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Xbox Series X: Microsoft Has Not Forced Xbox One Cross-Gen On Its Developers

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While Microsoft seemed to have forced its studios to port their Xbox Series X games to the current Xbox One, Phil Spencer confirmed that it was the developers’ sole choice and that the publisher did not impose a cross-gen port on them.

In recent months, fear has slowly grown among console players. It must be said that last November, Matt Booty, head of Xbox Game Studios at Microsoft, announced that, during the first two years of the Xbox Series X, the developers of the various Xbox studios would also develop versions of their games for the current console, the Xbox One. A position that seems to have been softened.

In fact, in an interview with the YouTube channel GameStar on Friday, Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox division at Microsoft, seems to have poured water into his wine. The Microsoft executive explains that this will not be a requirement for all Microsoft studios and that the firm’s goal is first and foremost to let developers design the games they have imagined:

“So I think what you’ve heard from Matt and what our creatives will say is that we have a vision for every game we develop and that vision starts with the player, not the device. If a creator comes to us and says’ no, I really want to focus on the next generation ‘with their games, we’re completely open to them and we will support them. If a creator comes to us and says’ I have a vision for reaching these consumers with different machines and different generations ”, we will support it.”

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The fact remains that, even if this is not an obligation for the Xbox Game Studios developers, all have decided to develop their next games for the two platforms, the Xbox Series X and the Xbox One. A choice that is therefore not imposed by Microsoft, but to which the various studios of the firm seem to have subscribed.

XBOX ONES FEAR OF QUALITY BRAKED

The main fear of gamers around this cross-gen availability is a potential slowdown in games on Xbox Series X. Some people fear that games developed on Xbox Series X are not as graphically impressive since they must also be compatible with the performance offered by the Xbox One. On this point, Phil Spencer had already tried to reassure the community last week by comparing with PC games: “You can even see, with some of our own first-party console games, and even with our competitors, that the richer is the PC version. Yet the PC ecosystem is the most diverse in terms of hardware, when you think of CPUs and GPUs from years ago that are here. ”

We will know more about the games available at the launch of the Xbox Series X in the coming days. Indeed, Microsoft will organize a conference on July 23 to unveil the launch line-up. The Xbox Series X is due out later this year at a price that has yet to be announced.

XBOX SERIES X – EVERYTHING WE KNOW

The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s fourth-generation console that succeeds in the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and the Xbox before it.

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Originally featured and known as Project Scarlett, she is shaping up to be a true powerhouse. The Xbox Series X will compete with Sony’s PlayStation 5. Expected for the end of 2020, this console should mark an impressive technological leap forward.

Regarding the name, understand that the generation itself will just be called “Xbox” and the Series X will be just one of the Xbox models on this generation. Microsoft could decline other devices like the Xbox Series S, for example.

DESIGN: A BIG MONOLITH

Microsoft has officially lifted the veil on the design of the Xbox Series X. It is a large black monolith, which can be placed horizontally or vertically.

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The console incorporates a Blu-ray disc player and an illuminated LED on one side to indicate when it is on.

The dimensions of the console are 15 x 15 cm for the base and 30 cm high vertically. We compared its size to other consoles like the PS4 Pro or the Xbox One X.

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The internal architecture of the console has been designed to allow maximum cooling of components with minimum noise. A single fan is integrated on one side of the machine to exhaust hot air from the console.

From the first images of the dismantled console, the internal architecture also seems to have been designed so that the console can be easily repaired by specialists.

CONNECTORS: HDMI 2.1 PORT, EXTERNAL SSD AND USB-A

On the back of the console, there are several ports, including an 8K compatible HDMI 2.1 port and display up to 120 Hz. We can also note two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, an RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet port and a power supply C8.

This means that a simple power cable will be needed to plug in the console, forget about the old power supply from the Xbox 360 or the first Xbox One.

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Compared to the Xbox One precisely, Microsoft chose to ignore the HDMI input, which allowed us to take control of another console or a TV box for example. The S / PDIF audio output also disappears.

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The last port visible on the back of the console allows the Xbox’s storage to expand with a proprietary external SSD developed in partnership with Seagate.

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This SSD has 1TB of storage space and is similar to a USB key that will be very easy to plug into the console. The price of the external SSD has not yet been disclosed.

POWER AND FEATURES: AMD RNDA 2 TO 12 TFLOPS AND SSD

Microsoft promises that the Xbox Series X will be the biggest performance leap ever between two generations of Xbox. The company even goes so far as to promise that the Xbox Series X will be the most powerful console on the market. According to Microsoft, the move to the next generation of consoles is as important as the move from 2D to 3D in video games.

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Here are the official technical specifications of the Xbox Series X:

  • 8-core AMD Zen 2 processor (3.8 GHz or 3.6 GHz with SMT)
  • AMD Navi RDNA 2 graphics chip (52 CU at 1.825 GHz, 12 TFLOPS FP32)
  • 16 GB GDDR6 (10 GB at 560 GB / s and 6 GB at 336 GB / s)
  • 1TB NVME SSD storage (2.4Gb / s read, or 4.8Gb / s with compression)
  • 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc Player

For comparison, the raw power of the graphics chip is doubled with 12 TFlops compared to 6 TFlops on the Xbox One X, not to mention optimizations for the switch from AMD GCN to AMD RDNA 2 architecture.

The processor is also a big leap forward, with 4 times the computing power of the Jaguar processor on the Xbox One.

By switching from a 5400 rpm hard drive to a latest-generation NVME SSD, Microsoft announces speeds multiplied by 40. With such a speed, it becomes almost possible for developers to consider storage as an extension of RAM.

Above all, the SSD allows you to drastically reduce loading times and limit certain game design elements that were until then mandatory. We think for example of long passages in an elevator, or to open a heavy door, which was used to hide loads from the hard drive of the console.

4K DISPLAY AT 60 FPS, UP TO 120 FPS

According to Microsoft, the console will be able to play games in 4K at 60 frames per second, up to 120 frames per second for some titles. The Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) will allow you to vary the refresh rate up to 120 Hz for compatible screens. Phil Spencer, boss of Xbox, has rightly indicated that he would like to prioritize fluidity and performance over visual fidelity in games.

The console’s HDMI 2.1 port also allows for 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) display.

NEW TECHNOLOGIES

There is more to a game console than its physical hardware. Microsoft has also planned a number of technologies to optimize games and make life easier for developers.

DIRECTX RAYTRACING

Thanks to a hardware integration of this technology, games will also be able to benefit from real-time ray tracing, that is, much more realistic reflections and lighting.

Audio ray tracing will create much more realistic acoustics.

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At Microsoft, ray tracing is managed using DirectX Raytracing, or DXR, a new component of DirectX which is an integral part of DirectX 12 Ultimate. This API can be used by developers on both Xbox and PC, with Windows 10, and Nvidia GeForce RTX or AMD Radeon graphics cards.

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XBOX VELOCITY ARCHITECTURE

Xbox Velocity Architecture is Microsoft’s name for the collection of hardware and software technologies around the console’s SSD management.

This architecture consists of 4 key components: the NVMe SSD, a dedicated decompression chip, the DirectStorage API and the Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS) technology.

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Together within the Xbox Velocity architecture, these technologies make life easier for developers by making it easier to access resources stored on the SSD.

The dedicated decompression chip frees up three central processor cores, whose power can be dedicated to improving other aspects of games. The BCPack decompression algorithm used by Microsoft is said to perform better than Sony’s Kraken algorithm.

According to Microsoft, Sampler Feedback Streaming technology alone can multiply the raw performance of the SSD by 2 or 3 and drastically free up RAM, thanks to an optimization of resources. Concretely, the technology allows the game to use exactly only the textures necessary to render a scene.

According to Microsoft, to build a PC capable of handling the same CPU performance as the Xbox Series X while managing its disk access throughput would require an AMD Zen 2 processor with 13 cores.

VARIABLE RATE SHADING

Variable Rate Shading is a new technology that allows you to vary the level of detail of items displayed on the screen, but not perceived by the player, according to the needs of the game.

For example, in a scene taking place at night, this can lighten the calculations of texture and modeling of an object in the dark and which is, therefore, invisible to the player’s eyes because of the excessive contrast.

This optimizes the performance of the console, both in terms of definition and number of frames per second, without degrading the perceptible visual quality.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WITH DIRECTML

Microsoft announced that the Xbox Series X supports machine learning with the DirectML API. It will be possible for developers to access 24 TFLOPS (FP16) on 16-bit floating-point calculations and 97 TOPS on 4-bit integers.

For example, a development team at Playfab, a Microsoft subsidiary, is working on an on-the-fly 4K upscaling algorithm of low-definition textures taking up much less disk space.

To learn more about using AI other than to make a non-player character smarter, check out our feature on AI in Video Games and Nvidia DLSS.

MESH SHADING

Mesh Shading is a new rendering technology already used by Nvidia’s GeForce RTXs.

In short, Mesh Shading makes it possible to simplify the display chain and thanks to this, to more easily display a large number of elements on the screen or to complicate the geometry of an element.

3D SOUND AND ACOUSTICS PROJECT

Microsoft has put less emphasis on the sound circuit of its console than Sony has with the PlayStation 5. However, the Xbox Series X will offer 3D audio with Dolby Atmos.

In addition, the firm announces that its ten years of research on Project Acoustics has resulted in better sound management that is at the same time more realistic, immersive and optimized.

A dedicated audio component on the Xbox Series X will make it easy for developers to use Project Acoustics, and Microsoft offers support directly into the Unity and Unreal Engines of its technology.

THE NEW XBOX CONTROLLER

The new Xbox Wireless Controller takes design very similar to that of the Xbox One, but with a slightly reduced size, allowing a better grip while taking inspiration from the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. Like the latter, the controller is wired via a USB-C port.

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Among the new features, we should note the addition of a share button in the middle of the controller, inspired by what the PS4 and Switch offered. The directional pad has been changed, and Microsoft has added a grip to the triggers.

This controller will also be compatible with Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs with a Bluetooth connection. As on Xbox One, it will come with a set of two AA batteries, but it will be possible to purchase a rechargeable battery. Microsoft says it wants to give players the choice of using a rechargeable battery or batteries. The batteries for the Xbox One controller will also be compatible with the Xbox Series X controller.

DYNAMIC LATENCY INPUT

The new Xbox Series X controller doesn’t offer much physical change. Microsoft has mainly worked on reducing the latency between when a player presses a button and the game’s reaction as much as possible.

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A new version of the Xbox Wireless protocol reduces latency below 2 ms. The latency between Xbox and TV has been reduced from 16.6ms to 8.3ms if the TV supports HDMI 2.1.

The Xbox Series X will come with a high-quality HDMI 2.1 cable to ensure minimal latency between the console and the TV.

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