier of the physical memory in the console. The Xbox Velocity Architecture was designed to be the ultimate solution for game asset streaming, delivering a level of performance well beyond the raw specifications of the hardware, allowing developers to virtually eliminate loading times and enabling them to deliver even larger and more immersive, dynamic, living worlds for gamers to explore and enjoy."
Joel Baker, Technical Director at Hinterland Games
Hinterland Games make the wildly popular survival game The Long Dark, set in the snowy reaches of post-apocalyptic Canada. Baker also cites NVME SSD tech, but also ray-tracing as being some of the more potent features of the Xbox Series X, with big benefits for weather effects and immersion on the horizon.

The most exciting thing for me is the addition of an SSD and the custom hardware surrounding it to help get data into memory faster. This is not only going to allow for better streaming and load times but also make it easier to work with larger data sets that don't easily fit into memory. The addition of hardware ray tracing is also super exciting, but it's how it can be used outside of graphics that will enable the biggest changes.
I can already see potential uses for it in games like The Long Dark, where we would be able to simulate physically accurate weather and wind by sending some rays into the world and then having the audio and physics change dynamically based on where the snow is accumulating or melting. These sorts of things are going to allow some really immersive experiences that weren't easily achievable before.
Gennadiy Korol, Director of Technology at Moon Studios
The Gennadiy Korol of Moon Studios, higher refresh rates are among the most exciting aspects of the new Xbox, finally accessible in a more affordable package. Gorgeous platformer Ori and the Will of the Wisps feels far more precise and satisfying at 60 FPS, and I personally cannot wait to (potentially) try it at 120 FPS in the future.

Playing games at a high refresh rate, at those crazy resolutions, is the next big thing in gaming. Anyone that played Ori and the Will of the Wisps in high resolution in 120 hertz will know what I mean. Previously this was only something that PC enthusiasts spending thousands of dollars on their machines would be able to experience. Bringing this kind of performance and quality to the general public is very exciting to me, and I think that will be the true next-gen leap we've all been waiting for.
Kevin Floyer-Lea, Chief Technology Officer at Rebellion
Rebellion is known for the Zombie Army and Sniper Elite game series, the latter of which feature large detailed worlds (and amazing testicular sniper shots) at its core. Kevin Floyer-Lea who leads tech innovation for Rebellion is excited to be able to hit 4K 60 FPS as standard. Floyer-Lea also notes how the new hardware will improve long-range ballistics for Sniper Elite's industry-leading rifle gameplay, and how ray-tracing will actually enable more realistic sound-acoustics in addition to lighting, ideal for stealth games.

If you're in the business of making games, you're always excited about new hardware, and what it means for game development. First and foremost, the Xbox Series X is a genuine and significant boost in performance from the Xbox One. We saw how important both frame-rate and resolution were with the previous generation, so it's so exciting to be able to deliver 4K gaming at 60 frames per second on a console. Something that the Xbox One X offered was the ability for players to choose between resolutions and framerates, and we think giving gamers even more choice in this regard will be a good thing. The increased processing power means we will not only be able to offer silky-smooth gameplay for things like long-range ballistic mechanics with pinpoint accuracy, but we can actually take that gameplay up a level in complexity.
Hardware-accelerated ray tracing is also a very welcome feature. Not only does it allow us to take players to environments that are that more realistic and dynamic, but ray tracing hardware can do more than just rendering! For example, we can do incredible things with the acoustics to enhance realism. Modeling realistic sound occlusion for AI's hearing in real-time, for example, is an incredibly useful feature for creating stealth games.
The SSD storage speed then lets us take those beautiful realistic environments and make them load in a flash. And we're talking about bigger environments than the ones we could create on Xbox One.
Finding new things to stream is an important part of this generation, and animation streaming is a game-changer for motion capture. Now we can support detailed motion capture on a much wider scale, like non-player characters simply doing their thing in the background. Instead of all enemy NPCs moving in an identical way, for example, the SSD storage speed means we can offer many unique motion-captured animations – and given we own Audiomotion, Europe's leading motion capture studio, it's something we'll be very keen to do.
Mike Rayner, Studio Technical Director at The Coalition
Gears of War's Mike Rayner at The Coalition also talked about how SSD speeds improve load times without any code changes, but also emphasized DirectStorage APIs and hardware decompression on the Xbox Series X as key factors in further improving loading speeds, while also liberating the CPU for performing other tasks. Rayner also discussed the potential for Sampler Feedback tech, which is part of the Xbox Velocity Architecture, which more efficiently loads textures based on what the scene needs, further reducing the load on memory.

We have come to expect generational leaps in CPU, GPU, and memory performance with each generation. Xbox Series X more than delivers against these expectations. As a game developer, one of the most exciting improvements that far exceeds expectations is the massive I/O improvements on Xbox Series X. In the current generation, as the fidelity and size of our worlds increased, we have seen download times and install sizes grow and increasing runtime I/O demands, which have made it challenging to maintain load-times expectations and meet world streaming demands without detail loss. The Xbox Series X has been holistically designed to directly address this challenge.
With the Xbox Series X, out of the gate, we reduced our load-times by more than 4x without any code changes. With the new DirectStorage APIs and new hardware decompression, we can further improve I/O performance and reduce CPU overhead, both of which are essential to achieve fast loading. As we look to the future, the Xbox Series X's Sampler Feedback for Streaming (SFS) is a game-changer for how we think about world streaming and visual level of detail. We will be exploring how we can use it in future titles to both increase the texture detail in our game beyond what we can fit into memory, as well as reduce load times further by increasing on-demand loading to just before we need it, instead of pre-loading everything up-front as we would use a more traditional 'level loading' approach.
Alexandre Sabourin, Team Lead at Snowed In Studios
We took some comments from the team at Snowed in Studios, a team made up of industry veterans contributing to several projects such as Dead by Daylight and We Happy Few more recently, while leading many of the huge improvements we saw in Deus Ex Human Revolution Director's Cut in years past. Alexandre Sabourin is Team Lead over at the studio and offered some insights into how hardware-accelerated ray-tracing, improved processing power, and SSD boosts will help the Xbox Series X.

Ray-tracing will allow for more realistic and flexible art direction. There's a lot of research around raytracing that can be leveraged here that could lead to some very interesting concepts. Reflections, soft shadows, refraction, transparency. But all these operations have a cost. Raytracing hardware allows us to do some interesting things, but usually, production raytracers can take quite some time to converge to a reasonable image. The limit on samples per pixel means that there has been an interesting race to determine who can write an efficient denoiser. I'm interested to see what this new tech will lead to in terms of new research being done. Denoiser's are one interesting avenue, but maybe it will allow developers to write their own light mappers, or pre-render cinematics more effectively.
What does it mean for game graphics? It means that developers are creating new ideas on how to use this tech, pushing the boundaries in a different direction than it's been pushed before.
Processing power is always useful to allow developers to create more expansive worlds, more complex interactions, and to improve our ability to include more content into our games. It can also enable developers to spend less time optimizing and spend more time creating. Chip efficiency is also a big deal when it comes to the power wall. There comes a limit to how fast you can clock a CPU and how small you can make your transistors if operations require a lot of energy, then your chip needs more cooling to mitigate the damage. As a result, if you can reduce power consumption, you can increase the number of transistors you can fit on a chip. If you can reduce the cost of executing instructions, then you can increase your overall clock rate while maintaining your heat output. More instructions equal more "good."
Hard drives have always been a hard constraint that developers have to deal with. SSDs provide some interesting benefits such as removing the necessity for seek times, which might provide flexibility in how you would pack data on disk. Of course, read times are also improved. SSDs can provide data significantly faster than HDDs can. This will help mitigate loading screens and improving our ability to stream large worlds more efficiently.
One massive generational leap
The leap to next-gen is going to be far bigger than what we got between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One systems, arguably, as the tech pushes beyond raw specs to enable greater creative tools across the board. NVME drives will enable more dynamic, more complicated worlds, with more varied and dynamic animations. Boosted hardware will enable physics-based lighting and reflections, rendered at higher resolutions and frame rates, far beyond what current-gen systems are capable of. Consoles getting access to NVME SSD speeds will also boost PC games, too, further liberating game development from having to account for outdated mechanical hard drives.

As always, the proof is in the gaming, and I don't think we'll have to wait much longer to find out what the Xbox Series X will be able to produce. The future of gaming is looking pretty bright right now.

 
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Arkam

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Why not just use the article that this article is based off? Has more developers sharing their take on the XSX hardware.

Interesting that most of them, when they mention Ray Tracing, they are "super excited" about its use outside of visuals. While we all know it can do more than lighting, that has been the feature most outlets have presented. BUt seems maybe audio is where the real action will be next gen. Yay, time for a new pair of headphones!
 
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Dev quote

Hardware-accelerated ray tracing is a very welcome feature. Not only does it allow us to take players to environments that are that more realistic and dynamic, but ray tracing hardware can do more than just rendering! For example, we can do incredible things with the acoustics to enhance realism. Modeling realistic sound occlusion for AI's hearing in real-time, for example, is an incredibly useful feature for creating stealth games.
this is the stuff that gets me fired up about next gen
 

CitizenX3639

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Jan 25, 2020
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Why not just post the same paid for comment that was done when they did the last box.
O well here it is funny, sound exactly the same. MS PR is basically nothing more than the quality of an Xbox YT channel. Trash and lies.

 
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Bernkastel

Formerly 'Lady Bernkastel'
Mar 8, 2018
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Why not just post the same paid for comment that was done when they did the last box.
O well here it is funny, sound exactly the same. MS PR is basically nothing more than the quality of an Xbox YT channel. Trash and lies.

Yeah, it only matters when devs speak about PS5. Otherwise they are paid or biased.
 

Bernkastel

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So, far what I have gathered on what devs think of Xbox Series X.
Colin Penty, Technical Art Director at Coalition
Having dedicated ray tracing hardware is huge.
Daniele Galante and David Garcia, Ninja Theory Audio Team, Ninja Theory
Series X’s dedicated audio chip will mean they no longer have to sacrifice sound in order to facilitate other parts of their projects.
Erwan LeCun, co-founder of Ape Tribe Games
Joel Baker, Technical Director at Hinterland Games
Ray-Tracing is one of the most potent features, with big benefits for weather effects and immersion on the horizon. NVMe SSD tech and the custom hardware surrounding it to help get data into memory faster.
Gennadiy Korol, Director of Technology at Moon Studios

Playing games at a high refresh rate, at those crazy resolutions, is the next big thing in gaming.
Kevin Floyer-Lea, Chief Technology Officer at Rebellion
Excited to be able to hit 4K 60 FPS as standard. Hardware-accelerated ray tracing is also a very welcome feature. SSD storage takes beautiful realistic environments and make them load in a flash
Mike Rayner, Studio Technical Director at The Coalition
SSD speeds improve load times without any code changes. DirectStorage APIs and hardware decompression on the Xbox Series X are also key factors in further improving loading speeds. Sampler Feedback tech, which is part of the Xbox Velocity Architecture, loads textures more efficiently based on what the scene needs, further reducing the load on memory.
Excited about DXR and hardware ray tracing support
Alexandre Sabourin, Team Lead at Snowed In Studios
Hardware-accelerated ray-tracing, improved processing power, and SSD boosts will help the Xbox Series X.
Grant Kot, working on a Real-Time Particle Physics based game for Xbox Series X and high end PC's
Xbox Series X is more powerful than his 8700K RTX 2080 PC.
Richard Geldreich, worked at Space X, Valve and Ensemble
Xbox Series X's BCPack Compression technique is better than PS5's Kraken
Chris Grannel, ex-Sony first party dev who worked on Formula One Series, Wipeout HD:Fury and Killzone 2 for Playstation.
Xbox Series X caught Sony off-guard. Microsoft has been working a little bit closer with AMD on some of the technologies that they have been working on. Xbox Series X can do better real time Ray Tracing because of the higher 52 CU count compared to Playstation 5's 36. Microsoft has got some pluses like Xbox Series X's 320 bus compared to Playstation 5's 256 bus. As a developer he would rather work on fixed performance deltas.
Wojciech Piejko, Lead Game Designer and Jacek Zięba, Producer at Bloober Team
Being able to work with the latest hardware in the form of the Xbox Series X – with 4K resolution, ray-tracing technology and SSD for a single, seamless cinematic experience without loading screens – has finally enabled then to do their vision justice.
The Medium will have no discernible load times or impact to game performance and graphics, thanks to the power of the Xbox Series X.
The Medium was originally announced in 2012 for consoles(Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and WiiU), now it is being delivered two generations later through the Xbox Series X which has resolved many of the problems with the current generation that they had. Without it they would be able to deliver the game, but it would not be the same game, the vision would not be fulfilled. They want to create the game as they see it.
Edge Magazine, August 2020 Issue 347, Page 40-43
The game is using Ray Tracing at 4K. They are aiming for very seamless cinematic experience and thanks to the power of Xbox they can deliver it.
Johannes Kuhlmann, head of core technology at FishLabs
It's easier to develop for Xbox Series X than any other console.
Ljubomir Peklar, designer at Ebb Software
Biggest change between this generation and the next is on the pure power afforded by the CPU at the heart of Series X.
Series X is a very balanced system. The SSD solution(referring to Xbox Velocity Architecture) is an incredible improvement when it comes to loading assets, and as it stands now it seems that there will be complete parity between PC and Series X versions of the game. Will explore Project Acoustics in the future. DirectML and NVIDIA's DLSS 2.0 are very interesting solutions when the game is not hitting the desired performance and it feels like these solutions could help players with weaker systems quite substantially.
Scorn is console exclusive to Xbox Series X because it enables parity with the PC version. Difference between XSX and PS5 SSD solution will end up as a matter of diminishing returns.
Tor Frick and Arcade Berg, co-founders of Neon Giant
They are doing 4K 60 fps which is blazingly fast. Faster load speeds – it just comes out, magically, you just click, and there you go, it loads way faster. They have more detail than you can actually see at lower resolutions. Draw distances will be as long as they can make them. When the camera changes position following a vicious gunfight, you should be able to count the bullet-holes in the walls. Everything is ludicrously detailed, so when you bring down the camera, it just works.
Microsoft is very open and approachable, they know what it takes to be able to make a game for their machines, so they’re prepared – the tools are there. Series X represents a leap in video game development, it’s becoming easier and easier to develop. So it’s easier and easier to actually use all that power, and to spend more time on the creative bits, because ideally, you just want everything to work, to realise your creations. An 11-person indie studio could not have done what they are doing 20 years ago.
Edge Magazine, July 2020 Issue 346, Page 54-65
The CPU allows them to run the game at 4K 60 fps with very little extra effort. The SSD speed makes it a lot easier to run it at the target performance. They have so much more possibilities to work with, more physics objects, more reactions to the world when the players shoot things, more destructions and many more elements. Low latency and VRS do some much in making the game more fluid, they dont have to commit to 30 fps or 60 fps because if they break it will break everything and make the game feel worse, but with these new technologies its a lot more forgiving for developers which will make games feel a lot more better and make them control better. Games are gonna feel a lot more better and people will feel about how it used to be. Previous generation leaps were just more powerful harder like the Nintendeo 64 could do things the SNES couldnt and thats awesome, but this time its much more player focussed, as a gamer its a really attractive shift on how we think about gaming and thats really cool with Microsoft's stance on that(things like backwards compatibility and smart delivery etc.).
David Springate, Technical Director at Codemasters
Dirt 5 makes the most of the power of Xbox Series X. All of the hardware features in the Xbox Series X are amazing, things like Ray Tracing, Fast Storage, Low Latency Input, Variable Rate Shading.
At 7:50
One of the things that isn't talked about as much about Series X, is simultaneous multithreading. So that's not one of those sexy features like ray tracing, that people are going to talk about on the blog posts the most, but the CPU is a beast. It really is a B. And you have to have the right engine that's geared up, to make use of that many processes and we're fortunate enough to be in a position that we do. So when I enabled that feature, Dirt 5 just sprang to life on Series X. And it was amazing. I called people over from across the office, "Come and check this out!" Because it was running amazing straight away.
.
Game is already beautiful and running at 60 fps and they are thinking of 120 fps as a goal.
Will support new HDMI 2.1 features like Freesync 2, Variable Rate Shading on the GPU, Variable Refresh and everything that comes along with the new visual improvements.
Its not just that NVMe drive is fast, which it is. Hardware Decompression will give even faster throughput then the NVMe drive can deliver.
New hardware is usually a very very painful experience. When hardware shows up its usually half finished or it crashes a lot and the API are usually not finalized or even worse they can suddenly change halfway through development. But Series X has been a very smooth experience. Microsoft has developed a Game Development which is a new replacement - a unified product developent all the way from Xbox One upto Series X, but making the most of the hardware features across the board. It also has the ability to make use of Low Latency Input which is really important for racing games and fighting games. Development on Series X has been more of the same, his day to day toolset has not changed but now he gets to use these new toys. Having a familiar tools and interface is super important and the best thing instead of new tools blocking him, so its a smooth transition.
Manuel Fernández, Co-founder and Programmer at Out of the Blue
The power of Xbox Series X and DirectX Raytracing, will have the chance to make the game even more present, almost come to life.
Tatiana Delgado, Co-founder at Out of the Blue
With the power of the Xbox Series X, they can bring 4K and is going to be amazing to show the quality of the environments for the players. Also, the amount of details they can bring.
In these kind of games immersion is so important, when you have a smooth feeling and a smooth experience playing. And here it plays a big role with the fast loading, the direct to storage hardware, the compression, all these things that make the game run... will help the player get more immersed into the game.
 
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DaleinCalgary

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All I see is a lot of PR talk.
It's all bullshit talk. People here quote developers they have never heard of say something and then we argue over it for 1000 posts and never think of what have they actually produced in the past?

Just because you have done some programming on a game that doesn't mean their opinion means squat.
 
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The Shift

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It's all bullshit talk. People here quote developers they have never heard of say something and then we argue over it for 1000 posts and never think of what have they actually produced in the past?

Just because you have done some programming on a game that doesn't mean their opinion means squat.
All I see is a lot of PR talk.
Yeah tell me about it! The nerve of some people!
 
Oct 2, 2017
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Why not just use the article that this article is based off? Has more developers sharing their take on the XSX hardware.
I think OP didn't want it to be known this is an article from the website "Windows Central" (a Microsoft enthusiast site,) because they will be accused of posting PR fluff.
 

HeadsUp7Up

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If you can remove your bias tinted glasses you can see that since the consoles are so similar a lot of this will go for the PS5 as well. The one thing I really like about this article is developers actually giving real world examples of what the new hardware allows them to do creatively. Really looking forward to new information in the coming months and years and how this will change games.
 

Journey

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Aug 18, 2014
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Why not just post the same paid for comment that was done when they did the last box.
O well here it is funny, sound exactly the same. MS PR is basically nothing more than the quality of an Xbox YT channel. Trash and lies.


If we're going to judge Series X on X1X, then shouldn't we be even more excited seeing how they delivered? Xbox One X turned out to be an amazing console, from the design, to the performance, delivering beyond the expectations of a mid-gen refresh.

Sounds exactly the same you say? well I'm even more stoked about Series X, thanks!
 

Clear

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If we're going to judge Series X on X1X, then shouldn't we be even more excited seeing how they delivered? Xbox One X turned out to be an amazing console, from the design, to the performance, delivering beyond the expectations of a mid-gen refresh.

Sounds exactly the same you say? well I'm even more stoked about Series X, thanks!
They did good with X1X, but, compared to Pro they had an extra year and a $100 higher RRP. So it wasn't an even playing field by any stretch of the imagination.
 

martino

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Why not just post the same paid for comment that was done when they did the last box.
O well here it is funny, sound exactly the same. MS PR is basically nothing more than the quality of an Xbox YT channel. Trash and lies.

they should have asked for tweet
it's easier to fool millenials with that.
 
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Journey

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They did good with X1X, but, compared to Pro they had an extra year and a $100 higher RRP. So it wasn't an even playing field by any stretch of the imagination.

What about them 360 apples?

PS3 launched a year later
PS3 cost $100 more than 360
PS3 mulitplatform games looked worse


Oh SHNAPPP! Que paso? 🤷‍♂️

If they were able to pull that off while Sony had a full year to come out with a supposedly more powerful console that sold for $100 more, imagine what they can do with a console priced the same and launching at the same time :pie_thinking:

Xbox Series X will be the 360 in terms of success and Xbox One X in terms of engineering, and with Phil Spencer on the helm from day one, it's going to look a LOT different than 2013. It won't be a 360 rally because they don't have a full year to capitalize, but it will sure as hell be a welcome improvement over Xbox One.
 
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Gavon West

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It's all bullshit talk. People here quote developers they have never heard of say something and then we argue over it for 1000 posts and never think of what have they actually produced in the past?

Just because you have done some programming on a game that doesn't mean their opinion means squat.
Wow! Lol.

Never change GaF. Holy shit...
 

Kagey K

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Dec 18, 2013
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The reality is this is not the Xbox 360 when you look at Microsoft they have to find a way to defeat SONY, so there’s a lot of pressure on them this generation and their fan base.
I hope not.

I‘d rather they stay on the road they are on and say Fuck Sony. Fuck winning and just keep making money.

If they place behind and make money hand over fist, who cares what the warriors think.
 

sircaw

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I love this pr talk, infact i hope both Sony and Microsoft don't release their consoles this year and instead keep feeding me drip by drip titbits of information like this stuff for the next two years.

Who would of thought that a new console generation would bring big improvements.

In the beginning all i wanted, was to see games, i am so over that now.
 
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rofif

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Sep 13, 2019
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Lol rebelion 4k60 as standard. There was NOTHING stopping them to hit that this gen and last