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Why the Project Scorpio Xbox XDK has an OLED front panel (video)

Xbox One X dev kit
Xbox One X dev kit (Image credit: Microsoft)

Project Scorpio's dev kit comes with beefed up specs to help developers produce games across Xbox One, Scorpio, and Windows 10 PCs. Change-resilient games will scale in resolution across 900p to 1080p on Xbox One, all the way up to native 4K on Scorpio and capable Windows PCs. Developed for UWP utilizing compatible middleware, such as Microsoft's Havok physics engine, developers will be able to target all three platforms with a single codebase.

Project Scorpio's XDK comes with an array of hardware features to help streamline game testing and deployment on Microsoft's platform. In addition to a second Ethernet port for debugging, extra RAM, and additional GPU compute units, Scorpio has a unique OLED display panel and programmable buttons. Here's a closer look at Scorpio's LCD front panel, to give you a better idea of what developers will be able to do.

Project Scorpio's XDK front panel is a 256 x 64 OLED screen, complete with a directional nub, which is also programmable. The five LED buttons are also completely customizable, and Microsoft recently demonstrated some of the things developers can do with the front panel's drivers.

Scorpio dev kit, kinda sexy no? #ProjectScorpio pic.twitter.com/o1FLT6Siv8— Jez (not a mimic) (@JezCorden) 3 May 2017

The entire point of the LCD front panel is to move debug information and console commands from the game itself to a dedicated space. Developers will have full access to use the display and buttons as they see fit, whether it's for offloading benchmark information from rendering on-screen, to console commands to spawn mobs, skipping levels, or changing graphics settings on the fly. Debug commands are easy to access on a PC using a keyboard, but on a console's gamepad developers have limited space for additional commands, which is why Microsoft stepped in with these new features.

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In the demonstration above, Microsoft showed some simple commands it set up using the front panel API, to control a simulation of swimming dolphins. The different buttons have been programmed to add additional dolphins to the scene, remove them, display 3D wireframes, and pause or unpause the simulation.

How long will it take until DOOM gets ported to the Project Scorpio XDK display?

The OLED screen can also output full video, which might seem odd, but according to Microsoft some developers said that when they have multiple kits running simulations in a lab scenario, they want the ability to see what each console is doing without having to connect a monitor. The OLED panel solves that issue.

Microsoft has sample code in its dev center to help game creators get to grips with the API, and it seems likely that different engines will implement their own functionalities. Microsoft is offering developers the opportunity to port their existing diagnostic display widgets to Scorpio's hardware buttons and screen, offloading the controls from the Xbox gamepad and the visual information from the GPU.

Microsoft is expected to unveil the retail version of Project Scorpio at E3 2017 in June, and we'll be there in force to bring you all the latest and greatest.

For now, I'm just wondering how long it will take for DOOM to get ported to the Project Scorpio XDK display. Don't disappoint us, devs.

More: Everything we know about Project Scorpio

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

32 Comments
  • I wonder if this screen will be on the retail version. IF it is, I'd like to see some Dreamcast ports and the OLED can display the VMU screen!
  • Highly doubt it, would inflate the price without adding any proper value. Purely a dev thing.
  • Well, I mean it could be nifty for users. Displaying a download bar or percentage, or telling me what disc I have in the system. The first time you buy a DLC on your phone while watching TV then instants later see something like "Downloading Forza Hot Wheels Expansion" pop on would be that really awesome nerd moment. If Microsoft passed the cost to the consumer instead of eating it, then yeah I agree.
  • Indeed, I would buy the dev version just for the display :D
  • I see no purpose for myself on that. Not only is my console fairly hidden in my entertainment center under my my TV, but I wouldn't be able to read anything on the screen from as far away as I sit from the unit. It's getting to the point where on screen text on a 55 inch tv is getting too small from that distance.
  • You know what that means? You need a bigger TV.
  • Yep... Trust me, I realized that as soon as I got it. =P
  • Easy fix, get a bigger TV for the lounge, the 55 can go in the bedroom. It's a win win, unless there is a significant other that is blocking progress (or just plain finances and life getting in the way).
  • and I'm sitting here with my 20 inch television!
  • Yes, I keep mine in a separate room. I really hope MS does better with controller range this go around for people like me.
  • That wouldn't work well since some DC games used the VMU screen for player specific information thus rendering the advantage useless.
  • i could watch netflix on that small LCD screen!!
  • I hope they will have an all black version.
  • Same!
  • And a grey one. Special edition like for the XboxOne S.
  • So, is the front panel OLED or LCD? I'm a little confused about that.
  • Either the author doesn't know the difference between OLED and LCD or he doesn't know the type of panel on the Scorpio SDK units and so he throws in both...as one of the two will probably be right.
  • Or just a simple mistake.
  • A mistake is something that happens once. Not several times through the article.
  • Yeah...you have to pick one. The screen is either LCD or OLED. It can NOT be both at the same time.
  • I would like to see them bring back the Blinking 12:00 and everyone trying to figure out how to program the clock.
  • This LOL
  • Could be an amazing game ;)
  • Rather cool. I must say.
  • It still looks like a VCR!
  • Well some VCRs look quite good. This is one of them :)
  • It could look like a giant cheese wedge. As long as its as powerful as they say it is, I'm buying it :)
  • I loved the customizable covers on the 360. Customizable OLED screen with my avatar on it would be awesome.
  • should be easy to port dreamcast to xbox being that dream cast ran on windows 2000 I believe
  • Not Windows 2000 but Windows CE. Same core as in Pocket PCs :-)
  • A reality that also affects this generation of games consoles is that they are used as multipurpose media player devices in lieu of a separate optical disc player or network media player. But we may connect these devices to the TV via a separate audio device like a home-theatre receiver or soundbar, with the games console, large screen TV and audio device being our AV system for a small space like a small apartment or college dorm. Here, some of us don't really want the TV on if we are just playing music and a display that exists on the console can come in handy so you can choose the music or see what's playing without the need to turn on the TV and have a large distracting screen show up, which can be a nuisance if you are entertaining.
  • Can one not control an Xbox using the Xbox App? A smartphone has got to be a more intuitive interface to navigate a massive media library than a 256x64 (monochrome?) display.