In relative terms, it’s been a quiet month for technology news, other than hearing about various firms’ response to the COVID-19 crisis. Whether it’s Apple closing its stores temporarily or Microsoft offering part of the Office 365 suite for free to health care workers, pretty much all the planned product launches and keynote speeches have been cancelled. Google has even shuttered the I/O conference for this year in its entirety.
However, one release that did sneak through was further detail on the Xbox Series X. We’ve touched on vague architecture details in previous issues, but now we have more meat on the bones of what Microsoft likes to tout as the console to end all consoles. Although you’ll have to make-do with using the kit you already have to while away the days during the current shutdown, the next generation of Xbox sounds like really something special.
“The CPU is the brain of our new console and the GPU is the heart, but the Xbox Velocity Architecture is the soul,” said Andrew Goossen, Technical Fellow on Xbox Series X at Microsoft. “The Xbox Velocity Architecture is about so much more than fast last times. It’s one of the most innovative parts of our new console. It’s about revolutionising how games can create vastly bigger, more compelling worlds.”
This is illustrated most blatantly by the hardware accelerated deployment of DirectX Raytracing. In layman’s terms this is the simulation of the properties of light and sound – as they would appear to the human eye in the real world – in real time, with less latency, but more accurately than any other previous technology had been able to achieve.
Sebastien Nussbaum, Corporate Vice President & Senior Fellow, Semi-Custom Products and Technologies at AMD “Xbox Series X is the biggest generational leap of System on a Chip and API design that we’ve done with Microsoft, and it’s really an honour for AMD to be a trusted Microsoft partner for this endeavour,” said Nussbaum. “The Xbox Series X is going to be a beacon of technical innovation leadership for this console generation and will propagate the innovation throughout the DirectX ecosystem this year and into next year.”
Jason Ronald, Director of Product Management on Xbox Series X, added, “While the Xbox Series X will deliver a massive increase in GPU performance and continue to redefine and advance the state of art in graphics with new capabilities such as hardware accelerated raytracing,” said Jason Ronald, Director of Product Management on Xbox Series X, “we don’t believe this generation will be defined by graphics or resolution alone.”
Goosen chipped in, “Competitive gamers and the best gaming experiences demand precise, responsive controls.
The Xbox team analysed the entire end to end input pipeline, from the controller to the console and from the console to the display and we challenged ourselves to identify every opportunity to further reduce latency to provide the best experience for gamers on Xbox.”
A practical application of this approach even extends to game states. These will be stored directly in the onboard SSD. So, they’ll persist even after the console is switched off via the system menu, hard switch it off, and even if it’s unplugged completely. On top of this system updates will persist, so in the case of one lucky beta tester on the project, they were able to unplug the console for a week, then take an update, and afterwards was still able to continue right where they left off without even a loading screen.
When you add in the ruthless pursuit of backwards compatibility, the Xbox Series X really seems like it’s ticking all the boxes for fans of Microsoft’s gaming ecosystem.
Over to you, Sony.