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.
Xbox Series X
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.
The Long Dark
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.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
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.
Zombie Army 4, Sniper Elite
Kevin Floyer-Lea, Chief Technology Innovation 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.
Gears of War
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.
Dead by Daylight, Deus Ex HR Director's Cut
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.
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.
Xbox Series X/S
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at 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!